Wednesday, March 23, 2011

End of the road

What went wrong?

That question will stick with the Klippers all summer after the Yorkton Terriers held on for a 3-2 win tonight to sweep the Sherwood Conference final.

The Klippers played their best game of the series and made the Terriers work for the win, right to the wire, but that won't be any consolation to the nine players who played their last game in junior hockey.

Andrew Dommett, Johnny Calkins, Braeden Adamyk, Sanfred King, Spencer Braaten, Kurt Leedahl, John Sonntag, Cody Lund and Sean Cahill saw their junior careers end tonight.

It's a bitter pill to swallow for a group that had RBC Cup aspirations this season but couldn't get things figured out when it mattered most.

Full credit to the Terriers, who brought their A game from puck drop on Friday to the final buzzer tonight. They were the better team and now advance to their second straight SJHL final, against either La Ronge or Melfort.

As scary as La Ronge is, I like the Terriers' odds against anyone if they continue to play like they did in this series.

As for tonight's game, the Klippers were the better team off the hop but Yorkton again took a 2-0 lead to the first intermission. Riley Paterson scored the first goal at 9:50 on a rebound that Cahill bobbled, and Justin Buzzeo scored glove side off a cross-ice feed from Clarke Breitkreuz with 4:05 to play in the period.

It was looking like the same old story from the first three games.

About five minutes into the second period, with the Klippers' goalless streak sitting at 162 minutes, 22 seconds, they finally beat Devin Peters.

John Sonntag obliterated Buzzeo at one end, and that led to a quick rush the other way for Taylor Wasden, a guy who rarely gets on the scoresheet but the kind you need at playoff time. Wasden lit the lamp to get the WCEC crowd on their feet and the Klippers back in the game.

Three minutes after that, Sonntag rocked Robbie Ciolfi behind the Klipper net. Shortly after, Andrew Dommett scored his first goal of the series to tie it up.

The momentum was all on the Klippers' side at that point and they spent the next few minutes peppering Peters and the Terriers.

Just when they were getting close - stop me if you've heard this before - the Terriers struck back, with Blaine Tendler springing Buzzeo on a breakaway at 15:19. Buzzeo deked Cahill blocker side and the netminder got most of it, but it trickled in.

Yorkton carried most of the play in the third period, and Sean Cahill stood on his head to give his team a chance to draw even again. He made some massive stops, and he can be proud of the final game of his junior career.

The Klippers also had a few excellent chances, but they couldn't get one past Peters. The closest they came was with about 15 seconds left, when Sanfred King lobbed a Hail Mary toward the net from the right half-wall. The puck got through traffic and dinged the left post before bouncing off to the side.

Here's a post-game interview with Terriers coach Trent Cassan. I'll wait a day or two before getting Rockie Zinger's thoughts.

Over the next few days, I'll have a post-mortem on the blog as well as some personal news.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Better effort, same result for Klippers in Game 3

Chalk up another touchdown for the Yorkton Terriers.

Despite getting off to a much better start and carrying the play for the first 25 minutes of the game, the Klippers once again surrendered seven goals tonight in a 7-0 loss in Game 3 of the Sherwood Conference final.

The Klippers have not scored in 137 minutes, 16 seconds - dating back to Jesse Mysiorek's goal in the third period of Game 1 - and they are one loss away from elimination.

The complexion of this game changed dramatically 4:47 into the second period when a Casey Rogers giveaway in the Klipper zone went right onto the tape of Justin Buzzeo in the high slot. Buzzeo, who recorded a hat trick tonight, was untouched and ripped a shot over Justin McDonald's left shoulder to give the Terriers a 3-0 lead.

Up to that point, the Klippers had been the better team and were pressing hard to get on the board. You could almost see their game unravel after the goal as the Terriers began to pull away, leading 6-0 after 40 minutes.

In the first period, Kindersley carried the shots 13-9 and were clearly the better side, especially in the last 10 minutes, but Buzzeo and Robbie Ciolfi scored in the first seven minutes, both on skilled plays that left little chance for McDonald, to take a 2-0 lead into the break.

Devin Peters was again very good tonight, but let's be real: the Klippers had several chances that they would have scored on in the regular season. Part of the scoring problem is Peters playing well; the other is the Klippers are making him look even better by failing to finish off plays.

Part of that, without a doubt, comes from the psychological effect of being drubbed three straight times by a team that only finished three points ahead in the standings. The Klippers beat this team in their last three meetings of the regular season, all coming after the deadline pickup of Buzzeo and Boyer.

McDonald was pulled midway through the second period after Boyer scored a breakaway goal off a neutral zone turnover to make it 4-0. Perhaps Mac could have been a little better, but he should in no way be blamed for the loss. He didn't have much of a chance on the two early goals and was hung out to dry on the other two.

The total damage for Yorkton was a hatty for Buzzeo, two goals for Breitkreuz and singles for Ciolfi and Boyer.

Speaking of which, the Terriers' sixth goal bothered me. They were leading 5-0 late in the second period and had a two-man advantage for almost two full minutes after the Klippers began to lose their composure. So they throw out Boyer, Buzzeo, Breitkreuz, Ciolfi and Tendler? You be the judge.

For the Klippers, I thought the Mysiorek-Hoffman-Duzan line was their best, especially in the first period. Despite all three players being injured recently, and Hoffman clearly being less than 100% - he couldn't take face-offs or shoot the puck - the line hustled all night and created many of the team's best scoring chances. Kudos to them for continuing to battle even when the game was out of reach.

Johnny Calkins also deserves some kudos for his game tonight. He, too, was playing at far from 100% and it was obvious, as he couldn't take draws, had trouble distributing the puck and lacked speed. Yet you could see he was giving it his all throughout the game, throwing a few hits, blocking shots and hustling on the forecheck.

The challenge for the Klippers now becomes sending the series back to Yorkton for Game 5 on Friday.

Game 3 quick hits

Not much time but here are a few tidbits as we get ready for Game 3 between the Klippers and Terriers tonight at the WCEC.

  • Judging by this tweet from Jordon Hoffman, the hard-working centre will be back in the line-up tonight after missing three games with an upper-body injury. That's huge for the Klippers both at even strength and on the penalty kill, which has sorely missed the Hoffman-Duzan duo of late.

  • No definitive word on Johnny Calkins' status for tonight - Rockie Zinger said yesterday he would be a game time decision - but with his last junior season on the line, my guess is he'll be in if he's at all close to 100%.

  • Rockie told me yesterday he had yet to decide whether Sean Cahill or Justin McDonald will get the start tonight. Cahill was shaky in both of the weekend games, and Mac has been solid in his last few appearances, including in Game 2. There's an argument to be made for either tender, and I wouldn't want to be the one making the call.

  • The SJHL handed David Haaf a one-game suspension on Sunday for taking his third instigator penalty of the season. It happened in Game 2 when Haaf went after Kyle McLeod to defend a teammate after a questionable hit. Losing Haaf is a blow to the Klippers, as he's been very solid over the last couple of months. Zane Morin will move back to the blueline, but it's not clear if he will take Haaf's spot across from John Sonntag.

  • Riley Down will serve the second game of his suspension for a head hit on McLeod in Game 1. If the Klippers don't get Calkins or Hoffman back, they will only have 11 forwards barring an AP being called up.

  • Game time is 7:30 at the WCEC. Be there!