South Peace News
Two big wins last weekend and some unexpected help have the Falher Pirates in control of their own destiny in hopes of finishing first in the NPHL’s East Division.
The Pirates defeated the Grande Prairie Athletics 4-1 at home Jan. 20 and the Grimshaw Huskies 6-4 on the road Jan. 21 while the Valleyview Jets pulled off a big upset win 7-2 at Manning Jan. 21. The games leave the Pirates all alone in first place with an 11-5-0-0 record for 22 points, two ahead of the 9-5-1-1 Comets.
Each team has four games left with the Pirates winning any possible tiebreaker based on total wins, assuming they do not lose two of their last four games in overtime or a shootout and tie the Comets at the end of the season.
However, the Pirates have yet to play the West Division and league-leading Dawson Creek Canucks but if the Pirates win at Manning Jan. 28 they should be home-free. If the red-hot Pirates then split with the even hotter 14-1-0-1 Canucks, who will place first overall in the NPH standings barring a total collapse, first place is all but assured.
The Pirates scored four straight goals to break a scoreless tie against the Athletics, owners of the second best record in the NPHL at 11-4 when the game started. The Athletics were without several regulars and the Pirates took full advantage as good teams do, outshooting the visitors 48-34.
Joseph Sylvain scored twice while newcomer Dion Knelson and Bailey Tokarz added the other goals. Josh Sylvain chipped in with three assists.
Morgan MacLean spoiled the shutout bid of Ryan Noble in the third period. Noble was gunning for his league-leading fourth shutout of the season. Still, he enjoyed a fine game stopping 33 of 34 shots to record the win.
The Pirates league-leading penalty killing unit continued to excel at a 90 per cent plus clip in blanking the Athletics on four chances.
The next night at Grimshaw may very prove to be a playoff preview and it had all the makings of their long-time rivalry. There were three fights and 174 penalty minutes called by the time the smoke had cleared, not counting the third man in game misconducts assessed at the end of regulation. The nastiness was evident as 12 stick foul minor penalties were called (high-sticking, cross-checking and slashing), seven to the Pirates, five to the Huskies. Incidentally, the Pirates lead the NPHL with 5.75 stick foul PIMs per game while the Huskies rank second to last with 5.20 PIMs.
Six different Pirates scored in the win, Kevin Monfette gave the Pirates the early lead on a power play before Cole Diewert and Levin Pichette scored to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead after one period. Pichette’s goal was a power play marker.
In the second period, Ty Wiebe made it 3-1 but the Pirates exploded for three goals in a 1:14 span at about the midway point. Pat Rowan opened the floodgates before Rob Lemay scored on the power play, then only 10 seconds later the Pirates were ahead on Eric Dentinger’s goal.
Bond Hawryluk’s power play goal tied the game 4-4 less than a minute later but Trevor Tokarz scored what proved to be the game-winner with 7:56 left in the period. He also added two assists on the night.
In the third, Joseph Sylvain scored a power play goal at the 1:22 mark to provide some insurance and the Pirates ran the clock out on their long-time enemies.
The Huskies are almost destined to place last in the East Division and face the first place winner. Any Valleyview win, loss in overtime or a shootout, or any Grimshaw loss and Valleyview is locked into third. In the remaining game left between the teams, Grimshaw must also defeat Valleyview by at least three goals to have any chance at placing third.
Meanwhile, a Falher win in regulation at Manning Jan. 28 would result in one more Pirates win or Manning loss in regulation time being enough for Falher to place first. That would set the playoff pairings with Falher playing Grimshaw and Manning playing Valleyview.
The Pirates host the Canucks Jan. 27 before the big game at Manning Jan. 28. They end the regular season with games Feb. 2 at Dawson Creek and at home Feb. 4 versus Valleyview.