Bellingham, WA – After several days off, the #2 Bellingham Blazers (3-2-2, 8 points) will host the #1 Wenatchee Wolves (5-0-0, 10 points) for game three of the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s 2016 Cascade Cup championship series. Last weekend, the Wolves and Blazers played the first two games in this best of five series, and the Wolves were able to capture both victories. The Wolves lead the series, 2 – 0.
The first two games in this series were both decided by one goal, and the first game required overtime in order to determine the victor. Heading into this weekend, the Wolves will need one more win to etch their name in the NPHL’s history of champions. Whereas the Blazers must win three games in three days in order to be crowned the NPHL’s champion for the third time in the program’s history
Last weekend, the Wolves’ forward – Hunter Hegdahl – played a huge role in securing the team’s second victory in this series. During last Saturday’s game, Hegdahl scored both of the Wolves’ goals, which proved to be enough to push the Wolves to a 2 – 1 victory over the Blazers. One of his goals came in the final eight minutes of the game, which was right after the Blazers scored to tie the game at one goal apiece.
But winning a championship is a team effort, which includes goalies and defensemen. The Wolves’ two goalies continued to shine while on the NPHL’s biggest stage. Bronson Moore received the nod for the first game as he faced a total of 23 shots and stopped all but two. Then Max Flynn got in on the action for the second game in this series, and he faced 17 total shots. Flynn allowed only a single goal.
Heading into this weekend with a 2 – 0 series lead, the Wolves’ head coach – Ryan McKelvie – discussed what the team will need to do to secure their third win. McKelvie said, “our game plan will be the same, as it always is. Maybe a few tweaks here and there, but otherwise we will focus on playing our systems as best as we can.”
Despite trailing in this series, the Blazers have played extremely well through the first two games. As previously stated, the first two games were both decided by one goal. Now this series will head to the Blazers’ home ice at the Bellingham Sportsplex in Bellingham, Washington. Throughout this postseason, the Blazers have found the most success while playing at home. In fact, the Blazers have won every single home game in the NPHL’s 2016 playoffs, but the team has also lost all of their away games.
Of the six players on the Blazers who have recorded at least one point in this series against the Wolves, three have been defenseman. Kevin Duncan and Mark Klasen have both recorded a single assist while Austin Sabin, the third defenseman, has recorded a goal. As for the three forwards who have record points for the Blazers, Simeon Smith leads the team with two points. Then he is closely followed by Karson DeRego and Justin Sullivan who have both recorded a single point thus far.
The Blazers’ goalies, Christopher Alexakis and Broderick Parker, have both played huge roles in keeping each game extremely close. During the first game, Parker faced a total of 41 shots and allowed only three goals. This gave him a .927 save percentage for the game. As for Alexakis, he saw 43 shots while saving all but two, thus giving him a .953 save percentage.
Mark Collins, the Blazers’ head coach, commented on what his team will need to do in order to secure a victory on Friday. Collins said, “we need to refocus. I thought we played well in game one, but we couldn’t pull it out. We made too many mistakes. Then for game two, we didn’t have everyone on board. So this week we will focus on getting our mindset proper, while also heading into Friday’s game with some confidence.”
One thing for everyone to keep an eye on for both teams is special teams. There has only been one power play goal allowed on 24 opportunities between both teams. That goal came at the hands of the Blazers’ defenseman, Sabin. If one team can get their power play firing on all cylinders this weekend, then that may be the biggest deciding factor on who wins.
Game three will take place on Friday, April 1st, at 7:35 pm (PST). This game will be held at the Bellingham Sportsplex in Bellingham, Washington. Then, if needed, game four will be held on Saturday, April 2nd, at 7:35 pm (PST) as both teams stay put at the Bellingham Sportsplex. Game five, also if needed, will be held at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee – Washington – on Sunday, April 3rd, at 5:35 pm (PST).
Tune in to the league’s website for a full recap following the conclusion of the game!
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