Two of the SMAAAHL’s top teams paid a visit to the Farrell Agencies Arena this past week to take on the Yorkton RawTec Maulers.
The second place Tisdale Trojans and third place Notre Dame Hounds no doubt expected to skate to easy victories over the RawTec Maulers, however things didn’t quite go according to plan.
Instead of rolling over and dying, the RawTec Maulers fought back, arguably outskating the Trojans in Thursday’s narrow 2-1 loss before obliterating the Hounds in the form of a 5-1 blowout victory.
The two results give the RawTec Maulers a 14-12-4 record for 32 points through 30 games this season and sole possession of seventh place in the 12-team SMAAAHL, three back of sixth place Prince Albert (15-8-5, 35 points) and six up on eighth place Moose Jaw (11-13-4, 26 points).
The Regina Pat Canadians find themselves atop the SMAAAHL standings for the first time this season thanks to a six game winning streak and a 23-5-1 record for 47 points, while Tisdale sits second with 44 points and a record of 21-5-2.
The Hounds are third with a 19-6-0 record and 38 points, just one ahead of fourth place Battlefords (18-9-1) and two ahead of the fifth place Saskatoon Contacts (17-8-2).
The Beardy’s Blackhawks (11-18-1), Swift Current Legionnaires (7-21-2), Saskatoon Blazers (7-22-0) and basement dwelling Notre Dame Argos (5-19-0) round out the league with 23, 16, 14 and 10 points each.
Yorkton RawTec Mauler head coach Dan Cross said it best: “I thought we deserved better.”
They certainly did.
After coming out flat in the first period and allowing the Trojans to jump out to a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes on goals by Caleb Seaman and Tanner Nagel, the Maulers began to carry the flow of play, outshooting Tisdale 13-4 in the second period.
However it wasn’t the Mauler offence that stood out. Instead it was Tisdale netminder Kye Steinke, who turned aside all 13 Mauler attempts in the second period and ended up surrendering just one goal, a third period shot by Yorkton defenceman Adam Neibrandt, in the eventual 2-1 Tisdale win.
Steinke picked up the win to improve to 10-3-1 on the season while RawTec Maulers goaltender Carter Phair stopped 24-of-26 Tisdale shots in the loss.
“We really did deserve better. We just didn’t have the puckluck,” offered Cross once again, mentioning that a couple of pucks should have definitely found their way past Steinke, especially in the second period. “We just couldn’t finish around the net.”
Hammering the Hounds
The RawTec Maulers may have deserved better on Thursday, but on Sunday they ended up getting exactly what they deserved: a convincing 5-1 win over the third place Notre Dame Hounds.
The Maulers, not wanting to repeat Thursday’s first period hiccup, found the back of the net early and often as first year forward McKenzie Welke beat Notre Dame starting goaltender Dylan Ferguson for his first of the game and 11th of the season just 49 seconds into the game.
Twelve seconds later and McKenzie once again put the puck past Ferguson, this time to make it 2-0 for Yorkton.
Adam Dawe cut into the Mauler lead with 16:06 remaining in the opening frame, however the two goal Yorkton lead was restored less than two minutes later when Brennan Watson’s sixth of the season beat Ferguson on just the seventh Yorkton shot, chasing the Hounds netminder from the net in favour of Reid Cooper.
Cooper would keep the Maulers off the scoreboard momentarily, but with 5:50 remaining in the period Notre Dame’s Alex McGovern tripped up a Mauler player and was sent to the penalty box.
It took just 37 seconds for the RawTec Maulers to free McGovern from his penalty box prison as McKenzie Welke completed the extremely rare first period hattrick to put Yorkton up 4-1 after 20 minutes of play.
A scoreless second period saw both teams trade opportunities, however both Carter Phair and Cooper stood tall.
A fifth Mauler marker, scored by veteran forward Koal Roberts with 7:52 left in the game sealed the deal for the RawTec Maulers, who improved to 2-1 against the Hounds this season.
Phair picked up the win between the Mauler pipes, his tenth of the season, stopping 26-of-27 Notre Dame shots while Ferguson took the loss, turning aside just 4-of-7 Mauler shots before giving way to Cooper who fared better, stopping 17-of-19 attempts.
Following the game Mauler head coach Dan Cross said that he was happy with the way the team performed, especially after Thursday’s hard luck loss. “I’m extremely happy,” exclaimed Cross, continuing, “We lost a tough one on Thursday, but today we were a little more aggressive around the net and we found the back of it five times. I’m extremely happy with that.”
Cross also mentioned that, while McKenzie Welke provided much of the offence in this particular game, usually the Maulers take an offence by committee approach. “We don’t have those go to guys that will get a goal a game or two points a game or whatever it is,” mentioned Cross. “We come out and roll four lines. Today it was the Welke line, next game it might be the Skully line, it really depends and we’re never quite sure.”
Karakochuk out, Dubas in
While it’s every teams’ goal to win the league title, the main goal for each and every SMAAAHL coaching staff is to continue the development of their players in the hopes of sending them off to play Junior hockey somewhere in Canada.
Usually teams lose players to Junior clubs at the beginning of the season when a player impresses at fall camp. Sometimes, however, players get scooped up by their Junior clubs in the middle of the season.
That’s exactly what happened to stalwart Mauler defenceman Logan Karakochuk, who was called up permanently by the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires.
And while Karakochuk’s departure in the middle of the SMAAAHL season definitely poses problems for the RawTec Maulers, coach Cross is still happy to see him go. “We’re happy for him and that’s our job here,” suggested Cross. “We want to take these guys and get them developed and prepared for Junior hockey. He’s a 17-year-old, third year guy and it’s good, he’s ready to go and hopefully he does well.”
Cross then mentioned that the departure of Karakochuk also provides the Maulers with an opportunity to speed up the growth of one of their defensive prospects that had been, until recently, waiting in the wings while playing for the Yorkton Kinsmen Terriers of the SSMHL ‘AA’ league. “Yeah we brought up Cody Dubas and he’ll be with us for the rest of the season,” said the Mauler head coach, adding that Dubas is a younger defenceman but is a guy that doesn’t make too many mistakes. “You can just count on him to make the right play every time.
“I’m very excited to see what he’s going to do here for the remainder of the year.”
The next action for the Yorkton RawTec Maulers (14-12-4) will be tonight (Wednesday) when they welcome Sunday’s victims, the Notre Dame Hounds (19-6-0) back to the Farrell Agencies Arena. Game time is set for 8:00p.m.
The RawTec Maulers will then hit the road this weekend for a pair of games against northern opposition, first taking on the Beardy’s Blackhawks (11-18-1) on Saturday night before visiting the Prince Albert Mintos (15-8-5) on Sunday afternoon.