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Outlaws and Mohawks: championship dreams in sight

It's what hockey teams and hockey fans hope for all season, a deep playoff run and that is where the Wilkie Outlaws and Macklin Mohawks are at right now.

WILKIE — It’s a grand representation for playoff hockey at its finest and fans in Wilkie and Macklin are loving every minute of it.

The Sask. West Hockey League semifinals have displayed the best of senior hockey.

The Macklin Mohawks are showing their desire to be back in the SWHL final, as well as a goal to repeat as league champions. Facing off against top seed, Kindersley Klippers, the Hawks demonstrated what they are made of by taking the first two games of the five game series and forcing Kindersley to a must-win game on Feb. 26 on their home ice. 

Kindersley won that game three in a close score of 3-2 meaning a game four is necessary and will take place March 5 in Macklin. If a game five is necessary, it will take place back in Kindersley March. 7.  

On the other side of the semifinal draw, the Outlaws have dominated the first two games of the best-of-five series, winning both of their opening games also forcing Edam in a must-win game on Feb. 28 in Wilkie. If Edam is able to win that elimination game, then game four will take place in Edam March 3 and game five, if necessary, will take place March 7 on Wilkie’s home ice.

“We’re excited about how playoffs and provincials have gone so far but understand we still have a lot of work to do,” says Outlaws spokesperson, Derek Keller,.

“We’ve been getting contributions from the entire lineup with everyone making huge contributions to the success so far. Ryne Keller was our MVP for the first round against Biggar as he was really solid in both ends of the ice.”

Keller adds, “Our key to our success though, so far, has definitely been the depth of our team and the ability of our veteran players to raise the level of their game this time of the year.”

There is no rest for either SWHL team as both are also currently competing in their respective northern finals for a provincial championship.

Wilkie is playing Wadena Wildcats of Long Lake Hockey League and began their quest on the road Feb. 25, taking a full fan bus to show their hometown support. The three-game series will see game two in Wilkie March 4 and if a game three is necessary, it will take place March 5 in Wadena.

The Outlaws opened their provincial north final with a victory on the road, winning 6-4 and will now play March 4 at home in game two, hoping to finish off the series at SaskCan arena.

The Mohawks are taking on the Kyle Elks of the Sask. Valley Hockey League with game one of the three-game series in Kyle Feb. 25.  Game two will return to Macklin March 3 and if a third game is needed it will take place March 4 in Kyle.

It took two overtime periods for the Mohawks to overcome the Kyle Elks in game one on the road of their provincial northern final, meaning they will return home with the advantage and could potentially win the series at home March 3.

“One of the biggest things that has worked for us is team chemistry,” says head coach for the Macklin Mohawks, Al Neufeld.

“The core is still the same as last year. We might’ve started off slow but as the season progressed so did our level of play and we started playing excellent hockey.”

Neufeuld says the whole community is enjoying and supporting the run their team has been on and he says its nice to see the boys get recognized for it.

“Playoffs is one of those things because its never over ‘til it’s over.  We have the mindset to play every game like its an elimination game for us and keep the wins coming.”

While Neufeld hesitates to single out any one player, he does mention Mitch Brennan, who was named top defenseman for the SWHl and who Neufeld describes as an anchor for the team.

The Mohawks head coach also commends the team’s goaltenders noting that Kyle Dumba has been outstanding.

“If they are beating him, it’s something nobody can stop,” he says.

“Our offence is by committee every night, there is not one person carrying the load. We have lots of great talent and team depth.”

The Mohawks acknowledge that once they started putting wins together the fans have filled the house. The last two home games have been standing room only and the 50/50 jackpots have been a couple thousand dollars. The team maintains the atmosphere has been second to none.

Neufeld knows that their provincial quest is not going to be a cake walk because, as he states, the cream is rising to the top and there are no slouches left. 

“If you’re not playing good hockey, it’s not going to happen.”

Macklin’s head coach watched Kyle in a previous series and has acknowledged they are a good club.

“We need to play some good hockey starting out strong. We don’t have home ice advantage for opening game of the northern final series so it will take everyone to get the job done and the first win in the books.”

Macklin’s last provincial championship was in 2009 and before that Neufeld describes a lot of lean years.

“After last year’s league championship win, the team was hungry to change their course and it lit a fire under a lot of our players,” he says.

Fans have faith in their team in getting the job done and will continue to support them in full force throughout their deep playoff run in both league and provincial quests, he adds.