Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

NPHL Finals Preview

By Marty Tingstad

What happened with the Ft St John Flyers is quite the fiasco. This is not the first time that something like this has occurred with Senior Hockey in Alberta. In 2012, The Horse Lake Chiefs made their second run at the Allan Cup. This squad did not have the big names that the Horse Lake Thunder had in 2005 but they still had a competitive group. The 2012 team eliminated the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs in the Quarter Finals and the Bentley Generals in the Semi Finals. The only thing in their path to the McKenzie Cup (Alberta/BC playoff with winner advancing to the Allan Cup), was the Stoney Plain Eagles. Horse Lake won Game 1 in Stoney Plain, only to forfeit that game because of an ineligible player on their roster. Eventually Stoney won the series, in 7 games, and advanced to the Allan Cup. Their bid came to an end in the Quarter Finals, losing to a team from Grand Falls – Windsor. Rules are rules and I’m quite sure that this is a lesson that the group in Ft St John will not soon forget.

The benefactor of The Flyer’s misfortune is the Grimshaw Huskies who will now face the Spirit River Rangers for this season’s Campbell Cup. Dethroning the defending champions will not be an easy task however this season’s Huskies squad have all of the necessary components to give the Rangers a run for their money.

The Rangers should be well rested by virtue of their first round bye as well as sweeping the Falher Pirates in the second round. On the other hand, the Huskies also had a first round bye but went through a grueling seven game series with the Ft St John Flyers.

The two teams match up fairly well from top to bottom. On paper, it would appear that Spirit River has their largest advantage in goal. The Ranger’s goaltender Alex Wright has the best goals against average throughout the playoffs (2.5 GAA). The Huskies have a GAA of 5.1 but this is skewed by an 11 – 2 loss to the Flyers in Game 4. The Huskies have a potent offence led by the Hawryluk Twins, Bond and Brendan. They had 15 and 13 points respectively in their series with the Flyers. Grimshaw also possess a couple of big defensemen that can lay on the body when required.

Spirit River possesses a combination of speed and grit up front as well as a solid and sometimes punishing defense. The difference in this series may well come down to discipline. The Rangers averaged just over 40 minutes in penalties per game in their series with Falher while the Huskies average is just 19 minutes per game. Grimshaw was successful on over 23 % of their power play opportunities while Spirit River only converted just over 14 % of theirs. For the Rangers to retain their title this season, this will need to be addressed.

Mel Vollman, General Manager/coach of the Spirit River Rangers with the Campbell Cup hoping to keep it at home for yet another year.

No matter who wins the cup this year, the series promises to be fast, hard hitting, and very exciting. For the players, fans, and the on-ice officials, it is the best time of the year. The atmosphere will be second to none. Fans from all over the Peace Country will be in attendance to take in what should be an excellent and entertaining Campbell Cup Finals Series.

** Special thanks to long time NPHL league Statistician, Chris Clegg, for doing an excellent job in keeping the league stats all year. Chris works tirelessly to keep everyone up to date after each and every game. Here’s some amazing statistics about this amazing statistician . Chris has just completed his 26th season as statistician for senior hockey. During this time he’s only taken one year off. He’s got every player’s career stats since 1970 except for Peace River one season. This has to be some kind of record.

The tentative schedule is as follows:

Thu, March 3 – Grimshaw at Spirit River
Sat, March 5 – Spirit River at Grimshaw
Tue, March 8 – Grimshaw at Spirit River
Thu, March 10 – Spirit River at Grimshaw
*Sat, March 12 – Grimshaw at Spirit River
*Tue, March 15 – Spirit River at Grimshaw
*Sat, March 19 – Grimshaw at Spirit River

(*) if necessary

- Chris Clegg, NPHL Statistician, for NPHL President Jack McAvoy