PEACE RIVER — The North Peace Navigators season is now over after falling to the Fort St. John Flyers in Game Seven of their second round NWJHL playoff series last night.
The Huskies would take the winner-take-all Game Seven on home ice on Sunday night, putting together a 3-0 victory in thanks to a defensive smothering in the seventh and final game. Huskies goalie Jonathan Bateman would have a strong outing between the pipes to record his first shutout of the playoffs, and an extremely dedicated defensive scheme by Fort St. John would limit the Navs offence to just fifteen shots in the deciding game.
North Peace on the other hand would struggle to hold off a hungry Huskies squad, allowing a total of 51 shots in the game and forcing goaltender Ryan Noble to stand on his head once again. Two of the Huskies’ three goals on the night would also come with the man advantage.
After a scoreless first period Fort St. John would break through in the second frame, after league MVP Gary Loewen would find the back of the net on a feed from Matthew Apsassin. Loewen would continue to find a rhythm throughout the final fourty minutes, assisting on both third period tallies to end the game with three points.
With Fort St. John entering the NWJHL playoffs as the odds on favourites to win it all, the Navs would get off to a great start in the series by taking the first game on the road by a final of 4-3 in overtime. The Huskies would outshoot the Navs in each and every game during the series, as Fort St. John’s top-ranked offence would be stifled by Ryan Noble early on.
In Game Two back at the Baytex Energy Centre would be a physical one, with both teams looking to gain a physical edge. Isaiah Letendre, who scored the OT winner a game prior, would be ejected for a hit to the head and open the door for the Huskies to record a pair of third period tallies to take Game Two by a final of 2-1.
Griffin Young, who assisted on Letendre’s Game One OT winner, would score the Navs’ lone goal as they would head back to Fort St. John tied at a game a piece.
At this point in the series the Navs would suffer their first road loss of the NWJHL playoffs, dropping Game Three on the road by an identical score from the game prior. This time the Huskies would build up a two goal lead after twenty minutes before hanging on for the victory, and earning a two-to-one lead in the series.
The third game would be another chippy one, as four spearing minors would be handed out during the game along with a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to Phoenix Dumas and Navs’ leading-scorer Robert Lemay. Lemay would be held to just a single goal through the series’ first three games, despite entering the series as the playoffs’ leading-scorer.
Game Four back at the Baytex Centre however would see the Navs’ offence explode.
The Navs would hit double-digits, putting up ten goals on route to a 10-4 victory. Despite still being outshot in the game 36-27, North Peace would manage to find the back of the net ten times while chasing Huskies’ goaltender Jonathan Bateman.
Isaiah Letendre, who made his presence felt all series long, would record a game for the ages by registering seven points in the game while Calvin Sanders would have himself a six point night.
North Peace would head back to Fort St. John for Game Five looking to take a 3-2 series lead, and they would do just that. Despite surrendering 53 shots on goal, the Navs would get a terrific performance from Ryan Noble, who would turn aside 50 shots in a 4-3 road victory. Two of the Huskies’ goals would come in the final minute, but North Peace would manage to hang on to put the league’s top team one loss away from elimination.
Game Six would see a futile Navs’ powerplay cost the team dearly.
North Peace would fall by a final of 3-2 at home, and in doing so would go 0-7 on the powerplay. Down 3-1 heading into the final frame Robert Lemay would tally to bring the Navs within one, but it would be the NWJHL regular season wins-leader Jonathan Bateman holding the fort for the rest of the game.
Like all series long, Ryan Noble would also be stellar, but the Navs would be unable to put away the Huskies who would force Game Seven back at the North Peace Arena.
The loss would prove costly for North Peace, as they would go on to fall in the next game as well.
For the Huskies they’ll now move onto face the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings in the NWJHL finals. The Huskies dominated the series with the Kings, winning six of seven match-ups with the County of Grande Prairie this season. However, it must be noted that the Kings are currently on a major hot-streak.
After ending the regular season by leap-frogging the Navs for third place overall, the Kings would suffer a first round scare at the hands of Sexsmith before meeting the heavyweight Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks in round two.
After a truly back-and-forth series that would also go the distance, the County of Grande Prairie would knock off the league’s second-ranked club with a 5-1 victory in Game Seven last night, and punch their ticket to the finals.
Jacob Begin has led the way for the Kings, registering eighteen points in twelve playoff games despite being held pointless in Game Seven vs. Dawson Creek, while Gary Loewen leads the Huskies in playoff scoring, earning nine points in seven games against the Navs.
–Alex Rodgerson, Trending 55