Titans back in PJHL playoffs for first time since 2012

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Jake Koroluk controls the puck for the Prince Albert Titans during their final home game of the regular season against the Carrot River Outback Thunder earlier this month at the Kinsmen Arena.

Best-of-three series with Royals starts Sunday in Saskatoon

When the Prince Albert Titans last made the post-season in the Prairie Junior Hockey League, the club was known as the Icehawks.

For the first time since the 2011-12 campaign, the Junior B team has qualified for the playoffs and will take on the Saskatoon Royals in a best-of-three matchup that starts Sunday at the Rod Hamm Arena in Saskatoon at 7:45 pm.

The Titans will then host the Royals at the Kinsmen Arena on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., while a third and deciding contest would be held in Saskatoon at 7:30 p.m. Thursday if needed.

“The coaching staff, the players and the whole organization is really excited about going back to playoffs,” Titans head coach and director of hockey operations Kim Dryka said.

“It’s been a long time coming for all of us and we’re hoping to get things started off on the right foot on Sunday.”

The Titans finished in sixth place in the Bob Dybvig Division with a 12-24-4 record and were 14 points ahead of the Kerrobert based West Central Rage for the final playoff spot.

“Our second half wasn’t quite as good as our November (when the club posted a 7-0-1 mark) as we had a few guys missing due to school commitments or injuries,” Dryka said.

“We were a bit up and down at times, but it also allowed some of our boys to step up into bigger roles and fill in for the guys that were unable to play.”

The Royals, who finished third in the Bob Dybvig Division with a 21-17-2 mark, took three out of the five meetings with the Titans this season.

Damon Vanderlinde and Dylan Francis led the team in scoring with 45 points, while netminder Dawson Cochrane posted a 13-10-0 record with a 3.02 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and three shutouts.

“One of the keys for us will be to get some bodies in front of their net,” Dryka said. “Dawson is a really good goalie and if you can’t put any pressure on him, you are going to be in for a tough night.

“I’m sure there will be a few nerves for us going into the series, but the biggest thing for us is to have a full 60 minutes in each of our games against the Royals.”

The Titans, who were led in scoring by a 46-point campaign from Tanner Hendriks and split their netminding duties between Carson Schewaga and Travis Dryka, are expected to have a full lineup available to them when the series gets underway on Sunday.

If they were to pull off the upset, the Titans would face the Saskatoon Quakers in the quarter-final round.