By Mat Barnett
Christmas is just a few weeks away, and things are heating up in the Sherwood Division. Things are everything but decided in the Sherwood Division, and it’s entirely possible to see any of the four teams get hot and make a run for the division lead as we head into the home stretch. At the time of writing, 13 points separate first and fourth, but just seven points separate first and third.
The La Ronge Ice Wolves lead the division after seeing the Flin Flon Bombers lead most of the way to open the season. They’ve traded Ryley Morgan, but losing one of the more dynamic scorers in the SJHL has not been a issue for the Ice Wolves. They’ve recently won seven straight, and they’ve won nine of 10 total. They score at will, and Dawson Smith seems to make the big save in the big moments.
The Flin Flon Bombers are coming off a road loss to Yorkton, and they’re 5-4-1-0 over their last 10 games. It’s not like they’ve been bad by any means, and the pieces are still there as one of the best teams in the SJHL. The Bombers will be just fine. Cole Duperreault can score whenever he pleases, and guys like Jeremi Tremblay and Jaeden Mercier are still elite. Harmon Laser-Hume has come back down to earth, but he’s still the guy up north and the Bombers will probably make a significant move at the deadline to really put themselves in the conversation as Canterra Seeds Cup favourites.
The Melfort Mustangs are playing some of their best hockey and they’re sneaking up on the likes of La Ronge and Flin Flon. Zac Somers has been scorching hot, Ben Tkachuk has found his groove, and Joel Favreau and James Venne are maybe the best goaltending duo in the league. Melfort doesn’t give up much defensively, and this season timely scoring has been the main concern, but they seem to have found it now and they’ve won six of their last eight, earning points in all of those including maybe the game of the year on Saturday when they fell to Battlefords 5-4 in a shootout.
Sure, the Nipawin Hawks are 13 points back of the division lead, but they’re in seventh place, which has them in the playoffs. This roster has some pieces and they should make the playoffs. Goaltending may have been fixed with the addition of Lowen Kenyon from Battlefords, and Maguire Ratzlaff will continue to put the puck in the net. They’re still young, but they play hard, and they play fast. They could spoil some teams plans as we head into the home stretch of the season.
The Sherwood Division remains one of the best in the SJHL, and as I’ve said before, all four teams will make the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, that prediction would be correct. It’s going to be a wild finish heading into spring, and the January 10 trade deadline is coming quick, things are heating up!