West Finals Game 5: Two teams, one spot
The final piece of the Robertson Cup puzzle will be put in place on Tuesday night as old rivals the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Wenatchee Wild do battle one more time in a final Game 5 of their West Division Final. Game time is at 6:35pm (pacific). The winner of Tuesday’s Game 5 will win the West Division playoff title and be the #2 seed at the NAHL’s Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament, which begins this Friday, May 10th.
It has been a close series, with neither team being able to win more than once without the other responding with a win. Three of the four games have been decided by a goal and the other was a two goal game. During the last five years, either Wenatchee or Fairbanks has represented the West Division at the Robertson Cup (Fairbanks won in 2011), so it should be no surprise that the stage is set for a fifth and deciding game.
The focus is likely to remain on the starting goaltenders in Tuesday’s game as Wenatchee’s Robert Nichols and Fairbanks’ Steve Perry look to continue their stingy ways. Each netminder has allowed eight goals in the four games to date. Both have been here before and both enter tonight’s game with the winner moving on and the loser playing his last ever junior game.
The pressure doesn’t stop with the goaltenders. It continues with the rosters of each team with the focus being on the veteran players. No one has stepped up more for Fairbanks than forward Lawrence Cornellier, who leads all scorers in the 2013 NAHL Robertson Cup playoffs with 7 goals. It is exactly why Fairbanks went out and traded for Cornellier at the trade deadline and he has delivered.
On the Wenatchee end of things Jacob Barber and Jono Davis are tied for the playoff scoring lead with 10 points apiece.
But, when it comes down to a winner-take-all, one game scenario like Tuesday, often times it can be the player no one expects to be the hero. Each team has plenty of players who fit that role. Judging by the four games played already in this series, Game 5 could come down to a power play, a pass, a decision that turns the course of the game and ultimately continues someone’s season.
Why Wenatchee could win Game 5: Wenatchee finished two points ahead of Fairbanks in the standings and among the main benefits are tonight’s 5th and deciding game, which Wenatchee will get to play at home. The Wild need to continue to get the best play from their best players. They also have a host of players that have the potential to play the hero, which gives them an edge depth wise. They key for Wenatchee will be limiting the offensive chances of the IceDogs. Fairbanks is averaging just over 25 shots per game in the series. Anything under that in Game 5 and the Wild have a good chance to move on.
Why Fairbanks could win Game 5: The recent history of the Ice Dogs dictates that they have a very good chance to win in Wenatchee on Tuesday. Why? Look no further than the last two years when Fairbanks has put together a 5-1 record in playoff games in Wenatchee with the lone loss coming in Game 1 in this series. Otherwise, Fairbanks has won in Wenatchee the last two seasons on their way to representing the West at the Robertson Cup. The Ice Dogs are going to have to limit Wenatchee’s chances and get some balanced scoring. Over 50% of Fairbanks 22 goals in the playoffs to date have come from just three players.