Whitecourt, AB – The Whitecourt Wolverines (33-20-7) will take on the Lloydminster Bobcats (23-34-3) in the first round of the AJHL playoffs.
This marks the fourth time in six years that these two teams will meet in the post-season and the first time since the 2016 playoffs. The Bobcats hold a 10-3 record all-time against the Wolverines in the playoffs as they have won the first three post-season series.
After a third-place finish in the North Division standings, the Wolverines will have the all-important home ice advantage in the series. While having home ice is always of significant value in the playoffs, it’s even more so for this matchup as during the six-game regular season series between the two clubs the home team won each game.
Whitecourt Wolverines (33-20-7) (H: 20-7-3 A: 13-13-4)
The Wolverines finished the season with the 8th best power play in the AJHL at 19.2%, a number that improves significantly at home where the Wolverines scored 30 of their 48 man-advantage goals on just 129 opportunities. The team had one of the best penalty kill units throughout the season finishing at 84.0% allowing just 40 goals against.
The Wolverines return to the post-season for a sixth consecutive year and are the defending North Division Champions. This year they saw a balanced attack offensively as they finished the season with four players reaching the 20-goal plateau; Ben Evanish(33), Liam Motley(22), Estian Coetzee(21) and Spencer Bast (20). Evanish became the first Wolverine to score 30 goals in a season (all as a Wolverine) since Colten Mayor achieved the feat during the 2013/2014 season. His 33 goals ranked 5th most in the entire league and with 29 of those goals coming at even-strength, only two other players (Chris Van Os-Shaw and Will Conley) finished with more goals at 5 on 5. On defence, the Wolverines saw another outstanding season from captain Ryan Grant as he has become one of the league’s best shutdown defenceman. Offensive catalyst’s from the blueline were Tanner Foster who hit a career high in goals (4), assists (25) and points (29) while rookie rearguard Matthew Monk tied a franchise record for points in a season by a rookie defenceman with 23. The backbone of the Wolverines this season came between the pipes as goaltender Xavier Potvin set new franchise highs for games played (45), minutes played (2693), shots faced (1249) and saves made (1146). Potvin finished the season with a record of 25-14-6 with a 2.29 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and four shutouts. He ranked second in the entire league in shutouts and minutes played and was nominated for the league’s Goaltender of the Year award.
Lloydminster Bobcats (23-34-3) (H: 17-11-2 A: 6-23-1)
The Bobcats power play ranked 14th in the AJHL this year 16.1% and the penalty kill was 11th at 79.1%.
The Bobcats re-enter the post-season after missing out on the playoffs last year. Their team saw an improvement of 8 wins and 16 points in the standings this year.
A big reason for their turn around was the play of Kobe Walker and Zach Kaiser, specifically in the second half of the season. Both players ended the season on a tear; Walker scored 17 goals and 26 assists in his final 31 games of the year and finished the season with 68 points, which was 10th in league scoring. Kaiser scored 23 goals and 20 assists over his final 32 games of the season and finished 21st in league scoring with 58 points and 9th in goals with 31. The ‘Cats also feature Defenceman of the Year nominee Daniel Hilsendager on their back end, he finished 4th in team scoring with 30 points. Between the pipes, the Bobcats have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league after a deadline deal with the Brooks Bandits brought in Bailey Brkin, who began the year in the Western Hockey League. Brkin went 5-4-1 in a Bobcat uniform with a 2.67 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. He is joined in the crease by veteran Pierce Diamond who is in his third season in the AJHL and second tour of duty with the Bobcats. He finished this year with a .905 save percentage and is no stranger to the post-season as just last year he helped lead the Whitecourt Wolverines to the league final starting all 20 of his team’s playoff games.
Season Series: 3-3-0
The Bobcats secured wins over the Wolverines at the Centennial Civic Centre on December 29th (2-1), December 30th (3-2) and February 10th (5-3). The Wolverines victories came at the Scott Safety Centre on January 9th (3-0), January 19th (8-0) and February 16th (3-1). On the special teams side, the Wolverines went 3-for-30 on the power play in the season series while the Bobcats were 4-for-24.
Whitecourt – Spencer Bast 3g-3a-6pts, Jaedon Leslie, 1g-5a-6pts, Ben Evanish 4g-1a-5pts, Liam Motley 2g-2a-4pts, Tanner Foster 2g-2a-4pts, Matthew Monk 1g-3a-4pts.
Lloydminster – Kobe Walker 4g-2a-6pts, Zach Kaiser 1g-2a-3pts, Tucker Scantlebury 1g-2a-3pts, Brayden Jenkins 0g-3a-3pts, Zach Ziegler 0g-3a-3pts.
Whitecourt – Xavier Potvin 3-2-0 1.81gaa .927svg 2SO. Tye Morin 1-0-0 1.00gaa .955svg
Lloydminster – Pierce Diamond 1-3-0 3.26gaa .920svg. Bailey Brkin 1-0-0 3.00gaa .944svg
North Division Quarter Final Series Schedule: Whitecourt Wolverines(3) vs Lloydminster Bobcats(6) (Best of Five)
Thursday March 8th, 2018 @ Whitecourt (7:30 p.m.)
Friday March 9th, 2018 @ Whitecourt (7:30 p.m.)
Sunday March 11th, 2018 @ Lloydminster (7:30 p.m.)
Monday March 12th, 2018 @ Lloydminster (7:30 p.m.) * If necessary
Wednesday March 14th, 2018 @ Whitecourt (7:30 p.m.) * If necessary