Preview: Navs look to ride momentum into second round of NWJHL Playoffs

FORT ST. JOHN — The North Peace Navigators have a date with the league’s top team in the second round of the NWJHL playoffs.

The Navs are currently riding high after a first round series victory over the Fairview Flyers, in a back-and-forth series that saw the Navs and Flyers split the first four games. The two teams would throw home ice advantage out the window, with neither team taking a game on home ice until the series clincher in Game 5. It would be in this deciding game that the Navs would break through at the Baytex Energy Centre, putting together a solid effort and eliminating the Flyers with a 5-2 victory.

The Navs round two opponents the Fort St. John Huskies are the defending NWJHL champions, and after a first place finish in this year’s regular season standings, look to make it back-to-back titles. The Huskies earned a first round bye after compiling a league best 23-10-0 record during the season, and will be well-rested ahead of tonight’s game one.

North Peace forward Robert Lemay led the way for the Navigators in the first round registering eleven points in five games, which included the GWG in Game 4 and a four point effort in the series deciding Game 5. Lemay signed with the Navs back in September, and is a former member of the Royals Midget AA. Dawson Gour would also have a clutch series for North Peace, tallying the game winner in Game 2 as well as Game 5, and is also a product of the Royals Midget AA program.

Navs’ goaltender Ryan Noble it would be a tale of two series, as the goalie would struggle to find his rhythm in Game 1 and 3, surrendering six goals in the first game and five goals in the third. Noble would have a strong outing on the road in game two however, and also close out the series with back-to-back wins while only allowing three goals over in Games 4 and 5.

The Fort St. John Huskies see their first action of the post-season tonight, and are loaded with offensive weapons and also feature strong goaltending. Huskies forward Gary Loewen took home the scoring title as well as the league MVP award back on February 18th, after a regular season campaign that saw him register 59 points in 35 games. The Huskies also boast a strong defensive unit led by Jared Loewen, who took home the league’s top defenceman award for this season.

Starting between the pipes for Fort St. John will be goaltender Jonathan Bateman, who’s coming off a terrific season that saw him earn a league-high eighteen victories and win the NWJHL’s top goaltender award.

Despite an eleven point gap between the Navs and first place Fort St. John to end the regular season, the season series would see the Huskies narrowly edge North Peace, winning four games while the Navs would win three. In their most recent meeting on February 1st, the Huskies would prevail over the Navs in a shootout.

Puck drop for tonight’s opening game between the Navs and Huskies is set for 8 PM at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John.

–Alex Rodgerson, Trending 55