As the North West Junior Hockey League playoff picture unfolds, the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks enter Thursday’s game against the Fort St. John Huskies in a must-win situation at North Peace Arena.
“It’s a big game. We need to beat them,” stated Canucks head coach Eric Fulton on Tuesday.
“If we don’t beat them we drop another spot.”
With four straight wins between Jan. 13 to Jan. 26, the Huskies have moved to sixth place in the NWJHL standings, two points back of the Canucks who are clinging onto fifth place.
The Huskies and Canucks are two teams heading in different directions prior to playoffs.
After struggling all season, the Huskies have won four of their last five, including a 3-2 upset of second place North Peace Navigators on Jan. 13; while the Canucks have lost four straight.
In Dawson Creek’s defence, their recent dry-spell was suffered at the hands of the league’s top three teams, Grande Prairie, North Peace and the red-hot Fairview Flyers. Nonetheless, the Canucks have played lacklustre hockey as of late.
A Huskies win, tonight, would tie them with the Canucks in points (26) but would drop Dawson Creek to sixth because the Canucks would have one more loss than Fort St. John.
A win for the Canucks would give them a four-point cushion over the Huskies, who, not to mention, have a game in hand on Dawson Creek.
Following their matchup with Fort St. John, the Canucks have three more scheduled games (one with the Huskies, two with North Peace), while the Huskies have four games remaining on their calendar.
Making tonight’s game all that more important.
In sixth place, the Canucks would likely face Fairview, who have had Dawson Creek’s number as of late, and have made immense improvements over the course of the season’s second-half.
Meanwhile, fifth in the league would likely lead to a matchup with Slave Lake, who, right now, would be any NWJHL team’s first choice for a playoff opponent. The Wolves are on a seven-game losing skid and could drop further back if their season continues to go south.
Fulton says tonight’s matchup is as much about regaining confidence, as it is about postseason positioning.
“We know that they’ve been improving and we’ve been deteriorating. We’ve got to stop the bleeding and patch ourselves up and get strong again.”
Fulton says facing Fort St. John is motivation enough for the Canucks to defend their place in the standings.
“They hate losing to Fort St. John to begin with. Knowing that they [Huskies] are coming up, at practice last night [Monday] you could tell the boys had hockey on their brain and it should motivate them at this point in the season.”
On Friday, the Canucks host North Peace. The Navigators are undefeated this season against Dawson Creek. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m.