There is one game left on the schedule for the Senior Canucks to get into playoff mode and their season finale on Saturday should be a good test.
The Canucks end their regular season in front of their home crowd against the Grande Prairie Athletics, who are tied for first place in the West Division with the Spirit River Rangers.
The Senior C’s know their place in the postseason, as they enter playoffs as the third-ranked squad out of the West but Saturday’s game could determine whom the Canucks meet in the first round, and Canucks captain and player-coach, Adam Loncan, doesn’t expect Grande Prairie to just roll over for them.
“It depends on first and second to see who we have [first round],” noted Loncan. “It will be a big one, every game against them is.”
“They are in a battle for first with Spirit River, so every game is key to them,” he added.
The Rangers and Athletics have identical records (15-4-0-1) entering this week’s matchups, and which team ends atop the division could boil down to Saturday’s season finale.
The West Division’s last place team, the Hythe Mustangs (5-14-1-0), waits to find out who the number one seed will be.
For the Canucks, who are coming off an 11-3 loss to the Falher Pirates on Jan. 26, their focus is to start the postseason on a roll.
“We have third wrapped up but at the same time we don’t want to just finish the season and start up again in the playoffs,” said Loncan. We want to be going into the playoffs on a roll and everybody flying and not be expecting to get things going in Game 1, because that’s just not going to happen.”
He says Saturday’s game will be about overcoming the obstacles that have troubled the Canucks all season.
“We need a stronger D-zone and a full 60 [minutes]. We talk about that all the time and it seems it’s in one ear and out the other some times.”
Loncan says the defence has to tighten up or it will be a short postseason.
“At times our defensive zone has been terrible and our goalies have been there to bail us out, and at times we don’t bail them out. You need to do that for your goalie because he is going to do it for us,”
The Athletics lead the season series between the two teams 2-1, and have outscored the Canucks 17-7 in their last two meetings.
Elsewhere in the North Peace Hockey League (NPHL), the Pirates lead the East Division by one game with a 16-6-0-0 record, two points in front of the Lakeland Eagles.
The Manning Comets hold onto third place at .500 with an 11-11-0-0 record and 22 points, two more than the Grimshaw Huskies and nine more than fifth-seed High Prairie Regals. The expansion-club, Valleyview Jets, sit in place with an abysmal 0-22-0-0 record with two games left on their schedule to scrounge up a win.
The Canucks and Athletics hit the ice at 8:30 p.m.