Kodiaks roll to 2-0 lead over Mustangs
Camrose Kodiaks forward Braeden Nesbitt scuffles with Calgary Mustangs forward Chase Miller during Game 2 of the Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division quarter-final in Camrose on Friday, March 9. The Kodiaks won 6-3 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-three series, Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
Kodiaks 6, Mustangs 3
McKenzie Welke may have been separated from his twin brother on Friday night, but it did not stop him from having his best game as a Camrose Kodiak.
Welke scored three goals in leading the Kodiaks to a 6-3 win over the Calgary Mustangs in Game 2 of their Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division quarter-final in Camrose.
"You're never thinking (hat trick), especially when you go into the playoffs where goals are harder to come by," he said. "I'm getting set up pretty good out there and getting a few right in the slot and I'm lucky they've gone in."
Matt Dykstra, Kyler Kupka and Tyler Schendel also scored for Camrose while Luke Lush made 19 saves for the win. Calgary responded with goals from Joseph Karpyshyn, Daniel Rybarik and Chase Miller, and Ashton Abel allowed six goals on 31 shots before being lifted for former Kodiaks goalie Joey May to start the third. May stopped all nine shots he faced.
The win puts the Kodiaks one game away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. But they still have their work cut out for them as the series shifts back to Calgary on Sunday.
Through the first five periods of this series the Kodiaks dominated. They played as quick as they have all season, they were aggressive and converted on their opportunities. In the final period on Friday, they took their foot off the gas pedal and were out played.
"That was probably our best series of hockey all year … that's what we know as a staff we can do, we just have to take it," said Kodiaks head coach and general manager Boris Rybalka.
Keying the Kodiaks attack through the first two games of the best-of-five series has been the Welke line – or rather the McKenzie Welke line. The line that also usually includes Ryan McKinnon on right wing, was a major catalyst in their 5-1 win in Game 1. The Welkes combined for an early short-handed goal that kick started the team and were a general bur under the Mustangs' saddle all game. Carson Welke, however, crossed the line midway through Game 1 with a knee on Yuri Chernicko that landed him with a two-game suspension.
Braeden Nesbitt was elevated to the line in place of Carson for Game 2, and the trio was the Kodiaks' best all night long as McKinnon finished with two assists and Nesbitt with one. Most importantly they continued their agitating ways and took the Mustangs off their game.
It is the type of role the line has thrived on all season, but with the intensity of the playoffs dialing things up another notch, they have flourished.
"There's definitely a fine line that you don't want to cross and end up hurting your team, but … it's a lot of fun, it just brings up the intensity and I think that's how the game should be played anyway," said Welke.
Game 3 goes Sunday night in Calgary at 7:30 p.m. If the Mustangs do win Game 4 goes Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Calgary with a potential Game 5 slated for Camrose in Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Kodiaks would prefer to end the series on Sunday and start scoreboard watching for their next opponent. They know, however, things will be much different when the series switches to the cavernous Father David Bauer Arena, something they have prepared for.
"We have to make our own emotion," said Rybalka. "We put quiet music on during practices to get your mental state to overcome where it's a quiet building."