NWJHL Rivalry Renewed
This time last season two teams were emerging as legitimate threats to win the coveted NWJHL championship and while it didn’t end up in favour for either team both the Grande Prairie JDA Kings and the North Peace Navigators are the respected early favorites again this season and both clubs will get their NWJHL rivalry renewed this weekend.
Both hockey clubs cruised early on last season remaining undefeated leading up to their first matchup at Grande Prairie’s Coca Cola Centre which had the Navs play spoilers and walk away with a 5 to 2 win handing the Kings their first loss of the 2011 – 2012 NWJHL regular season. Notching a few more wins and still undefeated weeks later, the two teams would meet once more but this time the Grande Prairie JDA Kings would play spoiler and hand the Navigators their first loss of the season with a 3 to 2 win in Peace River. Both clubs would battle throughout most of the regular season chasing top spot but ultimately that title would belong to Peace River.
Things different in 2012 – 2013 NWJHL season
Despite all the accolades of being early season favorites both clubs will meet again this Saturday night in Peace River but under different circumstances then 2011 – 2012. Both Junior B hockey clubs met last season with zeros in the loss column but this time only one will have that honor, the Grande Prairie JDA Kings. This past weekend the North Peace Navigators were stunned when they dropped a game to Sexsmith Vipers in their first road game of the season. It wasn’t without a dramatic comeback. Trailing throughout most of the game the Navs nearly managed to pull off the comeback before the Vipers added an insurance marker in the third to seal the victory.
One thing going for Peace River will be home ice advantage. The Kings on the other hand are about to partake in their first road game of the season. If there was one vice last year for the team it was playing on home ice, the Kings were one of the best road teams in the NWJHL last season but whether history will repeat itself remains to be seen. Grande Prairie has always played well in Peace River and having your first road game of the season against one of your rivals should only up the ante. Game time is set for 8:00pm at the Baytex Energy Center in Peace River.
Elsewhere Around the NWJHL
The Fort St. John Huskies kick off their 2012 – 2013 campaign tonight when they host the 1 and 1 Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks. Both clubs met in the preseason with the Huskies spanking the Canucks 6 to 2 even without last years leading scorer Robbie Sidhu. The Canucks on the other hand have already managed to have a few games under the belt, the latest being a 4 to 2 win over the Beaverlodge Blades. It’s debatable whether the Huskies will see any game rust but as always playing in the North Peace Arena isn’t an easy thing to do and when you add the intensity of being a home opener things will be that much tougher for Dawson.
The only game on Friday night should be a rowdy one as the Fairview Flyers will finally be able to show a rabid fanbase what their all about. The Flyers didn’t get off to a great start in their NWJHL existence last weekend when they took a 7 to 2 thumping at the hands of the North Peace Navigators but the team is expected to have a few fresh faces in the lineup when they host the surprising Sexsmith Vipers. The Vipers are coming off arguably one of their biggest wins in the past two years. Sitting in second place with 2 wins and 1 loss the Vipers will look to keep pace with the Grande Prairie JDA Kings with a win in Fairview.
Saturday night has the NWJHL showcasing three games. As mentioned the Kings are in Peace River for what should be a very entertaining game. Elsewhere the Slave Lake Wolves should get an emotional lift when they host their first home game in two years. A lot has happened in Slave Lake after wildfires ravaged the small community and it’s great to see the hockey club back in the mix after a one year hiatus. After dropping their first game 4 to 1 to the Kings the Wolves will be hosting the Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks in the first of two home games this weekend.
The final game on Saturday night will see the Beaverlodge Blades, still looking for their first win of the season travel to Fairview to play the Flyers.
Sunday afternoon the NWJHL will wrap up its weekend worth of games with two on tap. The North Peace Navigators will face off against the Fort St. John Huskies in a 3:30 start. It will be the first time since the Huskies and Navs played in last seasons playoffs. Peace River walked away with the series win but not without a few moments of uncertainty. The Huskies on the other hand look poised to take the next step into the upper echelon of the NWJHL standings and Sunday afternoons game should be a good indication.
The final game has the Wolves hosting the Sexsmith Vipers.
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs North Peace Navigators