WESTLOCK - The Westlock Senior Warriors remain winless in 2023 following a 4-2 Jan. 21 road loss to the Red Deer Rustlers, the club they’ll face in the opening round of the North Central Hockey League playoffs.
Now, with only one game left to play in the regular season, all that’s left to decide is whether the Warriors will get home-ice advantage in that best-of-five opening round series slated to start in February as they sit in fourth with a record of 7-5-0-1 and 15 points, while the Rustlers occupy fifth at 7-6-0-0 and 14 points.
Warriors captain Mike Ivey said they’d like to secure home-ice advantage but know they’ll face a stiff test against the Lacombe Generals Jan. 28, a club they fell to 6-1 in their opening game of the season. As it stands, the Generals, at 11-1-1-1, and the Camrose Crunch, 9-3-0-1, will finish 1-2 in the NCHL and get first-round byes, while the Morinville Kings have wrapped their season and will finish in third at 9-5-1-0 and will face either the Devon Barons or Bonnyville Pontiacs in the other opening-round series. The Rustlers, who’ve defeated the Warriors twice this year, end their season Jan. 28 when they face the Barons in Devon.
“Either way we’re getting Red Deer. Home ice would be awesome, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t get it,” said Ivey.
Fast start falls flat
The Warriors wasted no time against the Rustlers in their Jan. 21 tilt played at the Penhold Multiplex, scoring on the first shift of the night.
But the lead didn’t hold and by the end of the frame the Rustlers had all they’d need and stood with a 3-1 advantage — following a scoreless second period, the clubs traded goals in the final frame to make the final 4-2.
“We had a good start and then fizzled a bit as they got two quick goals. It wasn’t a horrible game, I just think we needed to get a few more shots and we probably could have capitalized on the chances that we did get,” said Ivey.
Although they’ve yet to beat the Rustlers this season, Ivey said he likes their chances against them in a best-of-five series.
“We’re looking forward to facing them and I think it’s a good match-up for us,” he added.