Norsemen Knuckle Down on Sonicsby Matt MacInnis | May 14, 2018, 7:28 PM ET
The league’s top regular season team needed six games, all one-goal contests, to advance to the second round of the Continental Cup playoffs. For fans of the Vancouver Island Norsemen, it was a nerve-wracking series, watching the Norsemen lose the first two games on home ice, but it ended with four consecutive wins to keep the fans from marauding on head office.
The tight series demonstrated how badly the team’s depth suffered as they dealt with countless injuries. The team’s primary off-season acquisition, Rick Nash, missed the entire series and will miss the entire rest of the playoffs with a knee injury. The team’s only mid-season pick-up, second line centre Tyler Bozak also missed the entire series. Depth defencemen Adam Pelech (3 games) and Dalton Prout were mostly unavailable. And fourth line veteran presence Jay McClement was lost early in game 2 for at least the next two playoff series.
Several core pieces of the Norsemen also struggled miserably against the Supersonics. Starting goaltender Matt Murray, who was objectively the best goalie in the entire league during the season, was terrible. His 3.93 GAA and .877 save percentage found him relegated to backup duty after two games. Joonas Korpisalo came in and picked up four straight wins, sparkling in prime time with a sub-2.00 GAA.
Jamie Benn, the team’s leading scorer and one of the top point producers in the league, registered just one assist in six games. Josh Manson, a two-way stalwart most of the time, was a team-worst minus-4.
Fortunately for the team, a second round series against the Mustangs offers new beginnings for those who have struggled, and a substantial uptick in flexibility for Head Coach Pronger.
Bozak will be back in the lineup in game one, which may be the missing piece Benn needs to get back on track. Prout and Pelech are expected to be available to fill in after the first game.
Fans of sports narratives will be keenly watching the Norsemen-Mustangs series, a re-match from last years’ Canadian Conference Finals.