The Miniota-Elkhorn C-Hawks will have an opportunity to defend their North Central Hockey League championship.
The 2019 champs flew to the NCHL finals by sweeping the best-of-five South Division finals last week. They downed the Langenburg Warriors 4-2 in game one, 5-3 on the road in the second contest, and 5-3 in what would be the final contest.
“I think I was most pleased with how we were able to battle back in games and show some resilience,” C-Hawks coach Garth Mitchell said. “This was a physical playoff series and our guys played through some adversity and really played hard for each other.”
Miniota-Elkhorn now waits for its finals opponent. The Russell Rams, who the C-Hawks dispatched in three games in the 2019 finals, lead their series, 2-0, over the Swan Valley Axeman. Russell won the first two games of the series by scores of 5-3 and 6-0. Game three is set for Friday in Russell.
“Keeping playing is good but some extra time to heal up playoff bumps and bruises and get a couple of practices in is not a bad thing either,” the coach said. “I really think it is what you make of it.”
In the opening contest of the South finals in Elkhorn, on Feb. 18, the C-Hawks took a 2-0 first period after throwing 17 shots at the Warriors’ net. In the second period, Langenburg scored to make it a 2-1 game. In the third, Miniota-Elkhorn lit the lamp twice to take a 4-1 lead before Langenburg was able to get one back.
Shawn Bowles, Jason Bowles, Kyle McLeod and Taylor Sanheim all scored for the C-Hawks. Cory Gardham made 25 saves for Miniota-Elkhorn, while Langenburg’s Theo Toma had 31 saves.
Langenburg came out strong on Feb. 21 as it sought to defend its home ice. The Warriors led 3-1 at the first intermission. Jason Bowles scored on a powerplay before Carey Findlay’s even-strength marker tied the contest in the second period. In the third, McLeod scored to put the C-Hawks up 4-3 before Bradley Bowles capped the contest with a shorthanded goal. Damon Bajus scored Miniota-Elkhorn’s first goal.
Ian OIiver earned the win in net for Miniota-Elkhorn. He had 21 saves while Toma made 46.
The C-Hawks closed out the series with another come from behind victory on Feb. 23. On a first period powerplay, Bradley Bowles staked Miniota-Elkhorn to a 1-0 lead. The Warriors scored three straight goals to go up 3-1 in the second. Before the intermission, Bradley Bowles scored again shorthanded to cut his team’s deficit to one, 3-2.
In the third, the C-Hawks received an even strength goal from Shawn Bowles, a powerplay marker from Dillin Stonehouse, and a shorthanded goal from Bradley Bowles to complete his hat trick. At the other end of the ice, Gardham made 19 saves on the night. Toma stopped 48 of the 53 he faced.
“I feel that once we got skating in all three games – we were able to have some extended periods of play in the offensive zone and really wore Langenburg down,” Mitchell said. “They received exceptional goaltending in the series, but again I think our ability to sustain offensive zone puck possession was fatiguing on their goaltender as well.”