By the numbers, keeping the Dryden Ice Dogs on a tight leash shouldn’t prove too demanding for the Borderland Thunder.
With a 8-3-0-1 advantage in their season series, the Thunder (33-12-5-2) have done their best to avenge a 4-0 sweep to the Ice Dogs (28-20-2-2) in last year’s SIJHL final.
But with Game 1 of their best-of-seven semi-final series getting underway tonight at 7:30 at the Ice for Kids Arena, and Game 2 set for tomorrow night, both teams know the slate has been wiped clean.
Still, it’s been an intriguing slate of games between the two squads so far this season.
After beating the Ice Dogs at home in the final of the SIJHL’s pre-season Showcase Tournament, the Thunder had to wait more than a month into the season before battling their playoff conquerors Oct. 30 in Dryden Oct. 30.
Goalie Dan Hoehne, who led the league this year with 17 wins, made a dazzling debut for Borderland in that game, backstopping the Thunder to a 3-0 victory.
But the win later was forfeited when it was revealed Hoehne had not had his transfer officially authorized by league officials before suiting up that night.
Hoehne made amends in his next clash with Dryden, making 21 saves, while Matt Johnson was in on every goal as the Thunder doubled the Ice Dogs 4-2 at home Nov. 12.
A.J. Tucker scored the overtime winner in a 3-2 Borderland win in Dryden on Nov. 27, which unexpectedly became their last confrontation of 2002 when a Dec. 18 game there had to be postponed until Jan. 8 after Highway 502 was closed due to treacherous road conditions.
Chad Baldwin scored twice in the delayed game for a 4-2 Thunder win, and Borderland followed that up four days later with their most lopsided win of the season over the Ice Dogs in a 7-1 rout here at home.
Joel Poshtar tallied twice, and Steve Bunney had three assists, as the Ice Dogs finally beat the Thunder by a 5-3 score here Jan. 21.
Borderland bounced back for a 5-3 win here versus the Ice Dogs on Feb. 4, before heading into a stretch of three-consecutive Wednesday visits to Dryden.
Johnson and Matt Alexander each scored twice in an 8-5 Thunder victory Feb. 12 in a game which saw 165 minutes in penalties and eight game misconducts handed out.
Even the Dryden mascot banished by referee George Adams for making a series of unflattering gestures in his direction.
Tyler Desjarlais, who was thrown out of the previous game for hurling his stick into the crowd, scored the overtime winner in a 4-3 Dryden win Feb. 19 after the Thunder had roared back from a 3-0 deficit.
Three power-play goals powered the Ice Dogs to a 6-1 demolition of the Thunder on Feb. 26, but Borderland stormed back to win 6-3 here March 4 in another wild affair that was called off with 9.1 seconds to play in the third period after one fight and a second near-altercation had both teams threatening each other from their respective benches.
Finally, with Dryden dressing just 12 skaters, the Thunder used three power-play goals to cruise to a 5-2 win here Tuesday night to close out regular-season play.
Tucker hopes to return to the line-up tonight after missing five weeks of action with a hairline fracture in his ankle.
Playoff tickets, which cost $8 each, can be purchased at Skates and Blades here and the C.C. Complex at Couchiching.
The other SIJHL semi-final pits the second-place Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs (30-15-3-3) against the Fort William First Nation Wolves (23-19-5-5).