The Battlefords North Stars are one win away from matching their season high 9 game win streak.
It only took 26 seconds for the North Stars to take the lead last night. I would imagine it was a little disheartening for the Estevan Bruins who probably spent some time laying out a game plan that involved trying to stop Blake Tatchell from having an impact on the game. And that went out the window after less than half a minute. Tatchell found a way to re-direct a bouncing puck into the top corner past Steven Glass. Woody Klassen and Brody Luhning picked up assists on the goal. The Stars were very good in the first frame and controlled the play. The scored again when Tanner Schwab took what he called a “half clap” on the rush. Skating down the left wing Schwab was trying to go high glove with a shot from the toe end of his stick. He got it with the heel end though and it eluded Glass through the 5 hole. I thought Glass was outstanding and deserved to be the third star of the game. That’s the only goal he would maybe want back.
The Bruins got one back against the run of play when on the power play a Derek Whitehill shot was blocked by the Stars but the puck ricocheted right to Taylor Reich who made no mistake. It was the only power play of the game for the Bruins and the league’s leading PP unit struck. The Stars played a very disciplined and smart game though and that was the only time they would be short handed in the game.
So it was 2-1 after the first period and the shots favoured the Stars 13-5. Right at the horn to end the first we saw the best fight I’ve seen all season. Grayden Turner is such a tough young man and he does not give an inch to anyone. Some pushing and shoving led to Turner dropping the mitts with The second period started pretty well for the Dylan Schellenberg. Neither guy is over 6 feet so I wouldn’t call it a heavy weight fight but it was a beauty none the less. They just stood toe to toe throwing hay makers for what felt like at least a minute maybe more. It would be unfair to either player to decide a winner so let’s call it a draw. Turner did not return to the game as his knuckles were pretty banged up.
In the second period the Bruins started to find their feet and I thought they were the better team for the first 6 or 7 minutes of the frame. And if they had scored instead of hitting the cross bar it could have been a different story. But Graham Hilebrand made a couple saves the Stars got it cranked back up and the second half of the game was pure domination. Blake Tatchell and Cole Olsen got tied up at one point and both were called for holding. During the 4 on 4 play the Stars struck to make it 3-1. Ryne Keller and Brett Miller both ended up screening the goalie while Zach MacLellan and Woody Klassen played catch at the point. Klassen found MacLellan and then backed along the line towards the middle of the ice. MacLellan slid the puck back to Klassen who one timed it into the top corner. Glass never saw it. It was a perfectly placed bullet from Klassen who scored his 6th goal in 10 games. On that pace if the Stars stud D man had played the whole season so far he would be the 5th highest goal scorer in the entire league forwards included.
Blake Tatchell scored his second of the night on a nice pass from Tim Rollins before the second period was over to make it 4-1. Tatchell and his linemates Rollins and Johnson had several odd man opportunities and plenty of scoring chances. Perhaps they should have scored a couple more goals. Coach Hasselberg after the game called it a “quiet” 2 goal performance from Tatchell. Sometime during the second period Robbie Newton left the game as well. He had a lower body injury that I don’t think it serious. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the lineup Friday. Captain Travis Sparrow didn’t even dress last night as he deals with an ankle issue that was caused by a blocked shot in Flin Flon several weeks ago. He wants to be in the lineup Friday but it might make sense for the Stars to hold him out. There’s no reason to rush their captain back onto the ice the way they are playing right now.
The third period was all Stars. They must have had control of the puck for 75% of the period in the offensive zone. Despite the Bruins trailing and needing shots to get back in the game Graham Hildebrand had to make just 3 saves in the third period. Boyd Wakelin scored a nice one timer of his own to round out the scoring. Final score was 5-1 Stars. Final shots on goal were 32-16.
With the win the Stars have now won 8 in a row and incredibly 17-1-0-1 is their record in their last 19 games.
Mike Feeney’s Unsung Hard Working Player of the Game:
Grayden Turner. He didn’t play after his fight at the end of the first but the fight alone was enough to win the award. The kid just will not quit or back down from anyone. It’s impressive. And Boyd Wakelin and I were talking about it this morning Turner is handy with the puck as well. He is a solid depth player that every team needs and he deserves some recognition. So he gets it here.
Next up for the North Stars is a 3 game road trip this weekend. It starts Friday in Melville and I will have the call for you starting with the SaskTel pregame show at 7:15 on CJNB/CJNS and http://www.cjnb.com