The Stars actually had two or three shots very early on during their first shift of the game. But after that it wasn’t a very good frame for the Stars. The Bruins really took the game over at that point and the game really could have been over after the first if it wasn’t for Graham Hildebrand. He made 16 saves in that opening period to keep the Stars in the contest. Hildebrand was beaten twice late in the period despite his best efforts. In fact on the Bruins opening goal at the 14:26 mark of the period the Stars goaltender actually made about 4 saves before the puck was finally popped home. You just can’t let a team get that many whacks at a loose puck without eventually giving up a goal. Tyler Poskus was the Bruins who eventually opened the scoring.
Not long after that Robbie Newton was hammered down in the neutral zone with what looked like a pretty lean hit from my angle. The Stars didn’t like it and Tanner Quinn jumped in to defend his teammate. Neither Quinn nor Austin Yano was able to get a hand free and so it was more of a wrestling match than a good fight. It did look for a moment like Quinn had his right hand free but he told me after the game he’s left handed so the right isn’t his favoured hand with which to punch. Quinn got an extra 2 for instigating as well as a 10 minute misconduct to go along with his fighting major. Yano just the 5 for fighting.
The Bruins made it 2-0 before the end of the period in part because of a power play. Estevan has the league’s best power play so the fact the Stars only allowed 1 power play goal on 9 Bruins opportunities was a huge factor in the game. The Bruins second goal of the first did come just seconds after Blake Tatchell, who served Quinn’ extra 2, had returned to the ice and before the Stars could get all 5 guys into the play. So while it wasn’t a power play goal for the Bruins it was the next closest thing. Again nothing Hildebrand could do as the puck was deflected beautifully by Derek Whitehill up under the bar.
I bumped into Tim Rollins dad during the first intermission and we talked briefly about the period. He was right when he said it couldn’t have been much worse. He also said somewhat prophetically, “there’s no where to go but up” and the second frame was an improvement for the Stars. The Stars almost got on the board 29 seconds into the middle frame when Blake Tatchell found Brett Miller all alone in front but Mills was robbed by Tyler Ross. The Stars then killed off an early Bruins power play after Kyle Hall was called for hooking trying to break up a possible 2 on 1.
At the 6:36 mark of the second a Bruins clearing attempt his Jordan Ethier and stayed in the zone. That led to the Stars first power play of the game as Roger Tagoona was hauled down charging hard to the front of the net. 18 seconds after that the Stars had the puck in the neutral zone and Tanner Schwab was blown up by Tyler Kauk. The point of contact was the head and despite a size difference the call on the play was a hit to the head. That’s a call that has gone against the Stars several times this season notably when Travis Sparrow picked up a suspension for a hit against Flin Flon before Christmas. That’s the right call based on what I have seen so far this season being called. The Stars scored on the resulting 5 on 3 but it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t without controversy. It was late in the 5 on 3 when Tim Rollins and Ethier combined to get the puck in the Bruins net. One of Estevan’s D men knocked the net off the moorings as the puck went in. Was the net off before the puck crossed the line? I can’t say. All I know is the referee awarded the goal despite the protests of Bruins fans and players.
That made it 2-1 Bruins who had their 2 goal lead back not long later. A great rush up the left wing and into the Stars net by Tyler Paslawski, I thought it was Poskus to be honest but Paslawski got the assist on the play, was followed by a great cross crease pass. Dylan Smith made no mistake as he had a tap in that Hildebrand again had no chance at stopping. That made it 3-1 Bears after the 40 minutes of play. It was the Bruins only power play goal in the contest.
Boyd Wakelin was on the broadcast again tonight and as was the case all weekend he was outstanding. He said that if the Stars came out in the third and played Stars hockey they could come back. The Stars have shown great character all season coming back to win 5 out of 13 times when trailing after 40 minutes. They would have to attempt the comeback tonight without Braeden Johnson however as he did not come back onto the ice for the third period. More on his status later.
The kid line set the tone early in the third. Tanner Quinn hadn’t seen much ice in the game because of all the PIMS he wracked up in the first period. Once they were re-united that line got back to work. Their first shift of the final frame was outstanding and the Stars seemingly never looked back.
It was the 20 year olds that got the Stars within a goal when Blake Tatchell’s line had an absolutely dominant shift with pressure in the attacking zone for what seemed like a minute. Maybe more. That pressure paid off after great work from Brett Miller and Ethier down low the Stars worked it to Brody Luhning at right point and then all the way back around to the left point. Blake Tatchell took the puck right before Woody Klassen got to it and settled it down before passing to Woody who had continued on down the wall. The Stars D man powered to the front of the net like an old fashioned power forward. The puck rolled off his stick right to Tatchell who had followed the play to the front of the net. Tatch made no mistake and the Stars were back within a goal.
Less than 2 minutes later Tatchell tied the game. This time the goal was set up by great effort from Ethier at the front of the net. He was lying on his stomach after being knocked down in front but kept whacking away as Ross tried to hold the puck out. Eventually with the puck still loose Tatchell swooped in and buried his second of the game. You don’t see the Stars with over the top celebrations for goals too often. But Tatchell gave it a little extra after that goal. It was a clear signal that the Stars were tired of not playing well and fired up to finish the Bruins off.
The Bruins top ranked power play had a chance to turn the momentum as Travis Sparrow went off shorty after the tying goal. He was called for interference after knocking an Estevan player down battling for a loose puck. It was a borderline call but the Stars didn’t complain too much they just got down to work on the penalty kill. After another good kill Travis Sparrow returned to the ice and promptly set up the game winner. Set up is kind of a loose term really as Sparrow just fired the puck out of his own zone to Tanner Quinn who did the rest. On a similar rush to the one by Paslawski that set up the Bruins third goal Quinn rushed into the zone up the left wing. Instead of passing out front though the Manitoba native, in front of his parents who were in town watching, went in behind the net and tried a wrap around. Not only did he try it he completed it. That made it 4-3 Stars and the kid line which was excellent all weekend had a reward for their hard work. Quinn was also the Stars forward who stepped up to protect his team mate earlier in the game.
The Stars had all the momentum at this point but Zach MacLellan, against his former team, Austin Yano, who was excellent all night, and the Bruins didn’t go away quietly. Graham Hildebrand still had to make 12 saves in that final period and he made all 12 of them. Travis Sparrow was hurt with 6 minutes left in the third when he took a big hit along the wall just inside the Stars zone. Sparrow got up right after the hit and looked like he wanted to rip someone’s head off. Then he stumbled and fell down. The play continued and I was critical of the ref for that aspect of the play. Hopefully he just didn’t see what happened on the play and didn’t realize Sparrow was dazed. I am always of the opinion that if a player is down hurt the whistle should go right away so they can get treatment. Sparrow got up just after the play was whistled down and skated to the bench where he stumbled again before heading off the ice. I am not sure every player in the league who have made their way off the ice under their own power in a similar situation. The Stars captain is pretty tough though.
With 4 minutes left in the third it looked like Tanner Quinn might have powered his second of the game over the line. It wasn’t clear to me if the puck was 100% over the line anyway so the fact the whistle had already gone meant it wasn’t a goal and I think that was the right call. The Stars kid line did seal it not long later. Brody Luhning made an All Stars play at the right point to set up the goal. How many D men in the league would get the puck at the point with 3 opposition players in his face and hold onto the puck? Luhning had his head up, realized all of the Bruins were backing off further into their own zone, and eventually found Woody Klassen at the left point after the Stars had all gotten into the attacking zone. Klassen’s shot was tipped in front by Ryne Keller to make it 5-3 Stars with 1:57 left.
That goal to ice the game for the Stars might not have happened if not for a great shift by Roger Tagoona 30 second earlier. Tagoona was all over the ice during the shift. He started catching the eye when he dove Superman style in his own zone to knock a puck out to the neutral zone. A diving high stick clearance? Don’t see that too often. The Stars forward then blocked 2 or 3 shots later in the shift before diving on top of a loose puck in the high slot to get a whistle. The Stars bench was fired up after that play and they won the game a couple minutes later. Blake Tatchell took a couple penalties late in the frame but it was already too late for the Bruins.
So the Stars play a third period that could have been one of the best 20 minutes they’ve played all year and find a way to win. It was harsh on Ross in the B’s net as he was solid. I thought Kauk and Yano had strong games and they both looked very good on the Bruins power play that showed flashes despite only scoring once. Olson and Nuefeld were dangerous throughout and if it wasn’t Hildebrand could have easily scored 3 or 4 goals in the game, particularly in the first two periods. Zach MacLellan was solid as well against his former team. Mac did what he does best last night. He got to pucks in his own zone quickly, moved the puck quickly and generally made the right decision with and without the puck. I’m glad he chose to report to Estevan and I hope it really works out for him there.
There was one other moment worth mentioning. That was after the final horn when Tim Rollins tried to recover the puck. The Bruins decided they didn’t want the Stars to have it so suddenly after the horn there was Tim Rollins surrounded by a couple Bruins players, including Neufeld, trying to stick handle the puck back to his own end. Rollins then tried to fire it back down to Stars territory only to fire a perfect tape to tape pass to a Bruin. There was some jawing after that but nothing really came of it all. Other than a good laugh for yours truly.
Mike Feeney’s Unsung Hard Working Player of the Game:
Roger Tagoona. If for nothing other than that once shift. It was a shift that really was that good. The Stars PK could have won the award as well. From Kachur, Berg, Sheeran and the whole D to Kyle Hall, Tanner Schwab, Tim Rollins, the kids and some other guys who don’t normally kill penalties it was a solid special teams effort for the Battlefords North Stars.
So it wasn’t the prettiest of weekends and the Stars only took a step tonight to get back to where they were earlier in the season. But it was a step and it was in the right direction. And maybe the best part of the whole evening? The Bruins are the North Stars next opponent. So this game will be fresh in the memory when these two teams meet again at the Civic Center Friday night.