Blake Tatchell: SJHL MVP

The SJHL named it’s league award winners late last night. The league’s Most Valuable Players award was given to the Stars forward Blake Tatchell.

First of all congratulations to Blake for winning the award. He was also the runner up for the league’s Player of the Year award which went to Jesse Ross of the Weyburn Red Wings. Both players were deserving of an award and I had a feeling they would split those two awards.

Tatchell finished second to Ross in both goals and points this past season. He also led his team by a wide margin as the Stars depth throughout the lineup meant that no other player was within 30 points of Tatchell’s totals. He also led the league with his 21 game point streak through the majority of the first 3 months of the season. Coach Hasselberg described Tatchell as a humble player who loves the game and plays honestly. I think that’s spot on. Tatchell also helps make the players around him better.

When I spoke with Tatch about the award he mentioned his teammates more than once and spoke of it being an individual award that you can’t win without great teammates. He also said he and his teammates will use the award as a boost heading into the playoffs. The confidence that comes with knowing you are an MVP shouldn’t be discounted.

I could write a lot more about Tatchell and the awards and perhaps I will after the season but Coach Hasselberg said it was an “honour having Blake on the team” and I think Blake has done himself, his family and his team very proud. I also think it is tremendous to see a player from the Battlefords win the MVP of the league while playing for his home town team. The team for whom he grew up hoping to play.

Woody Klassen was named runner-up for Defenseman of the Year in the SJHL. Carson Grolla of the Notre Dame Hounds picked up the award. No offense to Grolla who is a great D man who plays a ton of minutes and helps his team in many ways. But I think Woody Klassen is the best D man in the league. He was good enough to play in the ECHL and will most likely play there next season. If he had been around the whole season I believe he would have won the award.

Coach Hasselberg was named runner-up for Coach of the Year honours and I believe that he was deserving of the award. But so was Doug Johnson and I don’t think you can argue with either man winning. Doug has done a fantastic job with Nipawin and has always been a very approachable and gracious coach to speak with. He’s made my job easier in my dealings with him which is a very small aspect of his job but he does it very well. He also coaches well and made some great moves to improve his team.

So congratulations to all of the Stars award winners on their terrific seasons. Check out the full list of winners here.

 

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I should also make note that Stars playoff tickets are on sale tomorrow night at the Civic Center. They are a dollar cheaper for season tickets holders if you buy them in advance.

AND the North Stars greatest iFan contest is back. Check out more on that at http://www.northstars.ca

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Franchise records

The North Stars just wrapped up one of the best regular season’s in their franchise history. The two amazing records that they set are the fewest losses in a season and the fewest goals allowed in a season. Congratulations to the Stars on those 2 marks. Both are very impressive and a testament to a lot of hard work and effort.

So what did all that work and effort get the Stars? Home ice advantage in the Bauer semi-final and a matchup with one of the top teams in the SJHL and a team that would scare anyone in Canada. Fast, deep, talented and young enough to not know any better the Nipawin Hawks are a very tough opponent. But would you want it any other way?

Early next week I will have a look at the Hawks roster and the meetings this season between the two teams. Also make sure you tune in to the Co-op Leisure Time Sports Fix Monday night as I will have Nipawin Head Coach and GM Doug Johnson, D man Dan Szerlip and play by play voice Branden Crowe on the show. If you don’t know much about Nipawin right now you will by Tuesday morning. Then we will start gearing up for game number 1 which is now less than a week away.

 

Stars vs Hawks playoff dates

Here are the playoff dates for the North Stars series with the Nipawin Hawks.
Fri March 2 – Nipawin @ Battlefords – Civic Center – 7:30 PM
Sat March 3 – Battlefords @ Nipawin – Centennial Arena – 7:30 PM
Mon March 5 – Nipawin @ Battlefords – Civic Center – 7:30 PM
Tues March 6 – Battlefords @ Nipawin – Centennial Arena – 7:30 PM
* Fri March 9 – Nipawin @ Battlefords – Civic Center – 7:30 PM
* Sun March 11 – Battlefords @ Nipawin – Centennial Arena – 6:00 PM
* Tues. March 13 – Nipawin @ Battlefords – Civic Center – 7:30 PM
* if necessary

Stars beat Kinderlsey 5-2 to close out the regular season

The North Stars wrapped up their regular season with a strong effort in a 5-2 win over Kindersley last night at the Civic Center. I will have lots more on the season in the coming days and of course a look ahead to the post season as well so keep checking back in the next week for lots more info.

The first period last night was a strange one at the Civic Center. There wasn’t a shot on net from either team in the first 5 minutes as a combination of scrambly play, blocked shots and guys firing hire and wide combined to ensure the goalies didn’t have much to do in the early going. The Stars actually scored on their first shot of the game when Tanner Quinn opened the scoring with a backhand shot that eluded Justin McDonald in the Kindersley net. Robbie Newton and Ryne Keller drew assists after great work on the forecheck. The home team made it 2 goals on 4 shots when Jordan Ethier beat McDonald at the 8:30 mark of the period. Roger Tagoona probably should haev scored as he made a gorgeous deke to go around McDonald and leave the goalie grasping at thin air. From the right side of the net Tagoona tried to slide a back hander into the empty net but he missed and the puck slid through the crease and out the other side. And right to Ethier who tapped it home. If it was a pass it was a beauty from Tagoona. Kyle Hall also picked up an assist on the goal. The Stars made it 3-0 on the power play 3 minutes later when Brett Miller powered out of the corner to the right of the goalie and drove the front of the net. The Klippers could do nothing as Miller slid the puck past McDonald. That was when Rockie Zinger used his timeout to settle his players down and it worked perfectly.

The Klippers responded after the time out by earning a power play as Kyle Hall was called for interference. Troy Gedny scored on the man advantage to get the Klippers on the board on just their second shot. of the game at the 12:48 mark. Brett Blatz took an interference penalty of his own 5 seconds after the goal to give the momentum back to the Stars. Or so we thought. The Klippers scored short handed 11 seconds into the power play and suddenly the score was 3-2. Colby Daniels and Kyle Davies went in on Hildebrand on a 2 on 1 short handed and eventually Davies got the puck across to Daniels who slid it home through the 5 hole on Graham Hildebrand.

After that craziness the period settled down a little and no more goals were scored. The Stars regrouped and came out and dominated the second period. The Klippers were given credit for 2 shots in the period but I actually thought one of those was blocked before it go to the net. Either way if it was 1 or 2 shots on net it was a very low number. The Stars dominated the puck in the attacking zone for long stretches and it took the Klippers 15 minutes before they got the puck down into the Stars zone for any length of time and it led to a shot on goal. Graham Hildebrand made the save in what must have been a tough period for the goalie. Standing there without any saves to make can’t be easy in terms of staying focused and warm. The Stars only scored once in the period when Rollins and Tagoona combined to set up Boyd Wakelin. Wakes didn’t control the puck cleanly as he had an empty net to shoot at. The Stars forward had to take time to control the puck and then by the time he did the Klippers were scrambling around trying to protect their net. Wakelin’s shot ended up in the back of the net and I think it may have deflected off a Klipper. It doesn’t really matter how it went in though it was Wakelin’s 9th of the year. There was some rough stuff in the second period as a near line brawl broke out after what appeared to be a dangerous hit on Roger Tagoona. Matt Sheeran ended up fighting Bradley Buckingham and both were given 5 and a game for the fight. The game misconducts came about because there were other skirmishes going on. Despite the fact that it didn’t look like either guy really threw any punches Jordan Ethier and David Haaf both ended up in the box with 5 for fighting. Because the ref decided the pushing and shoving had become more than 1 fight on the ice at the same time Sheeran and Buckingham were done for the night.

In the third the Stars continued to dominate despite the fact that the Klippers doubled their shot total for the game in the final period. They had 8 going into the period and just 16 at the end of the game. The Stars scored one more to seal the game as Boyd Wakelin scored again. In the rink they announced it as Kyle Hall’s goal and he was at the side of the net so I wasn’t sure if he had deflected it. But Hall corrected the ref and the score sheet was fixed to give Wakelin his 10th of the year. Hall and Ethier drawing assists on the play. The assist gave Ethier his first ever Gordie Howe hat trick.

Wakelin finished with 2 goals on the game. Tagoona had 3 assists. Kyle Hall had 2 helpers and Ethier had a goal and an assist. Both team finished the game 1 for 5 on the power play.

So the North Stars finish the regular season with the best winning percentage in franchise history. The fewest losses in a season in franchise history and the fewest goals allowed in a season in franchise history. It’s been an amazing season for the North Stars players and coaching staff and they head into the playoffs with plenty of momentum after one of the best seasons in franchise history.

As I said I will have more on the season that was coming up on the blog in the next week or so and of course plenty of coverage of the upcoming playoff match up with the young, talented, and hungry Nipawin Hawks. Game 1 goes Friday March 2nd and game 2 the very next night in Nipawin.

SJHL Game #58: Kindersley Klippers at Battlefords North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars close out their season tonight on home ice as they host the Kindersley Klippers. Tonight will be the final regular season home game for the 1991 born players in the Stars lineup. Hopefully we’ll see a nice big loud crowd at the Civic Center tonight as players like Boyd Wakelin and Graham Hildebrand who have been with this team for 4 years deserve a nice big send off. All of the 20 year old players do whether they are new, old, or something in between. As I said on the radio this morning, you never know how long the post season will last and if you will get another chance to see a game this season. Work, family or any number of other commitments can come up and get in the way of getting to a hockey game. So if you have the time please come down to the Civic Center tonight and salute the great season the Stars have had and give them a nice send off as they head into playoffs.

Recent Game:

Kindersley Klippers:

Battlefords North Stars:

  • See above.

Who’s Hot:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • Austin McDonald.  He has scored 4 goals and 5 points on a 4 game scoring streak. The Turtleford native is second on the team in scoring behind D Jay McGrath.
  • Alex Laird picked up 2 points last time out for the Klippers and could have had more. He was stopped by Connor Creech on a break away in the second period.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • Since allowing 6 goals in a crazy win against Estevan Connor Creech has allowed just 5 goals on 80 shots in 3 starts. That’s good for a .938 save percentage over those 3 games.
  • Braeden Johnson, Jordan Ethier, Blake Tatchell, Brett Miller were all on the score sheet last time out.  That line of Ethier, Miller and Tatchell was outstanding for the Stars and combined for 10 points.

Players to Watch:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • D Jay McGrath is the most obvious choice. He’s the Klippers top offensive guy now that players like King and Duzan are no longer there.
  • The Klippers have 4 players over the 100PIMs mark; Justin Lund, Zane Morin, Troy Gedny and Brett Blatz, so they will be players to keep an eye on if the game gets chippy or if the physical play starts to ramp up they are the 4 most likely players for the Klippers to be involved. And lets hope there is some emotion in the game tonight.

Battlefords North Stars

  • Blake Tatchell. Final regular season home game of his career and he is 5 points back of Jesse Ross for the league lead.

Head to Head:

  • Battlefords 6 @ Kinderlsey 2 (Feb 19th 2012)
  • Kindersley 1 @ Battlefords 5 (Nov 15 2011)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Kindersley 1 (Sep 27 2011)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Kindersley 3 (Sep 17 2011)
  • Kindersley 5 @ Battlefords 1 (Sep 16 2011)
  • Blake Tatchell now has 10 points in 5 games against the Klippers this season. Brett Miller has 6 points in 5 games. Jordan Ethier 6 in 4 games including 3 goals. Braeden Johnson after his goal on Sunday night now has 5 goals and 7 points in 5 games against the Klippers.
  • Alex Laird has 4 points in 4 games against the Stars this season, 3 of those games were with Nipawin, The goal last game for Austin McDonald was his first this season against the Stars in his 3rd game.

Special Teams:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • PP – 15.5 (11th) PK – 78.4 (11th)

Battlefords North Stars:

  • PP – 18.9 (7th) PK – 80.4 (7th)

Other Notes:

Battlefords North Stars

  • Hildebrand, Wakelin, Tatchell, Klassen, Sparrow, Miller, Berg, Kachur, and Ethier are all playing the final regular season game of their junior careers. As I said you never know how many playoff games these guys will get so hopefully they enjoy their final game.
  • There is also a break from school this week and so with it not being a school night and with not a lot of other local teams in action at any level I am hoping that a ton of people show up at the Civic Center this evening. Really what else are you gonna do on a Tuesday night?

The Big Stat(s):

  • 5. That’s how many points Blake Tatchell needs to catch Jesse Ross who leads the league in goals and points. It’s a pretty long shot for Tatchell to reach that mark but if he has a good start who knows? Anything is possible. I am sure the Klippers will be doing everything they can to slow down the Stars forward and make sure he doesn’t get on the score sheet. Should make for an interesting game.

North Stars award nominees

The SJHL announced the nominees from each SJHL team for the individual player awards. The full list can be found n the SJ website by clicking on this link.

Here are the Stars nominees and some thoughts about each:

Rookie of the Year – Tanner Quinn

I am not sure on the rules but I imagine Dillon Forbes was considered for the award if he is considered a true rookie. He has played some Junior A before but only a handful of games. He would have been a great nominee as well. Really you could take any of Quinn, Keller or Samborski and have them as a deserving finalist. Matt Sheeran if he had been around and healthy all season might have been another good choice. But the Stars went with Quinn and he is as deserving as anyone of being nominated. Sadly Quinner most likely won’t win the award as his offensive numbers aren’t as high as some other players and stats are what gets noticed. But in terms of all around game and what Quinn and his line mates bring? A deserving candidate to be sure.

Defenseman of the Year – Woody Klassen

Obviously a tough choice for the Stars who have a few to choose from. Either one of Luhning or Klassen would have been outstanding candidates. Their numbers speak for themselves. They also play in all situations and play a ton of minutes on one of the league’s top defensive units. Obviously Travis Sparrow is an elite shut down D man but in terms of awards there is usually an offensive side that needs to be shown. Mitch Berg had he stayed in Melfort would have been their nominee I am sure. So plenty of candidates and strong D men on the Stars roster. Klassen perhaps gets tipped for the award this season because of his age. Brody Luhning will be back next season as a 20 year old and will dominate this league. If I had 100 bucks I’d bet Luhning is the Stars nominee next year. Of course a lot can happen between now and then but with so little to choose between two deserving candidates the fact that Klassen is done in the junior ranks after this season perhaps swung the vote in his favour. In my opinion either one of Luhning or Klassen could, and perhaps should, win the league award. Carson Grolla is a strong candidate in Notre Dame as well.

Top Player and MVP – Blake Tatchell

What can you say about Tatchell that hasn’t already been said? He is clearly the Stars MVP and I feel the league’s most valuable player. There are other guys who could maybe win top player. Jesse Ross is as elite as they come in this league and deserving of any award he wins. But in terms of most valuable to their team? I think Tatchell takes the cake on that one. Lots of candidates in the league for both awards and obviously a lot of great players. I am glad I am not picking the awards myself. But if I were Tatchell would win. He’s got a great supporting cast on the ice and in terms of coaches as well. The Stars aren’t a one player or one line team but they go from a very good team to an elite team when Tatchell is on his game.

Goalie of the Year – Graham Hildebrand

Another very deserving candidate. Top 5 in the league for pretty much every statistical category and has a real shot to win the award although they tend to give these things to guys who face a ton of shots like Alex Rajotte in La Ronge. Rajotte is a great goalie and a deserving candidate but Hildebrand has been as good as anyone this season. Had it not been for such a strong season from Connor Creech then Hildy would have played more game, had more wins, likely had more shutouts and a lot more saves. He has been outstanding as part of the league’s top goaltending tandems, both on and off the ice, and deserves the accolades that come with that.

 

So those are the Stars nominees and I don’t think there are really any surprises in this list. All very deserving candidates and hopefully some of them will pick up some league hardware. But I can guarantee that all of them are much more concerned with winning the league than winning individual awards.

Stars beat Klippers 6-2 for win number 40

The North Stars won their final road game of the regular season last night in Kindersley. For the 1991 born players in the Stars lineup it was the final regular season road game of their SJHL careers.

It was the Stars 40th win on the season which is normal over in Humboldt but in the rest of the SJHL and here in the Battlefords it’s a mark that doesn’t get reached too often. So congrats to the Stars coaches and players. It’s not that meaningful right now as the playoffs loom and this team wants playoff success. But looking back after the season it should be something the Stars take some satisfaction and pride in achieving.

The first period last night was a little bit strange in the way the game flowed. I thought the Stars were much better than Kindersley in the opening stages as each line got their first shift or two. Then I felt the game evened out for a spell before the Stars took over again in the second half of the period. The shot totals ended up favouring the Stars in each period and the first was no exception. Roger Tagoona opened the scoring when he put home a big rebound after great work from Tanner Schwab who got an assist. I thought Schwab was good last night and really probably should have scored. He had several good chances throughout the game and probably finished with 4 or 5 shots on goal. The Stars got another goal late in the period when Jordan Ethier and Blake Tatchell combined to set up a scoring chance. Tatchell was going away from the net on his back hand and just dropped the puck off for Miller who had plenty of net to hit. 2-0 after the first period of play. It could have been a lot different though if it weren’t for Connor Creech. The Klippers were awarded a penalty shot late in the first period, about 3 minutes before Miller scored at the 18:50 mark, and Creech made a good blocked save on Trent Hermary. Creech was solid in net making 22 saves for the win and stopped an Alex Laird break away later in the period. Despite the Stars dominance at times they still needed a few good saves from their tender.

The second period was much more even in terms of the play and the Klippers got within a goal midway through the period. Austin McDonald scored his 13th of the year to make it 2-1. But the Stars seemingly were sparked into life by the goal as they took over the game after that goal. I believe the shots in the second period were something like 10-5 in favour of the Klippers when they scored. The Stars responded less than a minute later. Tatchell set up Miller again but the big forward was unable to convert. Ethier and Tatchell got the puck back down behind the Kindersley net and Ethier fed it out front to Miller who made no mistake on the second chance. That made it 3-1 Stars and it was pretty much in the bag at that point. The Stars ended up outshooting the Klippers 7-1 the rest of the period. They scored again before the second frame was over and this time it was Ethier. He was set up in the slot and Brett Miller drove the net. As Miller was cruising to the front of the net and distracting Brandon Stone in the Kindersley net Ethier was snapping the puck past the glove side of the goalie to make it 4-1 Stars after 2 periods.

In the third the Stars dominated some more and scored 2 more goals. Braeden Johnson was trying to pass back door to Kyle Hall and the puck went off a leg and deflected into the net. A huge slice of luck for the Stars forward but who says he didn’t deserve it? He had several bounced go against him lately including a goal waived off in Flin Flon. The Klippers responded straight away scoring almost directly off the face off. 10 seconds after Johnson’s goal and Alex Laird was celebrating his 7th of the year. Jordan Ethier scored his second of the game to round out the scoring for the North Stars. The final goal was on the power play so the Stars end up going 1-5 on the man advantage and the Klippers were 0-2 on their power play opportunities.

The Stars and Klippers will meet again tomorrow night to close out the regular season. I will have the action live on CJNB/CJNS starting at 7:15 with the SaskTel Pregame Show. It will be the final regular season game of the junior careers of Tatchell, Miller, Klassen, Berg, Kachur, Ethier, Wakelin and Hildebrand. You can be pretty darn sure that Hildebrand will get the start in net for the Stars just as he did on opening night against Kindersley back in September. Hopefully with much better results this time.

By the way for those asking, and I have answered this question before although not here on the main page, now that the midget AAA Stars season is over some players from that squad will be called up to the North Stars. They will practice with and travel with the team I am sure. Some of them over the course of a, hopefully, long playoff run will also see some game time. Who those players are I can only speculate at this time. But much like Dillon Forbes did last season players from the ‘trips’ will be apart of the playoff run for the North Stars.

SJHL Game #57: Battlefords North Stars at Kindersley Klippers

The Battlefords North Stars close out their season with two final games against the Kindersley Klippers. The Klippers are responsible for one the Stars most disappointing losses this season back on opening night. These two teams are drastically different than the two team that faced each other back on November 15th.

Recent Game:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • Just came off a Southern road trip where they managed to pick up 2 points. They could have had more though as they dropped shootouts against Estevan and Notre Dame. Their last win was against Estevan on February 4th. 2-14-1-2 in their last 19 games for the Klippers. Their season has been a real struggle but give them a lot of credit as lately they have been putting forth a solid effort despite being eliminated from the playoffs.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • The North Stars are coming off a home win over Melfort. Connor Creech picked up the win in net as the Stars won despite missing several key players. They should be healthy and ready to go tonight.

Who’s Hot:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • Austin McDonald. The Klippers haven’t played in a week so it will be tough for Austin to stay in the zone he was in leading up to that mini beak. He had scored 3 goals and 4 points on a 3 game scoring streak. The Turtleford native is second on the team in scoring behind D Jay McGrath.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • Since allowing 6 goals in a crazy win against Estevan Connor Creech has allowed just 3 goals on 58 shots in 2 starts. That’s good for a .948 save percentage over those 2 games.
  • Braeden Johnson, Jordan Ethier, Blake Tatchell, Tim Rollins all scored last game for the Stars who would love to see their top offensive guys getting on a roll headed into playoffs. So let’s see how they do tonight.

Players to Watch:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • D Jay McGrath is the most obvious choice. He’s the Klippers top offensive guy now that players like King and Duzan are no longer there.
  • The Klippers have 4 players over the 100PIMs mark; Justin Lund, Zane Morin, Troy Gedny and Brett Blatz, so they will be players to keep an eye on if the game gets chippy or if the physical play starts to ramp up they are the 4 most likely players for the Klippers to be involved.

Battlefords North Stars

  • Braeden Johnson. Scored last time out and it seemed like a big relief for him to get on the score sheet. One of the top offensive players in the league needs to be playing well for the Stars going into the playoffs and it will be interesting to see how he responds tonight.

Head to Head:

  • Kindersley 1 @ Battlefords 5 (Nov 15 2011)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Kindersley 1 (Sep 27 2011)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Kindersley 3 (Sep 17 2011)
  • Kindersley 5 @ Battlefords 1 (Sep 16 2011)
  • Blake Tatchell and Braeden Johnson have both put up points against the Klippers. So has Tim Rollins. Woody Klassen has played against the Klippers just once this season and had an assist. Brody Luhning has faced them 2 times and has 2 helpers. The first couple meetings between these two teams came so early in the season a lot of the player who played in them aren’t around anymore.
  • Casey Rogers and Wheaton King have both done well for the Klippers this season against the Stars. Neither of those two players is still with the Klippers though. Tanner Kissick is the player to watch out for as he has 4 points in 3 games this season against the Stars.

Special Teams:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • PP – 15.6 (11th) PK – 78.4 (11th)

Battlefords North Stars:

  • PP – 18.9 (7th) PK – 80.2 (7th)

Other Notes:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • They need a couple wins to avoid finishing in last place this season in the entire SJHL. They are 2 points back on Melfort in the race for 11th. The Klippers won 35 games last year and finished second in the Sherwood so you know this season has been a tough one for Klipper fans. But they need only look at Nipawin for an example of how fast a young talented team can turn around their season.

Battlefords North Stars

  • The Stars hosted their annual Ice Fishing Derby yesterday which is why the game is being played today instead of Friday. Friday afternoon the boys were out drilling somewhere around 4,000 holes in the ice at Jackfish Lake. Saturday they were walking around all day selling 50/50 tickets. Luckily for the Stars it wasn’t nearly as cold this year as last year when I’m told temperatures dipped down to -30 or lower.

The Big Stat(s):

  • 40. The Stars are 1 win away from 40 this season. The last time, as far as I could find, that the Stars won that many games in a season was 1995-96. And that season the Stars played 6 more games as the SJHL had a 64 game schedule that season. Since the SJHL reduced the schedule to 60 games or fewer in 2002 only 4 teams have won 40 games in a season. 3 different Humboldt teams have accomplished that feat, actually 4 now that this year’s Humboldt team has won 40 as well, and La Ronge last season. It just goes to show that despite a few recent struggles the Stars are still having one of the best seasons in their franchise history. With a new coach that came in just prior to training camp I think it’s a pretty great milestone….if the Stars make it. They still need a win to get to that plateau.

Stars win 4-1 on Valentine’s Day

The North Stars skated to a 4-1 win last night at the Civic Center in front of 1,000 plus people who were able to get away on Valentine’s Day to enjoy some hockey.

The Stars never trailed in the game last night after Braeden Johnson opened the scoring. Johnson has been in a slump so it was nice to see him pot one. He’s been pretty unlucky of late as well. He seemingly scored against Flin Flon last time out but it was waived off after Woody Klassen was called for goalie interference. So Johnny has been getting closer and closer to breaking out. Just heading into playoffs is a great time to do it. The Stars led 1-0 after the first in part because Connor Creech made 8 saves and one of them was a wonderful pad save on a back door pass. The Stars were without several key players including captain Travis Sparrow and Kyle Hall. So Carter Danczak was called up from midget to play with Johnson and Tagoona and the young forward helped set up Johnny’s goal. The Stars have now used two AP players and both have picked up a point in their first game as a North Star. Blair Mahon was called up to back up Connor Creech as Graham Hildebrand also missed last night’s game. There is a cold or flu going through the Stars room at the moment.

In the second period the Stars got several power play opportunities and were able to cash once. The Mustangs took 3 penalties in the second frame and the Stars power play looked decent. They moved the puck well and had possession but at times in the second and again in the third I thought the Stars power play didn’t do enough to get shots on net. When they did it led to a goal. Brody Luhning and Woody Klassen teamed up to get a puck through on Jesse Wilkins, who was excellent last night. Wilkins made the first save with Brett Miller providing a screen. The rebound went right to Jordan Ethier who made no mistake. I thought the rebound had bounced off Brett Miller to Ethier but Miller wasn’t given an assist. Perhaps it hit a Melfort D man. The Stars ended up outshooting the Mustangs 15-8 in the second and led 2-0 heading to the third.

Blake Tatchell made the score 3-0 early in the final period. Tatchell went in on a 2 on 1 with Ethier and used his line mate as a decoy. Tatchell faked a shot and got Wilkins to bite on the fake. Then Tatchell went to the back hand at the side of the net and just when you thought he would try to roof the puck he instead skated down below the red line and tucked the puck home with his forehand just before he swooped in behind the net. It was a real beauty from Tatchell and all but finished Melfort off. The Mustangs never quit though and continued to work hard. It paid off when Avery VanBlaricom and Anthony Pickering teamed up to beat Creech. The Stars goalie actually made the first save but the Mustangs bashed home the rebound at the side of the net. That made it 3-1 at the time and the Mustangs did get a couple late power plays. If they had scored it would have made for a nervous finish but the Stars PK was good throughout the game and eventually with the ‘Stangs on the power play and their net empty Woody Klassen belted his man into the side boards and flipped the puck out of the Stars zone. Tim Rollins skated onto the loose puck and slid it into the empty cage. A short handed empty netter for Rollins to seal the deal.

The Stars didn’t play their best game and at times it was a game that fans might have found a little boring. It certainly didn’t have a playoff atmosphere. But the Stars did enough to win and Coach Hasselberg said there were some positives to take from the game.

 

SJHL Game #56: Melfort Mustangs at Battlefords North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars host the Melfort Mustangs tonight in the penultimate home game of the season. The Stars will have just 2 games left on their schedule after tonight’s game. Sunday in Kindersley and next Tuesday at the Civic Center again against the Klippers. The Mustangs are batting with Kindersley to avoid finishing in dead last in the SJHL but despite the fact they have just 11 wins this season they have beaten some quality teams including Humboldt and probably should have won the last meeting with the Stars. It is a Northland Rentals Gameday and you can hear all the action live on CJNB/CJNS starting with the Sasktel Pregame Show at 7:15.

Recent Game:

Melfort Mustangs:

  • Played Sunday at home against the Notre Dame Hounds and lost 3-1. The game before that they beat Melville 2-1. The Mustangs have scored just 3 goals in their last 4 games and just 111 goals on the season which is by far the lowest in the league. Melfort works hard, tries their hardest but just don’t have the offense needed to win games right now.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • The North Stars split a weekend series in Flin Flon winning 6-3 on Friday night and losing 2-0 Saturday night.

Who’s Hot:

Melfort Mustangs:

  • Goalie Patrick Johnson has allowed just 10 goals in his last 5 starts and seems to give the Mustangs a chance to win whenever he starts. Jesse Wilkins is also a strong goalie and has won 2 of his last 5 starts.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • The Stars were shutout in their last game so statistically speaking no one is really all that hot right now.

Players to Watch:

Melfort Mustangs:

  • Jake Daughtry and Nathan Zimbaluk are both former North Stars players/property and will be looking to have good games against their former team. Jared Kambietz is another of the former North Stars contingent for whom to look out.
  • There are some names on the Mustangs current roster that I don’t recognize. Youngster like Jay Aasen and Sheldon Argent. It will be interesting to see if they are with the team, play in the game, and ultimately how they do in the game will be fun to watch.

Battlefords North Stars

  • The goalie. Who will it be? Will it be Graham HIldebrand for the third straight game? Or will Connor Creech get back in tonight? The playoffs are approaching and it will be interesting to see if the Stars select one of these two goalies to be a clear number 1 going into the post season.

Head to Head:

  • Battlefords 3 @ Melfort 2 (Jan 18 2012)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Melfort 1 (Dec 4 2011)
  • Melfort 0 @ Battlefords 3 (Oct 18 2011)
  • Battlefords 4 @ Melfort 1 (Oct 15 2011)
  • Battlefords 3 @ Melfort 0 (Oct 1 2011)
  • Melfort 4 @ Battlefords 5 (SO) (Sep 21 2011)
  • Tatchell, Hall and Johnson all have 7 points this season in 6 games against the Mustangs.
  • How about this stat? Connor Creech against Melfort this year is 2-0 with a 0.50GAA and a .978 save% and Graham Hildebrand in 3 starts against Melfort is 3-0 with a 1.00GAA and a .958 save%. That’s pretty consistent goaltending from the two guys.

Special Teams:

Melfort Mustangs:

  • PP – 13.9 (12th) PK – 77.5 (12th)

Battlefords North Stars:

  • PP – 18.9 (6th) PK – 80.0 (7th)

Other Notes:

Melfort Mustangs:

  • Brandon Sloan leads the Mustangs in scoring with 23 points this season. He’s played just 29 games this season. Jaret Zentner has 18 points in 20 games played. Imagine if both those guys had been around all season? The Mustangs offense might not look so bad. Zentner has played just once since the last meeting between the Stars and Mustangs back on January18th.

Battlefords North Stars

  • The Stars don’t play again after tonight for nearly a week. There next game is Sunday in Kindersley.
  • The Stars are coming off a stretch where they have played 8 of 9 games on the road. They picked up 5 wins in that stretch which all things considered isn’t a bad total.

The Big Stat(s):

  • 40. The Stars are 2 wins away from 40 this season. The last time, as far as I could find, that the Stars won that many games in a season was 1995-96. And that season the Stars played 6 more games as the SJHL had a 64 game schedule that season. Since the SJHL reduced the schedule to 60 games or fewer in 2002 only 4 teams have won 40 games in a season. 3 different Humboldt teams have accomplished that feat, and they most likely will again this season, and La Ronge last season. It just goes to show that despite a few recent struggles the Stars are still having one of the best seasons in their franchise history. With a new coach that came in just prior to training camp I think it’s a pretty great milestone….if the Stars make it. They still need 2 more wins to get to that plateau.