North Stars vs Hawks: SJHL Playoff Preview

So there’s actually a really good playoff preview on the SJHL website that you may want to check out. You can find it by clicking on this link. I am going to break down some of the head to head stats from the regular season meetings between these two teams a little later on today. But for now let’s look at the various aspects of this series and see who has the advantage.

Goaltending: Advantage – Neither

Both teams have great goaltending and I don’t think I can separate the two teams. Graham Hildebrand has an outstanding season and along with Connor Creech the Stars have the best tandem in the league. The Hawks have the SJHL’s Goaltender of the Year in Davis Jones and a talented young backup in local kid Taran Kozun. Kozun started the year with the Kamloops Blazers. The Blazers are probably the top team in the WHL this season so that shows his talent level right there. How will the goalies play once the pressure of the playoffs starts? I have no idea. But on paper this aspect of the series seems very even.

Defense: Advantage – North Stars

The Hawks have a good, deep defense but they have no real stand out star on the  back end. Jeff Datoff is perhaps their top D man and he is a very good player. But the Stars have Woody Klassen who was the SJHL’s runner up for D man of the year. And Brody Luhning who probably would have been the runner up as well had the Stars been able to nominate more than one D man. They also have Travis Sparrow and Mitch Berg who provide size and dependability. And I haven’t mentioned Kachur and the young guys Forbes and Sheeran. The defense is one of the North Stars strengths and I think it’s the best group in the league hands down.

Forwards: Advantage – Neither

This was a tough one to judge. The Hawks have great talent throughout their forward group and great team speed. They have top end guys in Bernard, Waskewitch and King and can roll 4 lines. So can the Stars. That’s what makes it so tough. Obviously Blake Tatchell is the X factor in the matchup. He is the league’s MVP and is perhaps the most talented player in the series. The Stars also have great depth when you see talented players like Robbie Newton, Boyd Wakelin and Tim Rollins playing on the 3rd line at times this season. They are different groups of forwards. I think the Hawks might have a little more depth offensively while the Stars perhaps have better depth in terms of players who have specific roles. But this is all nitpicking as I search desperately for something to separate the two teams. I think they are slightly different in makeup but pretty even in terms of impact on the game.

Special Teams: Advantage – Nipawin

The Hawks power play was 4th best in the SJHL in the regular season. The Stars were 7th. The Hawks penalty kill was 6th overall and the Stars finished 7th. In both cases the gap was pretty small, especially in the PK stat, but because the Hawks were ahead in both I obviously have to give them a slight edge.

Coaching: Advantage – Neither

Coach Hasselberg was runner up for coach of the year. Hawks’ head coach Doug Johnson won the award. The voting was very close. Both have great assistant coaches who contribute to the success of the teams. Both teams have made good trades to improve their teams and both have done an excellent job developing their teams over the course of the season. Despite Doug winning the coach of the year award I see very little that I can use to separate the two teams. The Hawks improved their record from last season to this season by 33 points. The Stars improved by 29. Both coaching staffs are first rate.

Overall: Advantage – Stars

It’s very close to being even right down the middle. But the Stars defense is the difference maker in my opinion. On paper the Stars are the ever so slightly better team. Which makes sense since the Stars have home ice advantage due to a better regular season record. But these two teams are incredibly close and I had a tough time separating them. That’s why I am expecting a very long closely fought series that may just go down to the wire and a game 7. The Hawks home record is fantastic. The Stars road record is fantastic. Literally everywhere I look I see stats and match ups that make me think this is going to be the best and closest series of the semi-final round.

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7 Comments

  1. Barb

     /  March 1, 2012

    Hey, Mike: How close was the vote for “Coach of the Year” and who does the voting….media…players???

    Reply
    • The coaches themselves select the finalists and the media votes for coach of the year. Not sure exactly how close it was but I know who some of the other media types voted for.

      Reply
  2. Barb

     /  March 3, 2012

    Mike: you had a “brain cramp”,right…..heard through the grape vine that you voted for the other guy………..WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!! Oh right, and you are riding on the Stars bus…………I am going with “brain cramp”!

    Reply
    • Well no I actually voted for Kevin for coach of the year. I had Doug Johnson second and Dean Brockman third in case anyone was wondering. I would have given strong consideration to, and most likely voted for, Trent Cassan in Yorkton had he been a finalist. But he wasn’t so my vote was for Kevin. I think Cassan has done an unbelievable job getting his team to be better than the individual parts. Kevin has done a great job too. I see how hard he and Blair work and I know how good they’ve been. There were 4 very deserving candidates in my eyes and only one could win the award.

      Reply
  3. Barb

     /  March 3, 2012

    see…that was a rumour, and I fell for it…….sorry!

    Reply
    • That’s okay. I couldn’t really tell if you were razzing me or not. I take that vote very seriously and I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t want to be one of those guys who just votes for the home guy just because I know him the best. I voted for the guy I thought deserved it the most based on who I could vote for. But like I said these guys are all dedicated and hard working. As far as I am concerned in my dealings with the coaches around the SJHL they are all top class and deserving of a ton of respect.

      Reply
  4. Barb

     /  March 3, 2012

    Thanks, Mike…………………kick ass,Stars!

    Reply

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