The Battlefords North Stars came out absolutely flying tonight at the Civic Center. Blake Tatchell’s line got the start and they spend the first 40 seconds of the game in the attaching zone. It was a sign of things to come for the most part as once again the Stars took it to the Hawks. The Stars were controlling play, getting pucks in deep, being the more physical team and getting plenty of rubber towards Davis Jones. But somehow they found themselves behind after Dustin Skilliter popped home his first of the series with assists to Doell and Martens. I’ll be honest I thought Darius Cole scored it but none the less the Stars trailed. They picked up right where they left off though and continued to get shots through on Jones. Eventually with the Stars controlling the puck made it’s way from down low back to the point. The Stars best line tonight was Hall, Johnson and Tagoona and they all worked hard down low to recover the puck. Klay Kachur moved it quickly from the right point to the left and Mitch Berg absolutely crushed the puck past Daivs Jones on the blocker side. That made it 1-1 and that’s the way the period would finish. The Stars outshot the Hawks 12-7 in the opening frame and were unlucky to go tied rather than in the lead. The Stars did have an late power play after the goal that they were unable to convert. The lack of success on the power play now is starting to be an issue. But much like the 5 on 5 play the Stars are creating chances and how they aren’t scoring some of them is beyond me.
In the second the Stars were again seemingly the better team. But I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t matter who is the “better” team it simply matters who scores more goals. And that was the Hawks. The shots were even at 12 a piece in the second frame but the Hawks took a 3-1 lead. First it was a point shot on the power play from Jeff Datoff that beat Graham Hildebrand. I don’t think the Stars goaltender saw it as there was a big time screen in front. Then the third goal went in and it may have been a killer. Hildy was been outstanding all series and he has let in just one soft goal. It just happened to come at a bad time. Less than two minutes after the 2-1 goal the Hawks threw one on net from below the red line and it beat the Stars goalie through his legs. Garrett Lockeridge an affiliate player was given credit for the goal. The Stars had so many quality chances in the second but the one that really stands out was a scramble in front. Davis Jones was flopping around in his crease trying to do whatever he could to stop the Stars from scoring. But he wasn’t looking at the puck when it was shoveled on net by the Stars. To be honest I suddenly can’t remember who had the chance and I think I forgot my notes at the Civic Center. It might have been Roger Tagoona as I seem to remember him skating around with his stick on his head looking up to rafters in disbelief. Jones stopped it but I don’t think he ever saw it and the Stars were again unlucky to be down late in the period.
They regrouped though and another great shift from Kyle Hall led to a goal. Hall was given credit for an assist on the opening goal when I thought it was Johnson who passed the puck up to Kachur on the point. The second goal though was all about Hall. He went into the corner to the right of Davis Jones and threw a great hit that freed up the puck. Hall then found Miller in the right hand face off circle and he blasted a half clapper by Jones again on the blocker side. That made it 3-2 heading to the third period.
Early in the third Robbie Newton dropped the gloves with Grant Jensen right at center ice. Jensen has been into it all series with a few of the North Stars. I think Newton was perhaps trying to fire his team up and Jensen was the guy he wanted to go with. It was a spirited fight with no defense. Newton lost his helmet but then came back late in the fight to land a few bombs so we gave the fight a draw on the broadcast. Jensen might feel like he did enough to win but it looked pretty even to me. The Hawks were the team that responded the best to the fight as they had several good shifts right after the tilt. The final ten minutes or so was all North Stars however. They Stars ended up outshooting the Hawks 11-6 in the final frame. The power play had a chance in the early going of the period but again wasn’t able to convert.
Fast forward to the closing stages and with the net empty and the extra attacker I thought the Stars had tied the game. I still have no idea how the puck stayed out. The net was wide open and the shot was taken by the Stars. Stars players were starting to celebrate and so were the fans but somehow whether it was a stick of the Hawks defense of Jones himself the puck deflected up and just over the net. The Stars weren’t able to get another chance after that.
So plenty of chances for the Stars to score again tonight at the misfiring offense needs to get on track. There was some disbelief in the locker room after the game from the Stars players at the way Jones was able to stop some of the shots that he kept out. But the Stars feel if they keep creating these grade ‘A’ scoring chances they will find a way to start scoring some goals. Both Stars tallies went by the blocker of Jones so perhaps that’s an area they will look to exploit.
Game 4 is now less than 24 hours away and the Stars will likely stew on this one for another hour or so and then at midnight the focus shifts to tomorrow. We were expecting a long series and it’s a long way from over. The Stars with a win tomorrow shift momentum and home ice back in their favour. It’s a huge game and I hope you will join me for it starting with the SaskTel pregame show at 7:15 on CJNB/CJNS.