The Battlefords North Stars continue to battle and show great character in their series with the Humboldt Broncos. The Stars have won twice in a row to get the series to 3-2 in favour of the Broncos.
The Stars came out strong in the first period tonight and I thought in the first 5 minutes were really strong. It started with a good shift by Boyd Wakelin and his line mates to draw a penalty. I believe it was Tanner Schwab who was taken down. The Stars had a good power play and moved the puck well but were unable to score. They built some momentum from that PP though and continued to play well outshooting the Broncos 5-0 in the early going. But give Humboldt credit they are a strong team with a good coaching staff and they got it going and by the end of the period the overall play was pretty even. The shots were 11-9 Broncos by the end of the period and both teams had chances that they spurned on the power play. The Stars ended up going 0-3 on the man advantage in the first frame. The Broncos were 0-2. There were a couple key plays in the period and the first was a hit by Emrik Guillemette on Brett Miller. Miller went off slowly after the hit, which was clean, and Miller did not return. It looked like he went awkwardly into the side boards on the play and he is now listed as day to day with an upper body injury. (I say listed but in reality there isn’t a list) The Stars also have Tim Rollins out day to day with a facial injury. But they will get Klay Kachur back from suspension.
Late in the first Andrew Johnston his Jordan Ethier from behind into the boards in front of the Stars bench. It was a dangerous hit by Johnston and he got a game misconduct. It was one of those plays though that happen in hockey. Guys are trying to do the right thing but it goes very fast out there on the ice. As I said on the broadcast I don’t think Johnston is a dirty player it was just an unfortunate play and I am glad that no one got hurt. The Stars couldn’t score on that power play and the period ended 0-0.
In the second period the Humboldt Broncos scored to take a lead. They could have scored more. It wasn’t a very good period for the Stars in fact except for one player and that was Graham Hildebrand. He faced 16 shots in the frame and stopped 15 of them. The best save of the bunch was probably when Robbie Ciolfi got a step down the wing and Hildebrand made a pad save. The only one that beat him was a John Lawrence shot on a nice set up by Robbie Ciolfi and Cody Pettapiece. The Stars also took some penalties in the period an interference call on Newton off a face off and Klassen late in the period sandwiched around a Boyd Wakelin boarding call. The big difference for me between the Johnston hit and the Wakelin hit was the fact that Ethier was a couple feet from the boards and Herle was right up against them when Wakes hit him. That was probably what saved the Stars forward from being sent to the showers. Herle was fired up after that and all game through some big hits. I felt a couple he was jumping and that is something the Refs should keep an eye on. But I imagine it was just Herle with some over exuberance at times and not an attempt to injure anyone. He didn’t take a penalty for any of his hits so the Refs must have been okay with it.
Woody Klassen took a late penalty that would wrap around into the third period if the Stars could kill it off and they did in part because of Ryne Keller. He blocked a shot with a few seconds left in the second period and despite being hobbled and in pain went and stood in front of another shot that he blocked just before the horn sounded. Inspirational stuff from the Stars forward.
So the Stars came out and had to put a bad period behind them. They did that with an excellent 10 plus minutes to start the third period that included finishing off that penalty kill to get Klassen back out of the box. The strong Stars play led to some chances but Matt Hrynkiw made some very good saves as he and Hildebrand had a duel going. The Stars had a power play on a Ballas trip midway through the period but again were unable to score. About a minute later though the game was tied and it was Kyle Hall who played the role of hero. He was able to skate down the right wing a flip a back hander top corner past Hrynkiw. Braeden Johnson picked up the assist on the play. The Broncos goalie really saved the game a few minutes later when Blake Tatchell hacked the puck towards the net. It was bouncing around and Tatchell didn’t get all of it but there was a lot of net to shoot at and somehow Hrynkiw got across to make an unreal glove save.
Moments later Robbie Ciolfi got a step on the Stars D and was taken down by Travis Sparrow on his way in on the Stars goalie. That led to a penalty shot and the league’s leading playoff scorer had the series on his stick. Hildebrand made a good glove save to keep it tied. The Stars had played two previous overtimes in these playoffs so far and neither had gone longer than a minute. There were a couple chances early to end the game but both goalies made some good saves.
The OT period started to settle down with very few shots in a 5 or 6 minutes stretch while both teams fought the puck a little. There was some back and forth play but without the puck going towards the net. That was until Tanner Schwab stole the puck in Bronco territory. He had a half step on the Bronco D and made it count. Schwab wound up with a “half clap”, which is a Tanner Schwab specialty, and blasted the puck past Matt Hrynkiw. Having seen the replay it wasnt even a half clap it was more of a “quarter clap”. I didn’t see where it beat the goalie to be honest because when there is a chance like that I usually look past the goalie into the net to see the puck ripple the mesh. I like to do that to make sure I see the goal, and tell you about it, as quickly as possible. I saw the puck hit mesh and I let loose. A big goal for the Stars to prolong their season and the series to a game 6 Sunday night at the Civic Center.
Tickets for game 6 will go on sale tomorrow at 9am until 4pm at the Civic Center. And tickets will also be on sale the day of the game Sunday from 12-4pm. I will be there and I hope to see you there. Whoever wins Sunday I know it will be a great game between two very good teams. This is what hockey and the playoffs are all about.
*Update – I wanted to send a shoutout to both sets of fans in the arena tonight. Just in terms of the volume and the number of people. That was a great crowd and both sets of fans helped created an amazing atmosphere. Well done to the Broncos and Stars fans in attendance.