SJHL Game 4: North Stars at Melfort

The Battlefords North Stars are looking to rebound tonight after last night’s 10-4 loss to Melville.

The North Stars actually played a very good first period last night. The shots were 16-4 for the Stars and they led 2-0 thanks to a beauty from Jake McMillen and a late PP goal from Brody Luhning. But the Mills came out on fire in the second period and it seemed like every shift they were creating a scoring chance. And most of those chances were ending up in the back of the net. The Mills forwards were given far too much time and space to pick their spots and they weren’t missing.

Brody Luhning scored again in the second period and a the time made the score 4-3 Melville. But the Mills were able to take a 6-3 lead into the 3rd period. Braeden Johnson scored early in the third and that made it 6-4. It looked at that point like maybe the Stars were going to have a chance to get back in the game.

But the Millionaires went to work scoring 4 straight power play goals to take the game 10-4 the final. The Stars ended up pulling Connor Creech after the 4th goal and putting him back in again in the third after the 9th goal. It was one of those nights. The Stars weren’t making any excuses after the game. They took it on the chin.

But tonight’s game is a new game and it starts out 0-0. There’s nothing the Stars can do about yesterday. All they can do is look forward to tonight. And to me how a team responds to a bad loss is more important than the fact they had a bad loss. So we will see tonight what the Stars can muster. The leadership group has to show the way and the younger players have to follow their lead.

The Mustangs are 2-2 on the season and look to be a bigger and faster team than last season. And they appear to have a little more fire power as well. This won’t be an easy contest but the North Stars need to show what they are made of tonight. It should make for a great game.

(I apologize for the lack of a more in depth post game analysis and pregame preview. I am moving over to Battleford this weekend and have been extremely busy)

The puck drops at 7:30 tonight. The pregame show goes at 7:15. Join me on CJNB/CJNS or http://www.cjnb.com

SJHL Game 3: Melville Millionaires at Battlefords North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars host the high powered Melville Millionaries tonight at the Civic Center. The Mills scored 10 goals in their first game of the season. And 14 in their first two games, both wins.

The North Stars though are a defense first team with a strong back end and a great goalie. The Mills have 3 quality forward lines that can all score. This is going to be a good game.

Another aspect of the game to watch. The North Stars in the early going have the league’s top PK numbers. The Mills are second in the league in PP. So that will be an interesting match up as well.

Recent Game:

Melville Millionaires:

  • The Mills most recent game was a loss at the hands of the Weyburn Red Wings. The Mills have a high powered offense and certainly a very good power play. But they had just 3 opportunities against the Wings. They did score one power play marker but were kept quiet at 5 on 5. Brett Teskey made 29 saves for the Wings to pick up the win. So Melville still managed to get a lot of rubber through on goal. .

Battlefords North Stars:

  • The North Stars skated to a 4-1 win at home last Saturday over the Kindersley Klippers. Brody Luhning scored the first two goals for the Stars on his way to a 4 point night. Connor Creech was solid when called upon and the North Stars won the special teams battle as well. For more check out the post game blog I posted.

Players to Watch:

Melville Millionaires:

  • There are a bunch to choose from with the Mills. Lets go with Sean Aschim. He has 5 points in 3 games so far this season. 3 of those points are goals. The Saskatoon native has been a point a game player in his SJHL ergular season career and is set for a big season as a 20 year old.
  • Russell Trudeau. Had 54 points for the Mills last season after coming over in a trade with Steinbach of the MJHL. Trudeau has 3 points so far in 3 games. He can take over a game if he wants.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • Tanner Quinn. The Stars forward got off to a slow start in Kindersley, but they almost all did, and bounced back the next night in the home opener. Quinn brings a lot of energy and a strong forecheck. And he along with his linemates (likely Robbie Newton and Ryne Keller at times) will look to slow down the Mills high powered forwards.
  • Evan Ripley. Whenever this guy is in the lineup you want to keep an eye on him. He throws huge hits, some of which get penalized for seemingly no reason, and along with Dillon Forbes forms a very solid D pair with physicality. Will be interesting to watch against the Mills offense.

Head to Head (Last Season)

  • Battlefords 1 @ Melville 2 (Feb 8 2012)
  • Melville 3 @ Battlefords 4 (OT) (Jan 24 2012)
  • Battlefords 5 @ Melville 2 (Dec 2 2011)
  • Melville 4 @ Battlefords 5 (OT) (Nov 12 2011)

Special Teams:

Melville Millionaires:

  • PP: 3-9 (33.3%) PK: 13-15 (86.7%)

Battlefords North Stars:

  • PP: 3-13 (23.1%) PK: 9-10 (90%)

North Stars win home opener

The Stars beat the Kindersley Klippers 4-1 last night at the Civic Center.

It was a much better effort from the Stars and a much better start to the game. Braeden Johnson, Josh Betinol and Brandon Long started the game up front for the Stars and just 53 seconds into the game they drew a penalty. Colton Schick went off for a hook and the Stars went to their first of many power play.

Sometimes an early power play is tough for players who haven’t been on the ice yet and haven’t gotten a chance to get their feet moving. But the North Stars managed to score on the man advantage and it was a player who had already seen the ice. Brody Luhning started the game with Kyle Schmidt and they returned to the ice midway through the power play. Luhning took a pass from Schmidt and went down the right wing. From a sharp angle to the left of Warren Shmko it was a pass out front intended for Josh Betinol that went off the goalie and in. Luhning with his first of the year. Schmidt drew the lone assist.

The Klippers took 5 penalties in the first period, 1 was almost entirely negated by a Stars penalty, but the power play didn’t connect again until the third period. But the Stars did get another goal from Brody Luhning before the first period ended. Kyle Hall was on the ice and missed the net with a shot. Blake Young and Carter Danczak worked it back to the point and Luhning fired it home. He said he saw room high blocker and found it. Young has now played 3 regular season games as a NOrth Stars. 1 last year and 2 so far this year. He has 3 points. Danczak has played 2 regular season games and has 2 assists.

The Klippers didn’t get many shot through on Connor Creech in the game but he made a couple of good saves in the first frame. But all in all it was better from the Stars. A little bit stronger on the puck. A little bot more physical. And a step in the right direction.

The second and third periods were similar to the first. The Stars were outworking the Klippers and the shot blocking in particular was noticeable for the Stars. During the broadcast I mentioned every single D man at least once for having a shot block. And the forwards were involved as well. McColgan, Keller and Newton all had big shot blocks in the game that I can still remember. The Stars PK was the star of the second period though. Tanner Quinn, Brandon Long and Brody Luhning, twice, spent time in the box but the Klippers could hardly get set up and when they did very little rubber was getting through on Connor Creech.

Early in the third with the Stars back on the power play Brandon Long scored his first as a Star. Tanner Quinn drew the penalty when he was hauled down almost in a horse collar like fashion. That line of Keller, Quinn and Newton will draw penalties all season long. They were good tonight once they were put together. Long scored when he faked a slap shot as he crossed the blueline and from the high slot slung a wrist shot over the blocker of Shymko and into the top corner. An absolute beauty from Long to make it 3-0.Brody Luhning and Braeden Johnson drew the assists. For Luhning it was his 3rd point of the night.

For Johnson his first point of the season. And all season long CJV the Carpet People are donating $10 for every point Johnny scores to the Boys and Girls Club of the Battlefords. That’s something Johnson set up that I will mention at times throughout the season. It’s a cool way to raise money for a good cause.

The Klippers broke the shutout bid of Connor Creech less than 2 minutes later to get back within 2. A shot from the point was blocked in front by the North Stars but the loose puck went right to Giovanni Bombini who beat Creech. That was a power play marker for the Klippers as Evan Ripley was off for interference on a call that was a little suspect.

Creech so far has a 1.50GAA and a .942 save%. He’s off to a terrific start.

The Stars got the three goal lead back late in the period when Roger Tagoona got the puck off an offensive zone faceoff and tried a wrap around. Shymko kept it out by Kyle Hall poked it home. They gave the goal to Tagoona in the rink but I spoke with Hall after the game and he said he got it. Then I talked to Roger and he said he had it changed to Hall. So I think the game sheet has it as a Hall goal which is correct. In fact as I look at it now I see that Luhning has an assist on the 4th goal as well as Roger Tagoona. It was Forbes as the only assist when the goal was announced so I didn’t realize until just now that Luhning ended up with a 4 point night. Not a bad start to the season for Luhning.

At the end of the night I think the Stars will be pretty happy with how they played. I think there is still lots of room to get better and to improve but it’s early in the process and they are still a young team.

Next up for the Stars is Melville. They are in town Friday night at the Civic Center. That should be a good game and one I know Roger Tagoona is always looking forward to playing.

SJHL 2012-13 Season Game 2: Kindersley Klippers at Battlefords North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars home opener is tonight. They host the Kindersley Klippers. It should be a fantastic game down at the Civic Center. I hope to see you there and don’t forget to bring a radio with you. The game will be live on CJNB starting at 7:15. Or online at http://www.cjnb.com

The Stars are also hosting a BBQ before the game. Head down to Beaver Lion Stadium across from the Civic Center from 5-7 for a tailgate party. Burger and a Beer for 6 bucks. And other deals as well.

Recent Game:

The Battlefords North Stars lost their opening game of the season last night by a 2-1 score to the Kindersley Klippers. Those same to teams will meet again tonight at the Civic Center.

Coach Hasselberg called the Stars start last night “sluggish” when he joined me after the game for the Ultra Print Coaches Show. I actually thought they started okay in terms of puck possession and territorial play. They seemed to have more of the puck and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. The Stars even earned a power play but were unable to score. After that the Klippers were the better team for the rest of the night. They scored on their first power play of the game when Brandon Lauder found himself all alone in the slot. He beat Connor Creech who had no chance.

Evan Ripley was one of few Stars players who was really trying to be physical. Unfortunately he took some penalties in the process. I thought the 2, 5 and 10 he got for instigating a fight was a garbage call. I don’t normally like to criticize officials. You have to kill the penalties anyway and that’s what the Stars did. They killed a full 5 minute major power play for the Klippers. Connor Creech was excellent all game and made some key saves on the penalty kill. But Ripley threw a clean hit and knocked down a Klipper forward. I think it was Buckingham. Then Perpelitz came in and gave Ripley a shot with his stick. Ripley got up and fought the first Klipper he could find and ended up with an instigating penalty? If anything the Klippers instigated that fight when Perpelitz came flying in after a clean hit on a team mate.

But anyway the Stars killed that major power play which carried over to the second period. I thought maybe the Stars would gain momentum from that big kill but it wasn’t the case. The Klippers actually had a really good long shift in the attacking zone after the two teams were back to 5 on 5. For most of the rest of the second period it was a case of the North Stars struggling to get anything going and Connor Creech making saves.

In the third period the Stars did get some chances. Especially on the power play. The Klippers were already down a man when Lanigan took a bad slashing penalty. He didn’t need to slash the Stars D man who had the puck and it happened right in front of the referee. Not a great penalty to take. The Stars didn’t score during the 5 on 3 but eventually Roger Tagoona did score on the power play. Lanigan was still in the box when Luke McColgan found Tagoona alone in front. Roger looked like he was gonna snap a wrist shot but then quickly went to the bachhand and scored over Warren Shymko. Shymko was good for the Klippers last night but the Stars didn’t test him enough.

With about 3 minutes to go DJay McGrath was allowed too much space to walk off the far wall and then find a nice pass to Sean Whelan sneaking in off the right point. Whelan then snapped it over the glove of Connor Creech and into the near corner. It was a perfect shot that beat Creech in the only spot where he was vulnerable.

The Stars didn’t use their speed and they weren’t physical enough. They were outworked by the Klippers who look to have at the very least a very hard working determined team. If the Stars outwork their opponent they will win a lot of hockey games. It sounds simple but it’s true. They didn’t outwork the Klippers and the lost.

Players to Watch:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • DJay McGrath. He had two points last night in the win. The Klippers captain was good all night and has to be good for them to win games.
  • Troy Gedny. He was solid last night but was most noticeable for getting into it with a couple of North Stars after whistles. He got into it with Luhning and Sheeran and different times.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • Braeden Johnson, Kyle Hall, Roger Tagoona, Brody Luhning. The veteran players are the one I will be watching tonight. They need to respond after last night’s game. The guys who were on the team last year and who understand what style they have to play to be successful will have to set the tone. And they have to be better than they were last night.

Head to Head (Last Season)

  • Battlefords 1 @ Kindersley 2 (Sep 21st 2012)

Special Teams:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • PP: 1-4 (25%) PK: 3-4 (75%)

Battlefords North Stars:

  • PP: 1-4 (25%) PK: 3-4 (75%)

2012-13 SJHL Game 1: North Stars at Kindersley

The Battlefords North Stars begin a new SJHL season tonight on the road in Kindersley. It’s going to be an exciting year in the SJHL and for the North Stars who look to have a very good team again. I love the speed and skill up front and can’t wait to see how they do tonight. Kindersley has a lot of guys coming back from a rough season last year who will be looking to be a lot better. DJay McGrath for one will be hoping for a big season.

We have revamped the broadcast a little bit this year so Matt Ryan back at the studios will be more involved as he hosts the intermissions. We will also have player profiles and alumni reports throughout the season. Connor Creech is the Stars #1 goalie this year and he will be tonight’s player profile. Former North Star forward Jared Samborski will be the subject of the alumni report.

We have the same contests as last year including the 2 for 1 Family Pizza Power Play Contest and the Subway Shots on Goal Contest. When the broadcast starts I will be looking for qualifiers so keep your phones handy. Northland Rentals is a big supporter of the North Stars on CJNB/CJNS once again this year so a big thank you to them as well as SaskTel and the Gold Eagle Lodge. Ultra Print has come on board to sponsor the Coaches Show before and after the game. And there are plenty of other sponsors. Without them I wouldn’t be able to broadcast every game this season. So a big thank you to each and every one of the local businesses who make this possible.

Make sure to tune us in at AM1050 in the Battlefords, 102.3FM in Meadow Lake or online at http://www.cjnb.com starting at 7:15 for the SaskTel PreGame Show.

Recent Game:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • As far as I can tell from the SJHL’s website the Klippers were 3-3 in preseason. Although it appears they haven’t played since September 9th? If that’s the case it’s a long time between games for the Klippers and they will be fired up to get back on the ice.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • The North Stars lost their last preseason game in Humboldt on Sunday night. The Stars ended the preseason with a 2-3 record.

Players to Watch:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • Warren Shymko. The former Yorkton goalie was a big offseason pick up for Kindersley. They gave up a really good player in Austin MacDonald to get Shymko who had great numbers in Yorkton last season. He looks to be the guy to carry the load for the Klippers this season.
  • The Klippers picked up Connor Gay in a trade with Flin Flon last season. Gay ripped up the Saskatchewan Midget AAA league last season with the Saskatoon Contacts. Some people didn’t think he would play in the SJHL. With 32 goals last season in trips Gay could be a rookie of the year candidate. It will be fun to see what he does this season.

Battlefords North Stars:

  • Brandon Long. Looked really sharp in preseason and I am looking to see what he does now that the games matter. For the most part I know what to expect from the returning guys so I wanted to pick a couple of the new players to keep an eye on tonight. Long is a guy who could be a break out offensive star for this team.
  • Kyle Schmidt. Obviously a guy who gets to play 61 games in the WHL in a season is a very good player. I have never seen Schmidt play but if he is in the lineup tonight I will be looking to see how he does. I also want to see what Evan Ripley gets up to tonight. I imagine he will hit some people.

Head to Head (Last Season)

  • Kindersley 2 @ Battlefords 5 (Feb 21st 2012)
  • 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)

Special Teams:

Kindersley Klippers:

  • N/A

Battlefords North Stars:

  • N/A

The Big Stat:

  • 1. It’s game 1 of the season. 1 of 54 games that will be live on the radio here in the Battlefords. The start of a journey which hopefully ends up at the RBC Cup.

Battlefords North Stars season preview

2012-2013 North Stars Roster:

Goalies:

#1 – Michael Gudmandson
– Gudmanson is from Sherwood Park, Alberta and played last season in the KIJHL with the Oceanside Generals amongst some other stops. Gudmandson is listed at 5’10 and 181 pounds. The North Stars were looking for someone to backup Connor Creech and ultimately to push him as well. Gudmandson could be that guy. At times in camp he has looked very good. Positionally he seems similar to Creech in that he makes a lot of saves look routine because he plays the angles well. His numbers in midget AA were outstanding and his older brother was a VERY good Junior A goalie. At 19 perhaps Gudmandson is a bit of a late bloomer.

#1 – Casey Parker
– Parker played last season with his hometown team, the Regina Pat Canadians of the SMAAAHL, and posted solid numbers. He is listed on Elite Hockey Prospects at 5’8 and 134 pounds. I imagine he is a little bigger than that now. But he is a smaller goalie right now. The Regina Saskatchewan native is 17 years old and due to injury we saw very little of him in camp. The Stars began last season with 3 goalies. Creech beat out Jared Knott and ended up starting a bunch of playoff games. Anything can happen for one of these two goalies.

#39 – Connor Creech
– Creech is a returning player. The Lloydminster native is the starter for this team and will be relied on heavily at times. I think both Creech himself and the coaching staff are expecting him to have a very good season. Coach Hasselberg has mentioned that Creech should challenge to be the top goalie in the league. In camp he looked good. In fact I was a little surprised how sharp he looked when I saw him for the first time in a preseason game. For a big goalie who plays a positional game and makes spectacular saves look routine I thought maybe he’s would take some time to settle in and get back into the groove. It didn’t look like that was the case. Creech could be a big factor in this team’s success and I agree with the coaches. He is going to have a very good year. As a 20 year old he is also looking for a scholarship. I believe he should, and will, get one.

Defense:

#10 – Matt Sheeran
– Sheeran was with the team last season although due to injury, and arriving on the team later in the season, he didn’t play a lot. From Victoria, BC and listed at 6’4 180lbs, Sheeran is a big D man. But he is also pretty mobile and handles the puck well. At times his passing seems off but I think he is a player who still tried to do too much at times. But as a 19 year old with just 17 games of Junior A experience he still has some learning to do. Sheeran though has a lot of ability and I like what he brings to the table.

#5 – Brody Luhning
– Luhning is a Lumsden native who has 73 points in 103 games as a North Star. At 20 years old Luhning will be a strong contender to lead the league in points by a D man and will be a large part of the North Stars at both ends of the ice and on the power play. The 6’1 170 pounder will also be a big part of the leadership core. So pretty much Luhning will be doing it all this season. I would bet a large amount of money that if healthy he wins the SJHL defense scoring race.

#25 – Evan Ripley
– Ripley is a 20 year old D man with 93 games of Junior A experience. A native of Kitimat, BC he is listed at a massive 6’5 210 pounds. And that may be on the light side. He is a big body, right hand shot, D man who likes to hit and levels players regularly. If he picks his spots well he will be an imposing figure on the Stars rearguard who will make forwards dread going into the corners. When paired with Dillon Forbes in camp there was a nice balance and physicality on the ice when they were out there. I think fans are going to really like with Ripley brings.

#6 – Cody Bird
– Bird is a Lloydminster native who played midget AAA last year for the Bobcats of the AMHL. He had 15 points in 30 games played. Bird may have surprised a few people in camp with his ability. At times he has been a little shaky in his own zone. But other times he has looked good. He skates well and so can get back to the puck and make a play quickly before the pressure gets to him. On offense he showed poise with the puck and sick hands. He sniped more than one beauty on offense during preseason. He’s young and may be in and out of the lineup because of the Stars depth on D now. When he is in the lineup expect to see him on the point on the power play. I know at least one D man on this list who loves the way Bird passes and is looking forward to ripping some one timers on the man advantage.

#4 – Dillon Forbes
– A native of the Battlefords Forbes is a physical player who tested very well in the fitness portion of camp. He is big and strong and played so very well last season on a pair a lot of the time with Travis Sparrow. With over 50 games under his belt at this level Forbes will likely develop into a top shut down guy in this league this year. The 19 year old is listed at 6’0 185lbs. He is very strong through and plays bigger than that.

#2 – Spencer Gosselin
– Another guy who is from Lloyd and played midget AAA last year for the Bobcats. Gosselin has been battling the injury bug throughout camp. The 18 year old had 18 points last season in the AMHL in 34 games played. Could be a very good two way D man, which would give the Stars a lot of those types, but I can’t give too much of a report since I haven’t seen him play yet.

#8 – Kyle Schmidt
– The newest member of the D is Schmidt. He was an AP with the Stars when he was 16 and practiced with the team but didn’t see any game action. Since then he has been playing in the WHL and played 61 games with the Blades last season. I am sure getting released from the team that is hosting the Memorial Cup in the spring was tough. But when I saw him he seemed to be taking it well and isn’t convinced his time in the WHL is over. He has been described as a two way D man, another one, who likes to jump in the rush at times but take care of his own end first. He was a plus 8 in 61 games last year in the WHL. He could be a very good player for the Stars. Not every player adjusts well to the SJHL but guys like Luhning and Braeden Johnson have done it so Schmidt will have some guidance if he wants it.

Forwards:

#14 – Ben Greenaway
– I wish Ben was healthy because I can’t wait to see what he does in a regular season game. In camp he was big and a decent skater who likes to hit but is smart about how and when he does hit. The Kelowna, BC native has 3 games of experience playing in the BCHL but so far has been at the Junior B level in BC. He will get a chance this year. The Stars like what he can bring. He chipped in with some offense in camp and could be a guy who plays all over the lineup. A net presence will be part of what he brings as well. Greenaway will be a crowd favourite once he gets back in the lineup. Right now he has a lower body injury and may be a few weeks away from playing.

#15 – Blake Young
– North Battleford native and like Dillon Forbes a former captain of the midget AAA Stars. Young is speedy and has decent size. Although he is still a little thin he plays an all around game. He will beat guys wide and power to the net and he forechecks well. He will win battles in the corner and emerge with the puck. Played 1 game last season as an ‘AP’ with the Stars and scored a goal. He also lit up the preseason. In one period alone against Humboldt at the Civic Center he had 3 points. Plays well in his own end as well. Should fill an energy role for the Stars and chip in offensively at times. Also, much like every other guy on the team as far as I have seen so far, Young is a very likeable young man.

#21 – Braeden Johnson
– Returning for his final season of junior is Johnny. The former Saskatoon Blazer played in the WHL for his hometown Blades as well. He has 64 games of WHL experience under his belt. In 70 games with the North Stars he has 65 points. When he is on he is a top offensive guy in the SJHL. But he struggled last season at times. Especially in the second half. I don’t expect that to happen again. He will be relied on to score for the Stars. Look for him to have a big year.

#23 – Brandon Long
– Acquired via trade in the off season Long is a Calgary native who played for Trail of the BCHL last season. In camp he looked electric at times. Uses a long stick and uses it well. He isn’t as fast as some of the guys he played with but he seems to know where to go at all time and that allows him to get there in plenty of time. Seemed to form some instant chemistry with Josh Betinol and Braeden Johnson. Struggled a little as a rookie in BC last year but I am told he had some injury concerns and may have been low on confidence. He should have plenty of confidence coming into this season. Coach Hasselberg has known Long going back to his days coaching in Alberta and he wanted to get Long on this team. That’s a vote of confidence in my eyes. Long has told me he likes it here already. Lets hope he likes scoring on SJHL goalies just as much.

#19 – Ryne Keller
– Ryno is returning for another season with the Stars after playing 55 games last season and putting up 7 goals and 7 assists. He is small at 5’7 and listed at 150 pounds. But he is from a hockey family. He has the instincts of a much older player. He thinks the game at a high level and plays a great center ice. Wins face-offs and takes care of his own zone. Keller also hits with abandon. He would like to add more offense this season to round out his game. At 17 Keller is still young for this league and this guy is a future captain of the North Stars. The Wilkie native gets lots of support at the rink for home games.

#3 – Tanner Quinn
– Winnipeg native who is similar to Keller in a lot of ways. A little bigger but still somewhat undersized Quinn is strong on his skates and plays a grinding role very well. He will go in the corners and win battles. He hits as well. Quinn had 16 points last season in 54 games and since he plays on a line with Keller a lot of the time he will also be looking to up the offensive output. Listed at 5’9 and 190 pounds. At times hem Keller and Newton dominated the puck in the offensive zone in camp. They will grind teams down leading to penalties and tiring out the D for when the more skilled lines hit the ice.

#24 – Jake McMillen
– McMillen was with the Yorkton Harvest last season but missed a large chuck of the season through injury. He hardly played in the second half of the season. The Stars picked him up in a trade that sent goalie Dawson MacAuley the other way. McMillen was nearly a point a game player in Midget and showed some good offensive flair when playing with Young and Carter Danzcak in preseason. Skates well but maybe needs to add some bulk and strength to reach his peak.

#7 – Josh Betinol
– Betinol has been a real out of nowhere player. At least for me. He is from Chestermere, Alberta (or Okotoks depending on the source) and played for the UFA Bisons last season. He also played 2 games in the AJHL as an affiliate player. Listed at 5’7 and 141lbs Betinol has speed to burn and may be the fastest player on the team and one of the fastest in the league. He linked up well with Brandon Long and put up a lot of points in preseason. I hadn’t heard of him until camp and I would think that most people around the SJHL who haven’t heard of him will be as blown away as I was when I first saw him. Another small guy but from what I have seen that doesn’t seem to limit his game. Some guys have to learn how to play at this level as a smaller player. He seems to have a natural ability for that aspect.

#27 – Nick Fountain
– Fountain is another Lloydminster AAA Bobcat who has joined the Stars. At 6’2 and 200lbs he is a Wainwright native. Put up 18 points in 31 games in midget last year while racking up 118 pims. He is a pest. He will get under people’s skin and he does it amazingly quickly. He also loves to go to the dirty areas and makes life hell for goalies. In other words a guy you would hate unless he’s on your team in which case you love the guy. Fans will take to him I think. The kind of player the Stars maybe didn’t have last season. Nice kid off the ice but on the ice it’s a different story.

#16 – Carter Danczak
– Danczak is a local kid who played for the AAA Stars last season. Danczak had 48 points in 44 games last season for the ‘trips’ and 1 assist in his lone game as an ‘AP’ with the North Stars. Has great hands and innate offensive instincts. I mean he put up a lot of points on a team last year that at times struggled to get out of it’s own zone. He needs to continue to learn to play in his own end. And he has to be stronger on the puck and cut out the blind passes. But I believe he has WHL level offensive ability. It remains to be seen if that translates to the SJHL. North Stars fans will be hoping it does. Played a lot with Young and McMillen in camp and that line at times looked outstanding.

#22 – Kyle Hall
– Another of the returning players Hallzy is another speed demon. The 20 year old from Assiniboia had 37 points last year in 57 games. Showed great durability last season despite being 5’10 and around 160. But he would tell you he wasn’t consistent enough offensively. Did add a lot to his game though. He wins face-offs and plays great in his own end. But he will be relied on to score for this team. Has the ability to be among the league leaders in goals and maybe even points. He’s also looking for a scholarship. A big year for Hall will be a big year for the North Stars. Will help out big time on the PP, and PK if needed, this season.

#11 – Roger Tagoona
– Tagoona was picked up via trade early last season and ended up playing 38 games for the Stars in the regular season and put up 19 points. He is also a legend in these parts after his OT winner in game 7 against Nipawin in front of 2,500 plus fans at the Civic Center. Tagoona is 20 years old and a native of Rankin Island. He is listed at 6’0 and 181 pounds but came into camp this season in much better shape. I have heard that he has been a new man on and off the ice this season. He is vocal and will be a part of the leadership of this team. Tagoona has great hands and a very good shot. He wasn’t happy with his offensive production last season and he wants to fix that this season. I wouldn’t bet against him. When he is on his game he does things most players wouldn’t even think to try. He is very fun to watch.

#9 – Austin Evans
– Evans is a Whistler, BC born player. I have never hid the fact that I love BC, it is my homeland afterall, and Whistler is a particular favourite. Evans is another smallish guy with great speed and good hands. He played in the BCHL two seasons ago as a 16 year old getting into 47 games with the Cowichan Valley Capital on Vancouver Island. He spent most of last season in Fernie, BC playing Junior B and scoring near a point a game clip. Having that Junior A experience in BC will help Evans and will likely motivate him as well. He wanted to come here after a recruiting visit last season. He is a guy who could help carry the load offensively. He ‘fought’ in Humboldt in preseason because he wanted the coaches to know he wouldn’t back down from a challenge. His challenge is to get in the lineup consistently and score points consistently. As a fellow BC boy I hope he does it.

#17 – Rob Newton
– Newts is a Saskatoon native and another veteran coming back to the team as a 19 year old. He is listed at 6’2 and 175 but maybe a little bigger than that. Newton had 1 goal last season, and it was memorable, and will score more this season. He has decent hands but at times has seemed to be snake bit offensively. But that’s also not his role. He is part of what will likely be an energy/checking type line that will hopefully chip in offensively. Tomorrow will be his 100th regular season game with the North Stars already. So he could get to 200 by the end of his career if he stays healthy. Was near a point a game player in midget AAA in Saskatoon. Will he be an unlikely break out star this season? Or one of the league’s elite defensive forwards? I would bet on the latter. Another of a strong contingent of good young men from a good family.

#12 – Luke McColgan
– Came to the Stars from Manhattan Beach, California by way of the Saskatoon Blades. He was invited to Blades camp kind of late in the process and didn’t get into a game. His brother Shane is a Blades player which is likely how he was noticed by the Blades. But when he was released he came to the Stars and has impressed so far. Fast and with good hands, where have you heard that before, McColgan showed flashes of having elite scoring ability. That’s a best case scenario for McColgan and the Stars. Likely he will adjust to this level of hockey and at times show flashes of that scoring touch. The 17 year old doesn’t have flashy numbers from his days with the LA Kings U17 team. But wasn’t always healthy from what I have been told. Has a little bit of pest in him as well.

Bryden Serafini
– I wish I could tell you more about Serafini on the ice. But I haven’t seen him much as he has been hurt. An 18 year old from Baldwinton Saskatchewan he had 17 points in Junior B last season along with over 100PIMS. A former Battleford Star he also has 1 game of WHL experience on his resume as an AP when he was with the Pat Canadians. More of a 4th line grinder/physical guy Serafini seems like a great kid off the ice. Hopefully he is now, or will soon be, healthy enough to play.

********

The Stars lost a lot of players from last year’s team including the league’s MVP. There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes to replace those players. And this year’s team looks pretty strong. I like the depth and the speed in particular. Will they struggle to score? I am less worried about that than I was at the start of camp. I don’t know a lot about the teams in the SJHL at this point as it’s early on in the process. And I am basing a lot of this on preseason games which don’t always reveal everything about a player. So I guess what I am saying is I am trying to be balanced and fair and not get overly excited about this year’s team. But I think they have looked good so far. I think they have some great pieces in place.

I am cautiously optimistic that the North Stars this season will be one of the top teams in the Bauer and in the SJHL in general.

I will have more on tomorrow’s game against Kindersley tomorrow.

Kyle Schmidt added to North Stars Roster

The North Stars officially added Kyle Schmidt today. He was on the ice for practice and I had a chance to speak with him. He was described to me as a really good “kid”. And he lived up to that description.

I would image Kyle will be in the lineup Friday night in Kindersley.

Just a note in regards to WHL teams and sending players places. They don’t really reassign players as has been written in media releases. Because the player released from the WHL has options. The Stars didn’t officially add Schmidt to the roster until he was signed to a card. WHL teams release players that are on an SJHL team’s list all the time. They don’t always end up in the SJHL. That is why yesterday’s roster post didn’t have Schmidt on it.

When the North Stars make a move official it will always be updated here on the blog.

Updated Stars Roster Info

Here is the updated North Stars roster as of this morning.

 

Goalies:

Michael Gudmanson
Casey Parker
Connor Creech

Defense:

Matt Sheeran
Grayden Turner
Brody Luhning
Evan Ripley
Cody Bird
Dillon Forbes
Spencer Gosselin

Forwards:

Ben Greenaway
Blake Young
Braeden Johnson
Brandon Long
Ryne Keller
Tanner Quinn
Jake McMillen
Josh Betinol
Nick Fountain
Bryden Serafini
Carter Danczak
Kyle Hall
Roger Tagoona
Austin Evans
Rob Newton
Luke McColgan

*****

As far as I can tell since the last time I posted a roster the Stars have released Zak Kindya, Kyler Wilkinson, Kyle Litchenwald, Dylan Sakatch, Scott McCluskey and goalie Damian McKinnon.

All 6 of those players had moments where they really stood out for the good things they did on the ice. Whether that be scoring or blocking shots or making saves. I liked the way they played. But I think that just shows how tough it will be to crack this Stars roster and how deep they are at every position. I wish them all the best as they move on to the next step in their careers and in finding a place to play this season. From what I saw from those players it shouldn’t be too hard for them to find somewhere to catch on.

North Stars wrap up preseason with a loss

The Battlefords North Stars lost 6-4 in Humboldt last night to finish out the preseason schedule. The Stars finish with a 2-3 record in exhibition play.

I was a little late getting to Humboldt last night and missed some of the first period. Dylan Sakatch scored for the North Stars in the first frame. We haven’t talked about him much on the blog but he had a good game last night. Luke McColgan also scored in the first frame.

The Stars looked really good at times in the second frame and got another goal from Sakatch late in the frame to lead 3-2 after 2. Roger Tagoona scored in the third period but the Stars had a rough little 5 minute patch at the start of the period and the Broncos scored 3 times to take a lead 5-4. They would seal it later in the period.

I spoke with Coach Hasselberg after the game. He said they were very pleased with the preseason effort of the players. The reason they were still carrying so many players is because they’ve all been so good. He also said they learned a lot this weekend that they will use to make some very tough decisions.

At some point this week we will get the North Stars official roster for the first game of the season which is Friday night in Kindersley.

North Stars beat Broncos 7-3

The Battlefords North Stars clearly outplayed the Humbolt Broncos last night at the Civic Center. After the 1st period anyway. Coach Atcheynum called the first period “sluggish” when I spoke with him after the game. I imagine it will be a little difficult to analyze that game last night as it was a pretty young Bronco team that didn’t play particularly well at times. But that’s what coaches get paid to do and I am sure they will watch the game tape and get a real good idea who stood out for the Stars last night.

The first big hit of the game was thrown by Braeden Johnson as the Stars first few shifts were actually pretty good. Johnson knocked Gallant down in the corner and his line with Betinol and Long would look good pretty much all night. Even after Johnny left the game. Dillon Forbes also got in a good solid check in the early going and then the lights went out at the Civic Center. A power outage knocked out the lights during play and luckily no one was hurt. Power stayed off for roughly 11 minutes before the game restarted.

This is what it looked like with the power out at the Civic Center.

Once the game resumed it was Evan Ripley who got in a nice hit on David Miazga. It was a pretty physical opening but neither team really had much in the way of scoring chances in the early going. The shots were 5-3 Broncos midway through the first period. And that’s when the Broncos got going. Travis Roszell was all alone at the side of the net. Connor Creech made a pad save on a point shot but the rebound went right to Roszell and he roofed it. The hitting continued as Evan Ripley got in another good lick on the Broncos. He’s listed at 6’4 209 on his elite prospects page and he plays big. He was on a pair with Dillon Forbes that looked good last night. Brandon Tkatch from the Broncos caught Blake Young with a nice hit as well.

The North Stars tied the game later in the period. It was kind of a 4 on 2 rush for the Stars and Josh Betinol got the puck to Brandon Long. He fired it low along the ice as Betinol and a couple other North Stars went to the net. I don’t think Matt Hrynkiw in the Bronco goal ever saw the puck and it got underneath him and in. The goal was Long from Betinol and Braeden Johnson.

The Broncos led 2-1 after the first though as Mathew Audette scored late in the period. He was standing all alone in front and the pass got through. Creech dove across but had no chance to stop the shot. The shots were 11-6 Humboldt after the first and there was some pushing and shoving at the horn to end the period that led to the games first power play for the North Stars.

The Stars got off to a slow start as their power play to start the second period didn’t click. Luke McColgan had the first chance of the second as he toe dragged a Bronco and got a shot away that slid under Hrynkiw and just wide. McColgan showed some flashes of having very good hands and he is a good skater. The Stars tied it when Betinol and Long combined to set up Braeden Johnson in front. He had a wide open net to shoot at after a good pass from Long and Johnny made no mistake. Evan Ripley had another big hit as he knocked down Audette and midway through the second period the shots were 11-10 Broncos. Which means they went the first 9 minutes or so of the 2n period without getting a shot on net. The shot counter isn’t always 100% accurate as it’s a tough job to do while running the clock and not the best angle from which to do it. But When Gudmanson replaced Connor Creech at the halfway point of the 2nd period the shots were 12-11 Stars. So Creech may not have had to make a save in the 2nd period before he left the game.

Gudmanson made a good save not long after getting in the game. Ripley threw another check but it led to a 3 on 2 the other way. The puck was bouncing all over the place and bodies were flying around the crease but Gudmanson battled and kept the puck out of the net. With 8:20 left to go in the 2nd Cody Bird hit the cross bar. He looks to have great hands for a D man and has a lot of poise with the puck. During the sequence that led to the cross bar Braeden Johnson was hit with a high stick. He left the game as he was cut. The Stars had a 4 minute power play after a double minor to Gulliou. But the Stars couldn’t capitalize. The closest they came was when Brandon Long’s shot took a deflection and hit the post.

The Stars looked like they were going to get a good scoring chance in the dying seconds of the power play but Matt Sheeran’s stick broke and his weak shot was stopped. Almost as soon as the game was back to 5 on 5 the Keller, Quinn and Newton line for the Stars went back to work. They had 4 or 5 really good shifts in the second period alone. Shifts where they were in the attacking zone almost the hole time. Great forechecking from all three and I though Quinn looked sharp. He won a lot of puck battles and eventually that line drew a penalty. The Stars scored on that power play. Matt Sheeran point shot from the middle of the zone, almost the high slot area, got through a screen in front and went straight in. Betinol and Long picked up the assists. That was Betinol’s 3rd helper of the game. Long at that point had a goal and 2 assists.

Almost right after taking the lead the Stars took a penalty. Zak Kindya went off for high sticking. Scott McCluskey had a realy good shot block and clearance as part of a good Stars PK. In fact the PK was so good the Stars even managed to score. Cody Bird went on the attack on a partial 2 on 1 with Quinn. Bird kept the puck skated down the right wing and eventually snapped a beauty past Miskolczi who took over for Hrynkiw.

It was 4-2 Stars to start the third period. The Broncos had 43 seconds left on the power play to start the period but couldn’t score. Blake Young then made it 5-2 with a beauty. He was found all alone in the slot area and fired a shot past the glove of the Bronco goalie and just inside the post. Young had a good game overall and a really god third period. Jake McMillen had an assist on Young’s goal. Young returned the favour later in the period. He drove wide and then hard to the front of the net. Eventually the puck was knocked off his stick but it was loose in the blue paint and McMillen found it and shoveled it home. That made it 6-2 Stars. The assists went to Young and Carter Danczak.

After those two quick goals the Stars were all over the Broncos with Long and Betinol having a particularly good shift. The Stars controlled play in the offensive zone and had a couple of chances. I do have to give the Broncos credit though. They blocked several shots in that sequence and were battling. The Stars took a too many men penalty when Kyler Wilkinson came off the bench and played the puck before Sheeran got to the bench. He was a little slow to get off after taking a cross check. The Stars killed that penalty, another good PK shift from McCluskey helped, and got another goal. Blake Young scored again after great work from Cody Bird. The D man dangled his man then found Young alone in front. Young had 2 goals and an assist in the third period.

Matt Sheeran took a roughing call later in the period and the Broncos scored with 1 second left in the power play to make it 7-3. Dakota Zirk got that one for the Broncos. That was the only goal Micheal Gudmanson allowed after taking over for Connor Creech.

So Josh Betinol, Brandon Long, Blake Young, Jake McMillen, Cody Bird and Braeden Johnson all had multi-point nights.

North Stars goals:

1st Period:
G – Long A – Johnson, Betinol
2nd Period:
G – Johnson A – Betinol, Long
G – Sheeran A – Betinol, Long (PP)
G – Bird
3rd Period:
G – Young A – Forbes, McMillen
G – McMillen A – Young, Danczak
G – Young A – Bird

Once again that was a young looking Broncos lineup with only about 5 or 6 names I recognized from last year’s squad. And so I would take the result with a small grain of salt. But the Stars did look good and the coaches are going to be in very tough when deciding which cuts to make.

I believe they can only carry 8 imports. Betinol, Long, Bird, Ripley, Gudmanson, Kindya, Wilkinson, McColgan, and McCluskey from last night’s game would all be considered imports, if I am not mistaken. That’s 9. And guys like Ben Greenaway, Nick Fountain and Austin Evans, amongst others, were in the crowd last night waiting for their chance to impress.

So that is going to be where the North Stars have their toughest decisions to make. I really don’t envy them. But coach Atcheynum did say that it is a good problem to have. Too many good players. He also said that it is going to be tough to let some of these kids go.