North Stars win 4-3 in a shootout

The Battlefords North Stars made life difficult for themselves last night at the Civic Center but eventually found a way to beat Notre Dame 4-3 in a shootout.

The Stars best period of the game was the first period and they led 1-0 after 1. It could have been more. Matt Sheeran had a great chance to score but couldn’t convert. Brody Luhning hit the post and the Stars went 0-2 on the power play in the opening period. But they did get one goal and it was Josh Betinol finishing off a nice passing play. Jake McMillen got the puck in the neutral zone and fired ahead to Brandon Long. Long skated into the Hounds zone up the left wing and then did a spinning back hand drop pass to Betinol. It kind of looked like Betinol and fumbled the pass as he was all along in the slot but he was able to recover and skate around Hounds goalie Michael Salmon and slid the puck home. The Stars out shot the Hounds 9-5 in the opening period.

In the second the Stars again out shot Notre Dame. But the Stars also had 5 power play chances in the middle frame. There were a couple of calls that I didn’t agree with particularly an interference call on Carson Grolla and a hold on Ryne Keller on the same play that led to 4 on 4 play. But the Stars were moving their feet, being pretty physical and drawing some penalties. Ben Greenaway had several big hits last night including one on Brandon Kuse that looked like it hurt.

The Stars power play was struggling though and unable to score early in the period and you started to wonder if that would come back to haunt the home team. With the score still 1-0 Blake Young went off for tripping. That’s when Josh Betinol struck again. This time unassisted. Betinol burst onto a loose puck, skated down the right wing into the attacking zone and fired past the glove of Salmon. The Stars PK had a really good game last night as the Hounds ended up 0-5 on the PP.

WIth the score 2-0 late in the second the Stars got another power play opportunity and Austin Evans tipped a Keenan Martens point shot past Salmon. Luke McColgan picked up an assist on the goal as well. Once again I thought McColgan had a fantastic game. He’s so good defensively in his own zone. I remember noticing him making a great play to take a puck away from the Hounds and get it out of his zone at least 5 times. Nice to see him rewarded with a point as he was given some power play time.

So it was 3-0 Stars after 2 and the shots were 19-13 for the Stars and even though he hadn’t been overly busy Connor Creech had made the saves he’d had to make. He looked solid and positionally seemed on his game. The Hounds had a couple deflections on their power plays and every time they did the puck hit Creech who was in good position to prevent any re-directions from reaching the back of the net.

But in the third the Hounds came roaring back. It started with a bad angle goal and as soon as it was 3-1 you could sense a little nervousness in the building. The Hounds were coming on in the final frame and really taking it to the North Stars. Then at the 11:20 mark of the final period Cory Anderson threw a puck on net from a sharp angle and it went in. It looked like it snuck between Creech’s pad and the post but it was tough to tell from my angle. That was one Creech would obviously like to have back.

The goal that made it 3-2 was another that Creech should have stopped. He’s such a good goalie and his fundamentals are always so solid that I ever expect to see him between on a bad goal. I was surprised when Brandon Millin’s shot from along the red line got through Creech. A similar goal to the first and it was 3-2. Now the nervous energy from the crowd was even more noticeable. Despite being out shot in the final frame 12-4 the Stars did have chances. Matt Sheeran hit the post. It was the second time in the game the Stars had drawn iron.

Dylan McIntosh scored his first of the year with 3:49 remaining in the game and it was tied at 3. The stars had a chance to win it late when Brody Luhning deked through pretty much every Hounds player and got right to the front of the net. His luck ran out though as he couldn’t get around the goalie who made a pad save.

So 3-3 into overtime and both teams had chances during 4 on 4 play. But we went to a shootout. Last night was the first overtime game of the season for the North Stars and obviously also the first shootout. Well they’ve certainly got the players to win a shootout. Betinol, Luhning and McMillen all made great moves and unstoppable plays to score. Connor Creech stopped the first Hounds shooter Brandon Millin so when Jake McMillen scored the third goal for the Stars in the shootout the game was over.

It wasn’t pretty and certainly the third period wasn’t what the Stars wanted but they got the job done against a team that came in having won 6 in a row.

The North Stars haven’t won 2 in a row since October 24th and they’ve only won twice in a row twice so far this season. They haven’t had a 3 game win streak yet. So it is about time the Stars get on a roll. They need to pick up another home win tonight over La Ronge. I will have more on that game later this afternoon.

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