North Stars roll continues after a 2-1 win over Flin Flon

For the Battlefords North Stars the victories continue to pile up after a strong effort in a 2-1 win over the Flin Flon Bombers.

The North Stars came out with a very strong first period and Jake McMillen scored to give them an early lead. A 2 on 1 with McMillen and Josh Betinol developed after a poor change by the Bombers. Evan Ripley got the puck ahead to Betinol and he drew the defender before a saucer pass found it’s way to McMillen. McMillen was 1 on 1 with Devin Buffalo and made no mistake snapping the puck past the blocker of one of the league’s top tenders.

At the other end Connor Creech had a very strong game but he was beaten once in the game. And it was a goal that the North Stars felt should have been waved off. Creech appeared to be bumped by Landon Heibert on the play as a point shot from Josh Roach hit something in front and went into the net. Hiebert was given credit for the goal but the play should have been waved off. It wasn’t and the score was 1-1 after the first period.

In the middle frame the North Stars were out shot 13-10 but Creech kept the door shut. He was especially strong during two North Stars penalty kills in the second period. Early in the second period Matt Sheeran went off for hooking when he clearly made a perfect stick lift to deny a potential break away. It was frankly a bad call. But the North Stars killed the penalty and after going 3 for 3 last night on the PK the Stars have now killed 21 of their last 22 penalties. It’s no surprise that the improved play of the PK coincides with the Stars winning streak and also the strong play of the Stars goaltender.

In the third the North Stars re-grouped and their play improved to a similar level as that of the first period. I thought the line of Luke McColgan, Austin Evans and Blake Young was strong throughout the game and they had several more good shifts in the 3rd. They controlled the puck in the offensive zone most of the game and were strong along the walls. Austin Evans does great work controlling play down low, Blake Young was using his speed and strength and McColgan continues to impress. I love the way he hits people. He hits like he means it. In fact, Young should have scored in the third but he whistled a shot just wide. He then put the loose puck towards the net from behind the goal line and somehow Devin Buffalo scrambled the puck away.

The Stars took a too many men penalty shortly after that play but they managed to kill that penalty as well.

Another line that was strong for the North Stars was the unit of Ryne Keller, Robbie Newton and Ben Greenaway. Greenaway had a fantastic final period that included a few good hits and a couple of really good shot blocks. Greenaway also helped out on the game winner as he picked up an assist and he deserved it. Not only did Greenaway help get the puck to Dillon Forbes but he also went right to the front of the net and provided a great screen on the goal. That all followed a great back check when Greenaway, along with Joren Johnson, helped prevent a scoring chance for Brett Penner. Forbes did a great job on the goal. He was on the backhand and had some time. The Stars stay at home D man didn’t panic and waited for some space to open up before firing the puck between the goalies legs.
And Ryne Keller also picked up an assist on the play. He took a pass from Greenaway and took the puck with speed in behind the Bomber net and swopped out the other side before finding Forbes with a nice pass. A great goal all around and a nice reward for a line that was strong last night.

The final shots on goal ended up at 35 for each team as Connor Creech made 34 saves for his 12th win of the season. His goals against average is down to 2.66 and the save percentage is back up to .900 on the season.

I thought Joren Johnson looked very good considering it was his first game with the Stars and he hasn’t been in town for very long. He showed good strength and poise with the puck. Stars head coach Kevin Hasselberg said after the game that he was very impressed with Johnson’s first game. He also said that Ben Greenaway’s role with the team will get bigger as he continues to find his feet in the SJHL. If he plays like he did in the third he can be a real force. D men know when Greenaway is on the ice and if they hurry to make plays cause they know they are going to get hit that will lead to turnovers.

The North Stars have now won 5 in a row and 6 of their last 7 and they head to Yorkton tomorrow night.

They also made another trade yesterday as the Stars sent forward Justin Waskewitch to OCN of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for future considerations. Kevin Hasselberg spoke in the post game show last night about the trade and said it was never the Stars intention to move Waskewitch and that they had expected he would finish his season here in town. But OCN was aggressive in trying to get Waskewitch.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out better for Waskewitch here close to home. But OCN has a pretty darn good team and they also just picked up Roger Tagoona so Waskewitch will have a familiar face to make the transition a little smoother.

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