The Battlefords North Stars were outstanding last night icking up a 3-1 win over the Nipawin Hawks at the Civic Center.
The Hawks came into last nights game as the hottest team in the SJHL’s Bauer division. and from what I have seen this year they are right up there with Flin Flon and Humboldt. The Hawks got off to a slow start this season but as of late they have been playing like the team we thought they would be coming into the season. So for the Stars to be short a D man and a forward for last night’s game they were going to be in tough.
The Stars also lost starting goalie Connor Creech late in the first period. With Matt Sheeran and Tanner Quinn out long term and Dillon Forbes and Ryne Keller day to day the Stars are missing 4 veterans players from their lineup. Casey Parker came in late in the opening frame and was excellent. By the time Parker entered the contest it was already 1-0 Hawks. An early power play for Nipawin came when Joren Johnson was called for interference. 17 seconds later the Hawks scored. The North Stars actually cleared the puck off the face off but the Hawks broke out quickly and rushed up ice. Jesse Bernard fed Wheaton King who went cross crease to Michael Lambert. He fired home and it was 1-0 early.
The Hawks didn’t have too many more quality scoring chances as the North Stars tightened up in their own zone. When shots did get through Connor Creech stopped them. But in stopping one of those shots Creech injured his leg and was forced to leave the game. He left with 58 seconds left in the first period. The Stars were short handed at the time so Casey Parker had to come in cold with the Hawks on the power play. Thanks in part to a big shot block by Brody Luhning the Stars got to the intermission with the score still 1-1.
The second period was a cagey tight affair at times with both teams creating and causing turnovers in the neutral zone. The Hawks outshot the Stars 11-6 in the period but Parker was solid. The Stars also played very solid D in front of their rookie goaltender and continued to block a lot of shots. The Stars PK ended up going 7 for 8 after that early goal including killing off some 4 on 3 power play time for the Hawks. Late in the second period the Stars were short handed again and we talked on the broadcast about it being a big moment in the game. If the Stars could kill the penalty and be down just 1 heading to the third they’d be in good shape. They did even better than that. Austin Evans with a great solo rush powering to the front of the net and sliding the puck under Davis Jones for his 7th of the year. That made it 1-1 heading to the third and the Stars had the momentum.
In the third period the North Stars got a rare power play, they had just 3 to the Hawks 8, with Garrett Lockeridge in the box Braeden Johnson sniped a beauty to give the Stars the lead. That was Johnny’s 7th of the year. From the slot he snapped a perfectly placed wrist shot off the bar and in. That goal stood up as the game winner.
We’ve been talking a lot lately about Luke McColgan as he gets better and better. The Stars have won 7 in a row with McColgan in the lineup and he was good again last night. He scored with 8 minutes left to give the Stars an insurance goal. It was similar to Evans’ goal as McColgan went wide and powered to the net. His shot getting by Davis Jones. That goal came not long after Robbie Newton fired his team up with a great fight. Newton threw a hit that looked like it could have been a penalty. It was tough to tell from my angle but the Hawks bench certainly thought it was knee on knee. The ref was right on top of the play and didn’t make a call. Dustin Skilliter challenged Newton to a fight. It was pretty even until Skilliter lost his helmet. Newton threw a few jabs with his left hand while clutching the jersey of his opponent. Newton then switched to his right hand and tagged Skilliter pretty good. The Hawks player went down to his knees. Give him credit though as he did stand back up looking to continue in the fight. That’s when Newton caught him again with another right hand knocking Skilliter down to the ice and ending the fight. The North Stars bench was extremely fired up after the tilt. In fact about an hour later they were still talking about it on Twitter.
The Hawks got a late power play and spent some time with the net empty but couldn’t beat Casey Parker who made 17 saves in relief for the win. So the Stars have won 2 in a row and they will face Weyburn on Saturday. Hopefully they can ride the momentum of a big character win last night.
I thought every single guy in the lineup contributed last night. I was especially impressed with Brody Luhning on the back end defensively. He was just one of 5 D men who were very good. But Luhning stood out for his performance. I was also pleased to see Casey Parker play well in relief. He will get the start against Weyburn tomorrow night looking for some revenge and if he continues to play with confidence he’ll have a good chance at another win.