The Battlefords North Stars played a very solid road game last night in Nipawin and Connor Creech was excellent in net as the Stars beat the Hawks 2-1.
The Hawks had the first chance of the game on an early power play. With Alex Pernitsky in the box for tripping Eli Litchenwald hit the crossbar. Connor Creech made several solid saves in the first period including a good double pad save to keep the game scoreless. The North Stars also had a good chance during the penalty to Pernitsky. Braeden Johnson and Kyle Hall went in on a 2 on 1 but were unable to beat Davis Jones. The story of the first period was the goaltending. Creech stopped 9 shots and Jones stopped all 13 shots the Stars fired his way.
Blake Young had a good chance on a toe drag move and shot from the slot. Jake McMillan also had a good shot saved by the glove of Jones. The Stars were the more physical team in the first period and outshot their opponents on the road but neither team found the back of the net.
In the second period the Hawks had several more good scoring chances including a scramble in the blue paint where Creech was able to get his skate blade on the puck as it was sliding towards his net. With most of his body inside the net Creech was able to fight through the traffic and the sticks to see the puck and make the save. There was another solid save when Creech went post to post and made a really good save look pretty easy.
The Stars power play didn’t look very good in the first period but when they got a chance in the second period they were able to open the scoring. The Hawks took a too many men penalty that led to the goal. Brandon Long had the puck on the side boards near the blue line. He fed it across to Brody Luhning who blasted a shot past Jones to make it 1-0. Travis Marit deserves a lot of credit as he provided a good screen in front.
The Stars hitting game continued in the second period with Luke McColgan throwing several good hard checks but he wasn’t the only one. The strong play of the Quinn, Greenaway and Marit line continued. They were also finishing their checks.
After the Stars took the lead Austin Evans took a hooking penalty but for some reason Artsiom Kalashnikov knocked down Connor Creech and made it 4 on 4 rather than allowing the Hawks to go to the power play. But during the 4 on 4 Spencer Gosselin was called for roughing and the Hawks had some 4 on 3 power play time. But the Stars PK held strong and Connor Creech was excellent.
The Stars started their 4th line in the third period. And it paid off. Ben Greenaway moved with speed down the left wing and fired a shot on Jones. The rebound came to Tanner Quinn behind the net and he banked the puck off Jones and in. That made it 2-0 just 14 second into the third period. The Stars continued to be on the front foot physically and Connor Creech was excellent but the Stars couldn’t find anymore goals as Davis Jones was battling to keep his team in the game.
The Hawks got within a goal when Garret Lockeridge got a step down the left wing. He cut in front and went to the backhand to beat Creech. That made it 2-1 with 11:55 remaining on the clock. Creech was able to slam the door shut after that. The big saves coming on a late power play with Dillon Forbes in the box. Forbes took a penalty that may have saved a goal. And his team mates were able to kill off the penalty although it was close. With Jones out of the net for a 6 on 4 advantage the Hawks hit the iron again. Jesse Williamson thought he had scored but his shot hit the crossbar and went out of play.
There were a couple scrambles in front with pucks bouncing around but Connor Creech made the saves and tracked the puck to cover up for faceoffs whenever he could. The Stars cleared the puck and moved to 19-14-1-1 on the season and within a point of the Hawks for 3rd in the North. These two teams play again Tuesday at the Civic Center.
Creech was the difference making 37 saves on 38 shots. Lots of credit to the D as well. Ryne Keller and Alex Pernitsky were targetted by the Hawks who were trying to get Eli Litchenwald or Wheaton King’s lines out against that pair as often as possible. But they were unable to find a way onto the scoresheet thanks to the strong play of those two on the back end. All 6 D men and every forward helped out defensively once again and the Stars have now allowed just 2 goals in 2 games in 2013.