The Battlefords North Stars picked up a hard fought and well deserved 1-0 win last night in Humboldt.
The Stars had nearly a week off after a disappointing 5-2 loss at home to the Estevan Bruins on Monday night. That loss left the Stars with just 1 win in their previous 7 games. With time to work things out in practice and with some team building opportunities surrounding the Ice Fishing Derby I had a feeling the Stars would bounce back.
They obviously worked hard in practice and coach Atcheynum said before the game that it was the leadership group that came to the coaches this past week to help work out some solutions. Whatever happened and was said in that room is between the players and the coaches. And whatever it was certainly had an effect..
The Stars came out with a good first shift that seemed to set the tone. Both Ryne Keller and Brandon Long returned to the lineup and provided some nice jump in the early going. And the Stars looked like a sharp team. They seemed quick to get to loose pucks and to get to battles. They played with urgency and for lack of a better word they seemed to play with desperation. Considering they are guaranteed to finish 4th in the North it could be argued that in the standings they have nothing left to play for. But they do in terms of getting ready for the playoffs and getting the team going in the right direction.
The Stars earned an early power play and their best player in the first period helped set up the opening goal. Braeden Johnson was as good in the first period as I’ve seen him all year. He was the best player on the ice. Overall he was outstanding but the first period was off the charts good. He had his point shot blocked on the power play but recovered the loose puck. His back door pass found Luke McColgan who settled the puck and shot. Matt Hrynkiw made the save but Blake Young was on hand to pop home the rebound. 1-0 Stars.
And that’s how the game finished. But plenty happened along the way. The Stars had a couple of very good penalty kills in the first period against the league’s top power play. And the Stars second penalty for goalie interference was a weak call. But that’s going to happen from time to time. And you still have to go out and kill the penalty. The Stars did just that.
They also had a second power play later in the period where they gained the zone efficiently a couple of times and moved the puck well. They just couldn’t beat Hrynkiw on that particular power play. Hrynkiw has started all 6 games against the North Stars this season. I think that says something about the competitive level between these two teams. The Broncos don’t take the Stars lightly and the Stars enjoy the test that the Broncos provide. These two teams match up well, for the most part, and have great battles along the way.
At the other end of the ice Connor Creech had a very good first period. He stopped all 13 shots he faced and several saves were excellent. I also really liked the way he battled in front of his net to find loose pucks and keep the puck in front of him. There were 3 or 4 big scrambles in front that saw the puck bouncing around and players all over the place whacking away at the biscuit. But Creech was always there fighting to keep the puck out.
One of the big memorable hits in the first was when Evan Ripley wiped out Neil Landry in front of the Stars net. Both players went flying and cartwheeling through the air. But the puck stayed out of the net.
In the second period the Stars got an early 4 minutes power play for a buttend call against Humboldt. That came basically straight off the opening faceoff and the ensuing power play didn’t look as good as the earlier efforts.
After the penalty kill of the Broncos got the game back to 5 on 5 the physical play really started to noticeably pick up. The second period saw big hits from both teams including a big hit on Kendall Fransoo that left the young D man a little shaken up. He still got up and went to the front of the net and helped the Stars clear the puck. Austin Evans got a good peace of Christopher Manhas on a hit where the Broncos D man lost an edge and both players crashed into the end boards.
The Stars didn’t like the hit on Fransoo by Fluter and Ryne Keller dropped the gloves with Fluter early in the third. Neither guy really got a punch off as they fell while wrestling early in the fight and the linesmen jumped right in. Coach Hasselberg was quick to praise Keller for helping to protect the team.
The Stars only managed 1 shot on net in the final period. But they gutted out a hard fought road victory thanks to limiting the Broncos to 9 shots all of which were stopped by Connor Creech. He picks up his second shutout of the season. Both in Humboldt. Both were 1-0 wins for the Stars. The Broncos not have 3 regulation losses at home all season. 2 at the hands of the Battlefords North Stars. And the Stars are now 2-2 against Humboldt in games started by their number 1 Connor Creech.
The Broncos were without Alex Forsberg last night and it sounds like he is just a little banged up and it’s nothing too serious. Would have been interesting to see what he could have added to the mix. But the Stars did a great job on Pongracz and Davies tonight. That was one of my keys to the game and the Stars did a fantastic job on those two very good players.
There is a lot of work to do in between and I am not going to take Melfort or La Ronge lightly and I know the Stars won’t either. But this is a potential, and I stress potential, playoff match up if the Stars get through the Survivor Series. It’s nice to know they can win in Humboldt. They know they can play with the Broncos and they know what it takes to win on the road in a very tough building.
The Stars also lost Joren Johnson after the first period and played the rest of the game with 5 D men. All 5 were outstanding. Johnson seems to be okay and it sounds like it was more precautionary. He’ll be fine and no chances will be taken with playoffs just around the corner.
To a man I thought all of the North Stars competed last night and it was a very complete effort. It wasn’t pretty at times but it was gritty. And at the end of the day winning a playoff style game on the road is just what this team needed.
Next up for the Stars is a game Friday at home against Nipawin.
A couple of notes:
– Friday’s Game vs Nipawin Hawks
* Ticket Redemption Night. Any unused ticket to be admitted to the game
* Player Awards. This year the team will present the awards on the ice prior to the game
– Ice Fishing Derby was on Saturday
* Over 2,400 people and 444 fish were caught
* 50/50 was $14,671 for the winner
* Dallas Marale won the Vectra Pontoon Boat – fish was 6.2 Northern Pike
* Devin Smith won the Polaris Quad
* John Mahon won the Kramer Deluxe Ice Fishing Shackso get there early.