Stars shake things up & a Showcase update

The Battlefords North Stars have made a trade with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The North Stars pick up 19 year old center Alex Bechtold and futures in exchange for Robbie Newton and Joren Johnson.

Bechtold is listed at a solid 6’1 and 205 lbs according to Elite Hockey Prospects. He had 11 points in 24 games with the Canmore Eagles last season in the AJHL. Prior to that Bechtold played with the UFA Bisons on the same team as Josh Betinol. Bechtold is from Strathmore Alberta and looks like he’s got some offensive upside to go along with that solid frame.

The North Stars give up last season’s captain and a skilled puck moving d-man both with size. Both guys are well over 6 feet tall. Johnson has great skill on the back end where he is able to stick handle out of trouble and fire ahead a good first pass. He does get himself in trouble sometimes though probably in part because of that skill. Newton is a heart and soul type forward  who hits, blocks shots, will fight and played in over 150 games as a North Star.

Robbie Newton has been with this team since I arrived in the Battlefords. He is a smart and mature young man who came back to the North Stars this season really wanting to make amends for last season’s playoff exit. That won’t happen now. But Newts should get a chance to play in the Western Canada Cup which Dauphin is hosting this year. I will also miss the whole Newton family who have been so nice to me over the past couple years.

I don’t know Joren as well as I know Robbie but everyone knows how I feel about kids from BC. Double J was always fun to watch on the ice and a solid young man off the ice. So both guys will be missed. But they do have a great opportunity out in Manitoba. Dauphin hosts the 2014 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup starting on April 25th.

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In other North Stars news, the SJHL Showcase is underway. The 10 North Stars taking part are:

Casey Parker
Braden Lacoursiere
Kendall Fransoo
Reed Delainey
Jake McMillen
Ryne Keller
Luke McColgan
Blake Young
Spencer Gosselin
Austin Evans

And the North Stars would have sent 11 players but Dillon Forbes has been suspended. Forbes got a 3 game ban for the events of Friday night’s game against Melville. That will be the 2 showcase games and 1 regular season game that Forbes will miss. Interestingly he is eligible to return Saturday against Melville. It is unfortunate that a 20 year won’t get a chance to play at the showcase in front of the scouts. But I am sure Forbes will be seen enough this season to earn a scholarship.

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Disappointing lose for North Stars

Disappointing is the best word for last night’s game. The North Stars played a solid first two periods and had a lead heading to the third. But they couldn’t hold on.

Igor Leonenko scored the only goal of the first period. It was his third straight game with a goal although the celebration wasn’t the most graceful. That was a power play marker and the Stars led 1-0 after 1. The shots were heavily in favour of the Stars. And they created enough chances that they should have scored two or three times. The shots were 12-4.

In the second the Mills responded with some early pressure and an early goal. Murray poking home at the side of the net. It was a scramble and a jam play with Knaub on hand as well. A greasy goal but they all count. Midway through the period the rough stuff started. Dillon Forbes threw an open ice hit on Stovall, it was good to see him return later in the game, and Constant jumped in to fight Forbes. That was a bad idea. I am not sure if Constant even attempted a punch. You respect the way he stood up for his team mate but Forbes may not be the guy you want to fight.

Later in the period Ben Mack ran into Casey Parker behind the play. Latrell Charleson didn’t like it and he dropped the mitts. Another lopsided victory in a fight for the North Stars.

Austin Evans has been a little snake bitten here in the early going. He’s had several chances to score and he got his first of the year late in the second. Another power play goal and a beautiful play from Reed Delainey. He had his back to Evans but dropped a back hand, no look, between the legs pass to Evans for a one timer to the roof of the net.

Kendall Fransoo, Latrell Charleson and Spencer Gosselin all have over 20 games of junior A experience but in the third without Forbes, and with Schmidt and Sheeran still on the shelf, the Stars defense got a little ragged. The Mills had a couple of breakaways. One was stopped by Parker and the other broken up by good back pressure from Jake Erickson. The Mills had a couple of 2 on 1s as well. The Stars have been in the box too often this season. We’ve talked about that at length. The PK had killed 21 straight including most of a 5 minute major to Forbes in the second and some 5 on 3 time earlier in the game.

But in the third the Stars took a couple penalties and the Millionaires scored twice. Walz tried a back door pass that went in off the sprawling Lacoursiere. Kilback beat Parker with a shot from the slot.

The home team came on towards the end but couldn’t find the tying goal with the net empty.

In the end the Stars had a ton of shots. They had a lot of chances. And they played well for the first 40 minutes. But penalty trouble, a tough third period and the Millionaires come from behind to win.

So the Stars are now 1-4 to start the year. They have a week off before they face the Terriers in Yorkton on Friday.

Game #5 – Melville at Battlefords North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars host the Melville Millionaires tonight at the Civic Center starting at 7:30. A couple days ago in Melville the Mills skated to a 4-3 win.

The North Stars dominated the first period in that game but couldn’t convert all of their great scoring chances. The Mills got back in the game after that. I spoke with Coach Fiesel the next night in Yorkton and he was impressed with the Stars. He said if they play a full 60 minutes like they are capable of then they will be a tough team to beat. His young team is going to skate hard, play fast and pressure the puck. That’s how they have to play to be successful. The Stars will have to be prepared for that tonight.

Ryne Keller is on a 4 game point streak Blake Young and Luke McColgan are off to fast starts as well. Igor Leonenko has scored in 2 straight and Casey Parker is coming off a shutout. The North Stars penalty kill is on an 18 kill streak. That’s more than enough to release the dogs. And they will tonight. Expect the Stars to produce a strong effort this evening.

Oh yeah and Casey Parker is coming off a shutout. All in all there are a lot of positive signs for the North Stars.

Some keys for the Stars:

1) Pillowy – Casey Parker’s rebound control was excellent on Wednesday. If he handles long shots that well this season he will end up with some great stats. The Stars are great at keeping shots to the outside when they are playing their game.

2) Discipline – The PK may be all world right now, but the Stars have taken too many penalties so far this season. They need to spend more time at 5 on 5 where their style really wears on the other team.

3) Composure – Home ice. Crowd fired up. Friday night. Coming off a big win. A young and determined team coming in that hasn’t played since they beat the North Stars. This team needs to play with a little more composure tonight.

4) Fun – Keep up the feeling that they got after the game in Yorkton. The North Stars had fun after that game. And I am sure during it as well. When they are flying around, hitting, and having a good time they are super effective.

Lineups:

Goalies:
Casey Parker*
Darren Martin

Defense:
Forbes – Lacoursiere
Gosselin – Charleson
Fransoo – Erickson

Forwards:
Young – Delainey – Evans
Fountain – Keller – Greenaway
McMillen – McColgan – Leonenko
Carlson – Petrino – Heinrich

Scratches: Schmidt, Sheeran, Petrick, Lee-Knight, Betinol, Quinn, Newton, Johnson

North Stars first win in the books

The Battlefords North Stars improved to 1-3 on the season on Wednesday night with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Yorkton Terriers.

It’s early in the season and the North Stars have a good team so the wins were going to come. But it was nice to get that first one out of the way and to do it in such a tough place was extra exciting. The Terriers are the defending champs. They lost just once at home in regulation all of last season. And the came out strong. They were arguably the better team in the first period. Certainly they out shot the North Stars but couldn’t find a way to beat a sharp Casey Parker.

Early in the second period Kailum Gervais got into it with Spencer Gosselin after a couple of early whistles. Ben Greenaway clearly didn’t like that. So he and Gervais dropped the gloves. They stood toe to toe and chucked bombs in an early candidate for fight of the season. Gervais probably edged the fight although Greenaway was coming on strong at the end. All in all a great fight and great sign of respect from the two players towards each other in the penalty box.

That fight seemed to spark the North Stars and they took over after that. Blake Young scored on the power play after great work down low. Jake Erickson held the line on the PP and got the puck down low. young was twisting and turning battling for the puck and for open ice. Eventually he got some open ice in the face off circle and beat Kale Thomson for his second of the year. There was a bit of confusion as the back referee had his arm up. The goal stood and the Stars went right back to the man advantage. They couldn’t score though and it was 1-0.

Igor Leonenko scored the next North Stars goal. A bouncing puck was kind of in his skates as he powered to the net. Big Igor has great hands and he found a way to bat the puck up over the goalies blocker. Midway through the second the Stars were up 2-0. Jake Erickson picked up an assist on that goal as well as Jake McMillen. Nice to see the Jakes get points. McMillen was a healthy scratch the night before and he responded well back in Yorkton where he played his midget hockey.

The Terriers got back in the game a bit after that. In part because of the Stars penalty issues. Forbes and Heinrich both went to the box late in the period. The North Stars PK has been unreal. By my math the Stars have killed 18 straight penalties. Is that any good or what? They still need to find a way to take less penalties. But the PK being that good is something really nice to be able to fall back on.

Late in the second Robin Carlson scored his first of the year and first as a North Star. That made it 3-0 North Stars after 40 minutes of play. They almost missed a chance to take control of the game. Chase Norrish took a couple penalties, high sticking and then unsportsmanlike conduct but the Stars couldn’t score. Ryne Keller won a late period face off and Robin Carlson took the puck to the net sliding the puck along the ice and into the net.

The Stars closed up shop in the third allowing just 8 shots against a Terriers team trying to mount a come back. Nothing got past Casey Parker though as coach Hasselberg called him “a big pillow” after the game. The rebound control was fantastic all night for Parker. It was a great team effort to blank the Terriers as well. Parker made probably 6 or 8 stick saves on long shots. And each time the puck was deflected by the Stars tender away from danger.

Ryne Keller scored late to round out the 4-0 score and the Stars have their first win of the year.

They will go for their second in a row tonight at the Civic Center. The Stars host Melville. Puck drops at 7:30.

Game #4 – North Stars at Yorkton

The Battlefords North Stars are still looking for their first win of the season here in the early going. After a close game last night the Stars will be hoping to go one better and find a W this evening. It won’t be easy. But nothing worth anything ever comes easy.

The Yorkton Terriers are the defending SJHL champions. They return a lot of key pieces for this season. And they are usually terrific on home ice. The FAA was a fortress last season for the Terriers. Tonight’s game will be tough and it’s going to be fun to watch.

Some Keys for the North Stars:

1) Lineup – Again some juggling of the lineup. Guys who watched last night are back in this evening. They will have a chance to show the coaching staff what they can do. Charleson, McMillen, Greenaway draw back in tonight. The guys who are scratched are just as interesting. The Stars coaching staff is trying to find the right lineup to go out there and play their style. I have a lot of confidence in coach Hasselberg and coach Atcheynum to find that spark.

2) Be better with the lead – The Stars led 1-0 in theirhome opener before 4 straight Kindersley goals in the first period alone. They led 2-1 after the first last night before 3 straight Melville goals. If the North Stars get a lead it would be great to see them build on that lead and contain their opponents. If the Stars get an early cushion tonight it will be interesting to see how they maintain that advantage.

3) Find a way – It doens’t have to be pretty. The Stars are 0-3 to start the season so far. They don’t have to win. But they could use a win tonight. It would do the team some good to get back to that feeling they had in preseason. A happy bus ride home and some momentum going into Friday night’s game at the Civic Center. So they could use a win and it doesn’t have to look good. Just find a way to grind it out.

The Lineups:

Casey Parker*
Darren Martin

Forbes – Lacoursiere
Gosselin – Charleson
Fransoo – Erickson

Carlson – Petrino – Heinrich
McMillen – McColgan – Leonenko
Young – Delainey – Evans
Fountain – Keller – Greenaway

Scratches: Schmidt, Sheeran, Petrick, Lee-Knight, Newton, Quinn, Johnson, Betinol

North Stars lose 4-3 in Melville

The North Stars best period and best chances of the game all came in the opening frame last night in Melville.

Igor Leonenko, Robin Carlson and Reed Delainey all had chances early in the game as the Stars came out flying. They fell behind though despite that strong start when Tyson Prednichuk opened the scoring for Melville. Austin Evans had a couple of glorious chances in the first but both shots went high as Evans got into a game for the first time this season following a suspension. Brenden Heinrich also made his season debut and had a good PK shift in the first and later a nice open ice hit. The Stars made 4 lineup changes in total with Jake Erickson replacing Latrell Charleson and Nick Fountain in up front with Betinol, McMillen and Greenaway scratched.

Luke McColgan has been flying in the early going and he got the North Stars on the board. And after the Mills hit the post late in the period a nice rush by Blake Young led to a rebound that Dillon Forbes burst onto. His shot ending up in the back of the net. The first period was a fantastic period of hockey and great entertainment for the fans. There were hits, goals and plenty of pushing and shoving.

The Millionaires scored twice in the second period to take a 3-2 lead to the third. The Stars best chances in the period came when Mills goalie Richard Palmer couldn’t handle a dump in. The Stars had two chances on the loose pucks but Palmer responded to make the saves.

Igor Leonenko scored on the PP in the third to get the Stars within a goal after the Mills had opened a two goal cushion. But with the net empty the Stars couldn’t complete the comeback.

Darren Martin was solid and made a couple big saves including a huge post to post save late in the third. But he took the loss in his first start with the North Stars. The Stars PK was a double edged sword. It was excellent. But it was put to work all too often. The Stars have been in the box now for 23 power plays against in 3 games. They’ve given up just 2 PP goals and just 1 during 5 on 4 disadvantages. But they need to play with more discipline.

Next up for the North Stars is a match up against the defending champs. Tonight in Yorkton. I will have the call starting at 7:15 with the pregame show.

Game #3 – North Stars at Melville

The North Stars are in Melville to face the Millionaires tonight. The Mills are 1-1 so far having lost at home to open the season against Estevan. They then went on the road and won in OT against that same Bruins team. This is a new look Mills team with very few familiar faces back from last season.

The North Stars are 0-2 and coming off a tough start to the season. 3 goals for and 10 against is not what the team and fans had hoped for against Kindersley. So it’s not surprising that there are some line up changes tonight.

The keys for the North Stars:

1) Chemistry – This team needs to find that chemistry that it showed in preseason. Players are still figuring out where they fit into the system and learning who will fill what in terms of roles on the team.

2) Full 60 minutes – Kind of obvious. But the Stars on Saturday played well for long stretches. In those little blips where the foot was off the pedal the Klippers capitalized.

3) Not as bad as it looked – The Stars didn’t play as bad as the scoreline made it seem. So they need to ensure that they are confident and enjoying themselves tonight. A little adversity early in the season is fine as long as you battle through it. And I know this team will do just that.

Lineups:

Casey Parker
Darren Martin*

Forbes – Lacoursiere
Gosselin – Erickson
Fransoo – Johnson

Quinn – Newton – Fountain
Heinrich – Petrino – Evans
Young – McColgan – Keller
Carlson – Delainey – Leonenko

Scratches: Schmidt, Sheeran, Petrick, Lee-Knight, Greenaway, Charleson, Betinol, McMillen

North Stars drop home opener

The North Stars dropped their home opener to the Kindersley Klippers 6-2 the final on Saturday night.

The Stars lost Luke Lee-Knight to injury on Friday in Kindersley and had to get a goalie into the fold to back up the next night. One of their final cuts was Darren Martin who had returned to Calgary after being let go. The coaching staff talked about how difficult that decision had been and how martin had been just as good as Parker and Lee-Knight in preseason. So they called Martin and asked him to come back with Lee-Knight on the shelf. Martin made it back just in time to get changed and make it to the rink.

Think about the roller coaster of emotion that Martin went through in the last few days leading up to game time. Casey Parker got the start but was pulled late in the first period. (more on that later). So martin went from at home in Calgary not playing hockey to in the game in the space of a day. And he was outstanding. He made 13 saves on 15 shots, kept his team in the game and was named the games 3rd star. Not bad at all. And boy does that show some mental toughness and desire. Very impressive.

Now about Parker. He was very unlucky on Saturday night. The first two goals that beat him were shots that were going high and wide. In one case VERY high and wide. The puck hit something in front and deflected into the net. Cody Thiel didn’t even celebrate his goal after it went in off his shoulder.

That made it 2-1 for the Klippers. The North Stars had opened the scoring when Luke McColgan scored on the power play. It wasn’t a great power play up until the goal but the Stars had been looking food 5 on 5 up til that point. The lead didn’t last long though and by the end of the first the Stars trailed 4-1. The had a late first period 5 on 3 power play chance and Latrell Charleson hit the post.

Early in the second period Robin Carlson was stopped on a short handed break away. That would have made it 4-2. Seconds later Reed Delainey was penalized for slashing and the Stars were down 2 skaters. The Klippers scored, on another deflected goal, and suddenly it was 5-1. The North Stars responded. Blake Young stole a puck in deep after a Klippers miscommunication down low. Eventually Young got the puck to the slot and beat Tyrell King with a low shot. That’s as close as the Stars would get.

Once again they dominated the shots and played very well for long stretches. The lines were juggled in the third and the Stars looked outstanding. But they couldn’t score and eventually the Klippers got another goal to make the final 6-2. That’s despite the Stars out shooting Kindersley 39-24.

The North Stars gave some guys a chance on Saturday as they made no lineup changes, other than the goalie change, from the season opener the night before. I expect that will change. Austin Evans is no longer suspended plus guys like Erickson on the back end and Heinrich and Fountain up front could get a chance.

The North Stars hit the road tomorrow morning and face Melville tomorrow night. That game will be live on CJNB/CJNS. Join us as the Stars look to get win #1 on the season.

Home Opener – Klippers vs North Stars

The Battlefords North Stars host the Kindersley Klippers tonight at the Civic Center. It’s the home opener for the Stars coming off last night’s season opening 3-1 loss on the road in Kindersley.

The Stars are looking for a little bit of a bounce back effort after last night. And they will be hoping to build on the great 3rd period they were able to find in that game. 60 minutes of equivalent play tonight and the Stars will have a great chance at their first win of this 40th season.

The keys for the North Stars:

1) Puck support – The BNStars were a little too far apart in the opening 40 minutes. They attempted too many long passes. And they turned the puck over far too much. The Stars coaching staff wants puck support. Puck management. They want the team making shorter passes and putting the puck in smarter areas in order to utilize their speed and physicality.

2) Traffic – Tyrell King was outstanding last night. So the Stars will have to do a better job of getting to the dirty areas. A speed rush and a loose puck off a rebound led to their only goal last night. There’s no reason this North Stars team can’t do more of that.

3) Discipline – The Stars PK was outstanding last night. But it was put to the test too often. 9 opportunities for the opposition will come back to bite you if you aren’t careful. So the North Stars will have to try and stay out of the box. If they are playing their style and playing it well? They will generate more power plays than penalties against. Just like in the third last night.

Lineups:

Martin is back as Lee-Knight is out with an upper body injury. Other than that no changes for the North Stars.

Casey Parker*
Darren Martin

Forbes – Lacoursiere
Gosselin – Charleson
Fransoo – Johnson

Quinn – Newton – Greenaway
McMillen – Betinol – Leonenko
Young – McColgan – Keller
Carlson – Delainey – Petrino

Scratches: Schmidt, Sheeran, Heinrich, Erickson, Fountain, Evans (susp), Petrick, Lee-Knight

Stars lose in Kindersley to open the season

The Kindersley Klippers scored early and held on late to beat the North Stars 3-1 tonight in the season opener.

Luke Lee-Knight got the start in net for the Stars and the first shot he faced was a break away. The Stars turned the puck over at their own line to Stefan Seel who raced in alone and made no mistake. The five hole shot making it 1-0. A tough start for any goalie facing a break away to start the game. Lee-Knight settled in after that making a number of good saves as he kept his team in the game.

The North Stars had a very good preseason and the coaching staff was very impressed with the work that was put in to get ready for the season. But it was the Klippers who came out with the better effort in the first 40 minutes. They outshot the Stars and capitalized on the slow start. Kindersley has put together a good looking team that has size, speed and a top line with a lot of offense ability. But it was the Stars who were the architects of their own downfall tonight. Too many long passes. Too many turnovers. And not enough puck support.

The Klippers made it 2-0 late in the first with 1.1 seconds remaining. A pass got through to Colby Daniels and his one-timer beat Lee-Knight.

Early in the second period period Lee-Knight left the game in a lot of pain and was replaced by Casey Parker. And Parker shut the door after that. It was the play of LLK and Parker that gave the Stars a chance in the third. That and the penalty kill. The PK unit at times was better for the Stars than their 5 on 5 play. The Klippers eventually finished 0-9 on the man advantage. The usual suspects like Keller, Newton and Quinn were excellent when short handed. Petrino and Delainey looked good when they had the chance to kill penalties as well. The Stars D did a great job clearing pucks and keeping the front of the net clear. Joren Johnson and Latrell Charleson had strong games and I thought Braden Lacoursiere had a strong debut as well.

The Stars had some chances in the first 40 minutes. Igor Leonenko was robbed by the glove of Tyrell King in the first period and Jack Petrino poked a puck just wide. When the Stars did muster anything King had the answer. Late in the second period Spencer Gosselin went for a stick lift behind his net and missed. The resulting double minor for high sticking was killed off by the Stars. The Betinol, McMillen, Leonenko line then had a really good shift and the Stars had some life.

Kindersley started the 3rd on the PP again but again the Stars PK was excellent. Building off that momentum the Stars took over. Looking like the team that I saw in preseason the Stars dominated the final frame. But they couldn’t solve King who again robbed Leonenko. The line of Carlson, Delainey and Petrino had several good shifts in the third as did Betinol’s line.

It was Luke McColgan whose energy really jumped out in the final frame as he was physical, controlled the puck and created chances. A late 3rd period PP rush by McColgan ended up in the net when Ryne Keller followed the play, found a loose puck and poked it past King. That made it 2-1 with 3 minutes left. The Stars got the net empty but couldn’t find a tying goal before Cody Thiel potted an empty netter to make the final score 3-1. Parker ended up stopping all 17 shots he faced coming into the game in relief.

I don’t know if it was nerves or just a case of the game moving a little faster in the regular season but early on it seemed like the pressure the Klippers applied overwhelmed the North Stars. But in the third? That all changed. The good guys got their feet moving, were hard on the puck, physical and got pucks to the net. They looked every bit as good as I was expecting. But you can’t play 20 minutes and expect to win a hockey game. This group knows they have the potential to be a very good team. They also know they have to work for 60 minutes to achieve that. No one is going to give you anything in the SJHL. You have to go out and earn it for yourself. And I expect they will have a really strong bounce back game to open up at home.

The North Stars are facing adversity early on, Lee-Knight’s injury is an early blow, which is tough. But adversity is something you are going to face in a hockey season and how you deal with it is what separates the good teams.

The Civic Center should be nice and loud as the home crowd gets a chance to see this team for the first time. You won’t be disappointed with what you see on the ice. The staff has worked hard to put together a good team. The team has worked hard to prepare for the season. Play like they did in the third period and the North Stars will be a very fun team to watch this season.

The Battlefords North Stars host the Kindersley Klippers tonight at the Civic Center. Puck drops at 7:30. And it is a NorSask Farm Equipment Game Day. You can listen to the game live on CJNB/CJNS starting with the Battlefords Coop Pregame Show starting at 7:15.