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.