The Battlefords North Stars hung on in the third with great penalty killing and shot blocking to beat the Nipawin Hawks 6-2 at the Cage.
The Hawks came out flying pumping shots on net and generally taking the play to the North Stars. And they scored when a puck came loose at the side of the net. Dustin Skilliter was able to jam it home and the Stars were in early danger. But Stars started Darren Martin made the saves to keep his team in the game. And they responded well. A couple good shifts a goal and a drawn penalty helped turn the momentum around. The Stars really controlled the middle of the period and Luke McColgan opened the scoring. A shot from the point by Spencer Gosselin was stopped and McColgan was able to find a loose puck in front. He poked home to tie the game.
The Hawks closed the first period well. But Darren Martin shut the door. The Stars leadership group said all the right things in the first intermission because they team came out flying in the second period. And they scored 3 goals in the space of 1:41. Jake Erickson’s shot went wide and right to Jake McMillen. His wrap around beat Jordan Liem to the post. That’s a big goal. McMillen is such a good player and an important player for the Stars. Getting his first of the year takes a lot of weight of his shoulders. He responded well to being a healthy scratch and he’ll be better for it in the wrong run. That was a goal that I was very happy to see go in.
Moments later the Hawks took a penalty and as he usually does Igor Leonenko scored on the power play. A good point shot and a rebound created a loose puck. Leonenko found it and put the puck home. Alex Bechtold then scored his second in two games to make it 4-1. The Stars seemed in control the rest of the period with the highlight of the rest of the second period being a good fight between Forbes and Carter Coben.
The Hawks only managed 3 shots in the first 12 minutes of the third. An encouraging start to the frame considering the Stars have struggled with the third period at times this year. Tad Kozun is off to a great start this season and the Stars had handled him well until a turnover near their own blueline. Kozun spun and found Balog who fired a nice one touch pass across the crease to Coben who scored. That made it 4-2. The Stars could have panicked based on past experience. Instead they showed they’ve learned some lessons. I felt they were moving in the right direction. I am sure of it now. They killed penalties. Blocked shots, Kendall Fransoo had a big one, and a couple big saves from Darren Martin kept the Hawks at bay.
Then with the net empty Blake Young was able to clear a puck and score into the empty net. He didn’t celebrate and after the game said he was upset when he realized Reed Delainey was open for an easy pass and a goal. Delainey is still looking for his first junior ‘A’ goal. He’ll get his goal sooner than later but it’s nice to know these guys are looking out for each other. Even if Young realized too late to set up Delainey. Ryne Keller popped home a rebound not long after the empty netter as the Stars were able to make it 6-2 before the final horn.
The Stars have won two in a row. Taylor Reich picked up a couple assists. Bechtold has scored in back to back games. Darren Martin won his second in a row. Quinn, Young, and Keller’s strong starts continued. Luke McColgan got back on the scoresheet. Latrell Charleson was again very steady on the back end. I thought Jake Erickson had his best game as a North Star. And it was good to see Nick Fountain back in the lineup. All in all a lot of positives for the Stars heading into the Thanksgiving weekend.
That’ll be it for me for a few days as I will be enjoying my time off. So I just want to say in terms of being thankful I have a lot to be grateful for. Thanks to all the Stars players and their families, the coaches, staff, billet parents and volunteers. I have the greatest job and I am thankful to all of you who make it possible. Have a great weekend and start getting excited. Melfort, Kindersley twice and Humboldt next week. 3 on the road. A Saturday night home game. Next weekend is going to be epic. Hopefully this one is too.