The Battlefords North Stars played a pretty good final period last night in Melfort and it was just enough to get the win.
With 5 regulars out of the lineup the North Stars were a little light up front last night. They called up an ‘AP’ in 15 year old Chris Woods. Woods is the younger brother of former North Star Mitch Woods. chris is a big kid at 6’3 and 180ish as a 15 year old. He didn’t look out of place despite playing in his first ever Junior ‘A’ game. Woods was actually getting double shifted at times in the first period as the North Stars only had 11 forwards dressed.
With Quinn, Heinrich and Charleson all sick and Greenaway and McColgan banged up the North Stars were missing offense, size, and most of their more physical players. It shouldn’t be discounted how much size and how many hits were missing from the lineup. The North Stars have had players in and out of the lineup of late and they make no excuses. They continue to find ways to win. But it wasn’t a great performance last night especially the first half of the game. And the guys who were missing are all key guys.
The first period was not good from the Stars. It was an ugly period highlighted by very few scoring chances. Plenty of turnovers. And a goalie holding his team in the game at times. Michael Gudmandson was solid again despite being beaten twice. Jamie Miller opened the scoring on the first shot of the game. After that Goody was beaten just once on thirty shots.
The Stars had a couple of chances in the first. Taylor Reich made a nice play from a sharp angle on a rebound. Instead of shooting he fired a pass across the crease to Jake McMillen but he was unable to get a stick on the puck. Blake Young had a nice rush in the first and eventually Young and Delainey teamed up in the slot. They couldn’t get a goal as a backhand shot was fired off target.
By the end of the first the Stars were down 2-0 and not playing well. Give the mustangs credit for their good opening period. And give the Stars credit for not packing it in. They came out in the second and played a little better. They certainly settled down a little in their own zone. They protected the front of the net for the most part and cut down on the turnovers. Neither team got much rubber on goal as the shots were 9-6 ‘Stangs in the middle frame. Austin Rediron was good when he needed to be, but he wasn’t called on a lot in the opening 40 minutes.
So thanks to some good goaltending and good discipline the North Stars were still in the game heading to the third. The Stars only gave up 3 power plays to the Mustangs and the PK looked good on all 3. They were also a little forunate as the second period was the frame in which they played about 15 seconds with 6 skaters on the ice. Trent Cey was doing colour for me last night and he noticed right away. No one on the ice noticed though and the 4 officials missed it completely. The Stars dodged a bullet on that one.
In the final period the Stars came out flying and quickly tied the game. A Braden Lacoursiere point shot was tipped home by Regan Yew to open the scoring and break Rediron’s shutout bid. Then a minute later it was Kyle Schmidt with one of the netter passes we will see all season. His stretch pass split the Mustangs apart and sent Blake Young in all alone. Young has great wheels so he wasn’t going to be caught. He also made no mistake as Rediron was forced back into the crease by Young’s speed. With very little backlift Young was able to fire the puck over the glove of Rediron and into the top corner.
Melfort used their timeout to settle things down and they had several really good shifts in a row after the game was tied. But Gudmandson again made key timely saves and the Stars eventually got a game winner from their captain. Brandon Sloan hit Nick Fountain from behind and was given 2 for boarding. Fountain didn’t really hit the boards as he was able to turn as he was falling. But Sloan saw Fountain’s numbers all the way and still hit him. An easy call for the officials. On the ensuing power play Schmidt fired a point shot through a screen untouched into the top corner over the glove of Rediron again.
For Schmidt now that’s 3 goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 22 games. He’d likely be near the top of the league in scoring from D men if he hadn’t missed games this season. And remember he was hurt at the start of the year which must have hurt his preseason preparations. Schmist was excellent earlier in the season and has gotten back to that level of late after missing time following that loss in Nipawin. It’s hard to say for sure because I don’t see many games in the league other than games that involve the North Stars so I can’t say Schmidt is the best D man in the league. But he has to be in the conversation. He’s been great. And his leadership has been a big key in the North Stars turn around.
The Stars couldn’t get an insurance goal and the Mustangs did get the net empty after a late penalty kill. But the Stars were able to see out the game.
They didn’t play their best game but they got another good game in net from Michael Gudmandson. They won the special teams battle and for the most part played a very disciplined game. They regrouped after a tough opening period. And they got the 2 points. Blake Young and Kyle Schmidt both finished with 2 points.
The Stars will have to be better on Saturday night when they host Weyburn at the Civic Center. The Wings have been playing well of late and get great goaltending. They have a young team but they have a lot of young talent and as we’ve seen from the North Stars this season once that young talent finds it’s feet in the league other teams have to watch out. So it will be a good game and hopefully a big crowd as the North Stars go for win number 8 in a row. And win number 7 in a row on home ice.