North Stars 4 – Nipawin Hawks 2: Stars win 12th straight

The Battlefords North Stars stayed hot last night with a 4-2 win over the Nipawin Hawks.

Jake Erickson lugs the puck during the first period of last night's game.

Jake Erickson lugs the puck during the first period of last night’s game.

Dillon Forbes got the North Stars on the board as part of a really strong start for the home team. I thought the Stars really controlled that opening frame. I lost count of the number of times the Stars didn’t let Nipawin get past the red line, took the puck, dumped it in and went back to work on the forecheck.

After Igor Leonenko set up Blake Young for a one timer that rang off the post the North Stars worked the puck back to Forbes at the blueline. He beat Hawks goalie Joe O’Brien for the game’s first goal. O’Brien had no chance with Blair and Leonenko screening in front. The 18 year old goalie never saw the shot and Forbes had all kinds of room to score inside the far post.

Lets get this out of the way and move on. The Refs had at best an inconsistent night. The Stars were shorthanded when Blake Young stole a puck at his own blueline. The pass from D to D by the Hawks wasn’t a good one and Young pulled away. Brett Harris is a forward who plays on the point on the Nipawin power play. He raced back to try and catch Young but ended up taking him down. Penalty shot! The largest crowd of the season at the Civic Center erupted in excited.

Young’s goal was a beauty. He faked a shot, deked towards the backhand but then came back to his forehand and fired up over the blocker of the sprawling O’Brien to make it 2-0. At one point in the first Young and Blair dominated the Hawks with a great cycle during 4 on 4 play. That line was good all night but especially strong in the opening frame.

Jack Petrino gave the North Stars a 3-0 lead a minute into the second period. Short handed the North Stars got the puck out to Ben Greenaway. From just outside the Hawks zone on the left wing Greenaway was able to slide a pass ahead into the slot area and Petrino raced on to it. It was a great area pass and set up Petrino one on one with the goalie. The Vancouver, Washington native made no mistake scoring along the ice through the 5-hole on O’Brien.

The Hawks got a couple back in the middle frame breaking Michael Gudmandson’s shutout streak at exactly 130 minutes. From the 19:30 mark of the first period against Humboldt, through a shutout in Flin Flon and up until the 9:30 mark of the second period last night Gudmandson couldn’t be beaten.

Jivan Sidhu scored through a screen and former North Star Carter Danczak fanned on a one timer before popping the puck home on his own rebound to make it 3-2.

But just 27 seconds later any momentum the Hawks had was gone. Luke McColgan threw a puck on net and it beat O’Brien on the glove side. It’s a goal the young tender would love to have back. McColgan’s 10th of the season was the insurance marker and the Stars closed up shop the rest of the way. There was no scoring in the 3rd and the Stars claimed win number 12 in a row.

Michael Gudmandson is now 15-2 on the season with another strong performance. A 28 save victory. His best save was a post to poster to rob the Hawks during their 5 on 3 power play in the second period.

Tanner Quinn had a strong game last night and was slashed on a break away that went uncalled. His backhand effort fluttering wide. Other than a few too many penalties it was a pretty solid game from the home team bar a rough patch in the middle of the second period.

The North Stars are now off until a week from tonight, Friday February 7th when they host Nipawin once again at the Civic Center. In the meantime the Stars will have a few days of practice and a team building trip to Calgary. Coach Hasselberg was quick to thank North Stars fans for their support which affords the team the opportunity to go on such trips.

And how about the crowd last night? Almost 1,100 fans at the Civic Center on Minor Hockey Appreciation Night. They were loud and having fun all night and the Stars put on a nice performance to keep them entertained.

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Game #47 – Nipawin Hawks at Battlefords North Stars – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 28-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars have won 11 games straight. They beat Flin Flon 4-3 last Saturday after falling behind 2-0. Darren Martin struggled early but settled in a battled his way to victory. Luke McColgan scored the game winning goal. More on the game here.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 1-1 against the Hawks this season. The Stars won 6-2 in Nipawin early in the season. Young, McColgan, McMillen, Leonenko, Keller and Alex Bechtold all scored in the win. Darren Martin made 35 saves in net for the win. The Hawks won 3-1 on November 9th. Tad Kozun broke open a 1-1 game with 1:15 left on the clock and then added an empty netter. Darren Martin took the loss stopping 29 of 31 shots he faced. Former Star Austin Evans scored the Stars only goal in that game.
  • Minor Hockey: Tonight is North Stars Pride and Minor Hockey Appreciation night. Any minor hockey player, student or child wearing a jersey to the game will get in free. Adults in a hockey jersey will get in for half price. There will be door prizes as well. The Hot Stove Lounge will be serving happy hour prices from 6:30 until puck drop.
  • Awards: Michael Gudmandson took the SJHL’s goalie of the week award for the 3rd time this season. Darren Martin has one in that span as well. So 4 of the last 9, almost 50%, goalie of the week awards have gone to the North Stars. Gudmandson also is second in the SJHL with 4 shutouts and he’s done it in just 16 games.
  • Power: The Stars were in top spot on the SJHL’s power rankings, no surprise there as they have won 11 in a row, and Luke McColgan and Jake McMillen were mentioned as players who are hot. McColgan has 9 points in his last 10 games. McMillen 10 in his last 10. McColgan had 5 points up in Flin Flon while McMillen had 4. The North Stars were also an honourable mention once again in the weekly CJHL National Top 20 Rankings.
  • Access: The only game on a Thursday night in the SJHL means one thing. The Access 7 game of the week. This game will be live on CJNB/CJNS and hopefully the Civic Center will be packed. We can also PVR the game to watch at a later date should the Stars win.
  • The Macs: I mentioned them above but at times this season it’s been tough for McColgan and McMillen. Luke has hurt a couple times and McMillen struggled in the early going. But look at their stats and you see now that McColgan, in 10 fewer games than last season, has more goals and more assists than last season. McMillen, in 12 fewer games to this point, has tied his out put from last season with 14 goals and is just 4 assists from last season’s 16 assists and 30 points. By the end of the season McMillen will have more more goals and more assists than his rookie year. They have both been good of late, and particularly in Flin Flon, and will be big keys for the North Stars down the stretch and into playoffs.
  • Home Cooking: The North Stars are 13-2 in their last 15 games on home ice after starting the season 0-7 at the Civic Center. The North Stars have won 6 straight at home. The Nipawin Hawks are currently on a 7 game road winless streak. Earlier this year the Stars lost 7 in a row at home and then won 7 straight at home. So if they win tonight the North Stars would tie themselves, Humboldt and Melville, for longest home win streak of the season in the SJHL. Melville’s streak is current but Humboldt’s is not. The North Stars also have the two longest streaks in the league this season with a point. 10 games from November 15th to December 7th and their current 11 game win streak.
  • Recent SJHL Action: This week has seen Estevan lose in a shootout against Melville. Humboldt beat Nipawin 3-2 earlier in the week. Something’s going wrong in La Ronge. They lost 10-5 and 11-4 this week in back to back game in Melfort. The Mustangs now lead that division so the Hawks need a win tonight. The North Stars are still second in the Kramer and 5th in the league playoff standings. With a win tonight the Stars would move ahead of Kindersley by a point but the Klippers would have 3 games in hand to try and get the lead back.
  • Light Schedule: The North Stars have just one game this week and it is tonight. So they should be fresh off their trip to Flin Flon back last weekend. And with no game until they face Nipawin a week tomorrow the North Stars should have a lot of energy for tonight’s game.
  • Getting Stronger: The North Stars goals for and against by period this season in 46 games:
    1st Period – 38GF and 34GA
    2nd Period – 38GF and 39GA
    3rd Period – 51GF and 44GA
    They get better as the game progresses. Their style of play can wear teams down.
  • Penalties: Earlier this season when these two teams met they were far and away the most penalized teams in the SJHL. That’s changed somewhat. In terms of penalty minutes per game the North Stars are 5th in the league and the Hawks are second. Or I suppose I should flip that as taking penalties isn’t really a good thing. The Hawks are 11th and the Stars are 8th. The best team in the league at staying out of the box? Weyburn. Flin Flon is the worst.
  • Team Building: The North Stars will spend this weekend doing team building. That kind of thing goes a little under the radar at times. And the benefits aren’t always immediately apparent. But a close knit group that cares about each other and plays for each other is going to be very tough to beat. The North Stars for the last few seasons have always worked hard to foster a great team spirit. How many teams come back from a 4-12 start if they don’t have a great team ethic?

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Don’t Panic – I showed the North Stars goals per period above and it shows the Stars are a 3rd period team. So there’s no need to panic if the game is tied heading to the final period or even if the Stars are behind. The North Stars are 10-3 when the game is tied going to the third. 14-1-0-2 when they lead after 2 periods. The Stars have 4 wins when trailing going to the third which is behind Melville, Humboldt and Estevan for the league lead. They all have 5 comeback wins. In the end, the North Stars get stronger as the game gets longer so no need to get away from the game plan or panic early on.

2) Crowd –  We are really hoping for a massive crowd at the Civic Center tonight. Maybe as many as a thousand or more? Whatever the size of the crowd the North Stars should be fired up to return home after a trip to Flin Flon. They can feed off the energy of the crowd and maybe even the TV cameras to bring a great effort. Plus it’s their only game this week so they will be well rested and have no reason to leave anything in the tank.

3) Discipline – The Stars have gotten a lot better at staying out of the box. The Hawks have improved somewhat as well. Only 1 team has taken more minor penalties than the North Stars so there is still room for improvement. The Stars home PK is 10th in the SJHL at 80.3%. Their home PP is 3rd at 20%. Nipawin’s road PP is 9th in the league. Their road PK is 5th. So a pretty even match up between the two special teams. The best bet for the North Stars is to keep it 5 on 5.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Schmidt – Erickson
Robin Yew – Charleson

McMillen – McColgan – Keller
Young – Blair – Leonenko
Quinn – Petrino – Greenaway
Fountain – Reich – Delainey

Scratches: Heinrich, Regan Yew, Lacoursiere

Another Award for Gudmandson

Michael Gudmandson’s fairy tale run with the Battlefords North Stars continued with another SJHL Goalie of the Week award.

Gudmandson went 2-0 last week with a shutout and just 1 goal against as the Stars beat Humboldt and Flin Flon in his starts.On Friday in Flin Flon, the North Stars tender made 28 saves for his 4th shutout of the season. Earlier in the week, Gudmandson stopped 37 of 38 shots in the Stars 3-1 win over his former team the Humboldt Broncos.

Gudmandson has now claimed 3 GOW awards in the last 9 weeks. On the season he is 14-2 with a 1.49 GAA and a 95.5 save percentage and 4 shutouts. Combined, Gudmandson and Martin have put up a 1.52GAA and a 95.3 save percentage in during the 11 game win streak. That includes 2 shutouts for Gudmandson. In his last 3 starts Darren Martin is 3-0 with a 93.4 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA. He won the SJHL’s goalie of the week award just before Christmas. That means 4 of the last 9 GOW awards have gone to the North Stars.

The North Stars were placed in top spot on the SJHL’s weekly power rankings. That’s a no-brainer after their 11th win in a row on Saturday night. The next hottest team is Weyburn with 4 straight victories. Jake McMillen and Luke McColgan were mentioned on the Who’s Hot column. I thought McColgan would have a shot at the SJHL’s player of the week award but La Ronge forward Sebastian Beauregard claimed that after putting up 8 points in 4 games last week.

Also, you have to wonder when a Stars D man will claim another defensman of the week award. The Stars have allowed just 17 goals on this 11 game win streak. Gudmandson and Martin have been excellent as mentioned above. But the D, and forwards, have been a big part of that equation.

And the North Stars, for the second week in a row, are an honourable mention on the CJHL’s National Top 20 rankings. My good friend Jon Zacks is the broadcaster for the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL. They are also an honourable mention. I really hope our paths cross at some point this season.

It was another strong week for the North Stars who continue to get plenty of attention for their strong play.

No surpise as Stars roll continues

An early power play goal and a bad goal against that Darren Martin would love to have back gave the Bombers an early 2 goal lead. And you wondered how the North Stars would respond. As far as I can recall the North Stars haven’t trailed by 2 goals since a 3-1 loss to Kindersley on December 17th. The never trailed against Humboldt in the two games after Christmas. They were at no point down by more than a goal in any game since then. The Stars haven’t allowed more than 2 goals since La Ronge on January 9th. So this was a test the Stars haven’t had to face in a while.

 

With Dillon Forbes in the box for interference on the after the very first shift of the game Danys Chartrand opened the scoring. His point shot beat Martin on the blocker side with a lot of bodies in front of the net. I’m not sure but it may have changed directions a little as well. No fault to Martin on that one. But the second goal was a stinker. A shot off the rush from just inside the blueline from Paul Soubry fluttered in past Martin’s blocker and it looked like he just plain whiffed on it.

Moments later a deflected puck went way up in the air and Martin watched as it landed on the back of the net. I don’t know if he saw that one either. The young Stars goalie had never played in Flin Flon previously so maybe he just wasn’t seeing the puck well as he adjusted to a new rink. Or maybe he wasn’t in the game yet mentally. But his team was behind the 8-ball and Michael Gudmandson was certainly preparing himself mentally that he may have to come in the game.

I really like Darren as a goalie with a bright future and a really nice young man off the ice. So I am very happy that write that he re-grouped. At times it looked like a real battle in the first period. But he shut the door and, until late in the 3rd on a 5-on-3 power play, didn’t allow another goal. That could be a big game for Martin’s confidence in himself and his coaches confidence in the goalie. To know that they can trust Martin to fight through a bad start like that is huge moving forward.

It was about 2 of 3 minutes into the second when the North Stars really started to get going. Passes were a little sharper. They were skating harder and working together. It was less scrappy. And eventually they got a goal. Luke McColgan seems to be thriving now that Cam Blair has taken some of the pressure off. Blair is a top line center, a 20 year old and a scorer and play maker. Now the Stars have several centers who can score, more on Taylor Reich in a moment, and teams can’t concentrate on one group. McColgan had 3 assists Friday night. He set up the Stars first goal last night.

A bit of a blunder from the Bombers at the blue line led to a loose puck that McColgan stole. Carrying the biscuit up the left wing towards the left corner got McColgan a nice angle to fire to Ryne Keller catching up on the play in the slot. To be fair the pass wasn’t prefect. It was a little in the skates. But Keller made a great play to kick it up to his stick, make a quick move to the forehand and slide the puck home. That was Keller’s 10th goal of his break out offensive season. Every goal from here on out is a new career high for Ryne.

The Stars looked like they would tie the game in the season. I thought Jack Petrino’s line with Quinn and Greenaway looked sharp and was one of the lines that really helped turn things around with some good shifts in the second. Quinn also hit the crossbar in the third with a nice shot after a good feed by Greenaway.

Blake Young had a shot that he ripped off the post from the slot in the second period. The puck then bounced off Simon Hofley and just wide. Still 2-1 Bombers late second period.

Reed Delainey tied the game with 13 seconds left in the second. Flin Flon is 14-0 when leading after the second period this season. They are just 2-6-0-2 when tied after 40. So Delainey’s goal was huge. The Stars may have come back there’s no way we’ll ever know. But they didn’t have to come back because of great work at the side of the net. Delainey and Reich were digging for a puck and the youngster North Star found it. He then came around the net to the near side on his forehand and wrapped around quickly for the tying goal. Hofley never moved off the far post. I spoke with Taylor Reich after the game and he said he saw Delainey come away with the puck but kept digging for it as if it was still at the side of the net. A heads up play that may have kept Hofley from realizing that Delainey had the puck.

So that made it 2-2 heading to the third. And the Stars really played a solid final period. They got a lead when Reich popped home a rebound after a deflection. Reich is now up to 9 goals on the season and has been providing good offense of late. He and Fountain had two assists last night and that line was very good. Delainey responded well to getting back in the lineup. Fountain loves playing Flin Flon as he now has 6 points in 5 games versus the Bombers this season.

But late penalty trouble let the Bombers back in the game. With Lacoursiere off for interference, his second straight penalty after the Stars killed a holding penalty against the youngest North Star, Kendall Fransoo was pegged for boarding and set to the sin bin. Not the hardest hit I’ve ever seen to be honest and I felt like the Bomber forward didn’t do a lot to try and stay on his feet but a penalty was called. Erik Pedersen then set up Austin Calladine on a nice feed cross crease and the Bombers leading scorer tied the game. A big goal late in the game for a team that’s struggling against a team that is rolling. So you can understand why Flin Flon was so fired up about the goal.

But Pedersen’s celebration was a little excessive. He spent a lot of time celebrating on his own while staring at the North Stars bench. He also gave it to them a little bit as he skated by for the fly by of his bench. That may have fired up the North Stars bench. Hockey is such an emotional game and the team that wins is usually the team that controls and channels their emotions in the right way.

Luke McColgan channeled his emotions. And scored the game winner. The Stars were still short handed after the tying goal with Fransoo in the box for over a minute. But the North Stars PK battled through and kept it 3-3. Not long after getting back to even strength it was McColgan scoring the winner. He crossed the Bomber blueline with speed, cut the left and stick handled around a couple Flin Flon players. Then turned up the left wing on his forehand towards the top of the far faceoff circle. Then he fired an absolute lazer past Hofley at the near post up high to make it 4-3.

The Bombers got the net empty but couldn’t find a tying goal. Calladine taking a roughing call for punching Ryne Keller 3 times in the face while they battled in the slot in front of Darren Martin with 15 seconds left didn’t help. That allowed the Stars an offensive zone face off that relieved the pressure. Flin Flon got the puck to the other end in the final seconds but one last save from Martin wrapped up the game.

The Stars end up 0-2 on the power play, the second lasted just 15 seconds at the end of the game, while the Bombers went 2-6 on the man advantage. But after a slow start the Stars responded really well

And that response turned out to be huge as both Humboldt and Kindersley lost in regulation last night. The North Stars are a point out of the division lead with Kindersley still having a couple games in hand. And the Stars are 6 up on the Broncos who also have games in hand.

For the North Stars a nice come back win and a good fight back after a slow start means they have won 11 in a row. McColgan and Gudmandson for sure will both be in the running for weekly SJHL honours. The Stars should move to #1 in the SJHL power rankings. They could move into the top 20 in the CJHL rankings as well. All in all a lot going the North Stars way right now because the team and the staff are working to make thing go their way!

Game #46 – North Stars at Flin Flon Bombers – Whitney Forum

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 27-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars have now won 10 in a row after last night’s 3-0 win. Jake Erickson opened the scoring on a power play in the first period. Luke McColgan’s pass to the slot didn’t work out. But the puck got through to the left point and Erickson was able to fire home with McColgan in front screening.

The Stars got another first period power play and I thought they scored. McColgan went wide and took a shot from a sharp angle blocker side on Simon Hofley. It hit iron and then from my angle looked to clearly be across the line by an inch or two. All 3 of the North Stars scratches, who had a similar view to mine, also thought it was in. But the ref wasn’t able to see it, his view was blocked and he wasn’t in great position because the puck had turned over and moved up ice so quickly, and the goal judge didn’t turn the light on. So either it wasn’t in, the North Stars video is inconclusive, or it was just missed.

The Stars didn’t complain, most of them didn’t realize it was in, and about 30 seconds later Jake McMillen scored to make it 2-0. McMillen found a rebound in front and fired a back hand shot past Hofley.

Parker Evans-Campbell had a late chance but his spinning back hander from the side of the net hit the crossbar.

Early in the second the North Stars made it 3-0. Luke McColgan stole a puck near the blue line and spun and fired a quick shot. Hofley stopped it but couldn’t control the rebound and Igor Leonenko was on hand to fight off a check and pop the rebound to the back of the net. At that point the North Stars took over.

Cam Blair was robbed in front as he went back hand but couldn’t get it up over Hofley. Jake Erickson and Latrell Charleson each had a good chance in the slot that was turned away. Nick Fountain had a chance stopped and the Hofley also turned away Regan Yew twice on the rebound. Late in the second Leonenko made a nice pass to Blair and the newest forward spun and found Young in the slot. Again though Hofley stood tall. Blair could have had a goal and 3 assists in that middle frame. Offensively that line is starting to generate some real nice chemistry.

The rest of the game was goaltending. Gudmandson and Hofley couldn’t be beat as the North Stars tender repelled several good chances including once glove save that was reminiscent of Patrick Roy. The shot was likely going wide but it was a nice looking save anyway. Gudmandson’s rebound control was excellent all night. That’s what stood out for me and the number of shots that stuck to him was impressive.

The North Stars best chance of the third period came when Luke McColgan got a partial break short handed. During a 4 on 3 power play for the Bombers the Stars center had a good rush up the wing and his shot hit Hofley in the mask. McColgan came very close to a 4 point game.

In the end the North Stars got a power play goal, didn’t allow a power play goal against, generated a lot of scoring chances and Gudmandson made 28 saves for the shutout. Plenty of positives for the North Stars.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars and Bombers have met 4 times this season with the North Stars taking all 3. The Stars have wins of 2-0, 4-3 and 3-2 in a shootout. Plus last night’s 3-0 victory. Michael Gudmandson is 4-0 against the Bombers with 2 shut outs. Igor Leonenko has a couple of goals against the Bombers this season and has looked good since returning from Christmas break.
  • Big Games: Once again tonight we will have to keep a close eye on the out of town scoreboard. Estevan hosts La Ronge. Humboldt is in Melfort. Yorkton welcomes Kindersley. Again, a huge night in the SJHL playoff races. The North Stars need to focus on their game and taking care of their business and we as fans will keep an eye on the out of town scoreboard.
  • 10 in a row: The North Stars now have the longest win streak in the SJHL this season at 10 games. They also have the league’s longest losing streak. The North Stars have the league’s longest road winning streak. They are tied for the longest home winning streak. They also have the longest home losing streak. The only streak category they aren’t in is the longest road losing streak. It would be kind of cool to lead all of those categories but mostly it’s just cool that the Stars lead the win streaks.
  • Gudmandson: The North Stars goalie is now 5th in the league in wins! With 14 on the season only 4 goalies have more wins. Gudmandson has only made 16 starts with the North Stars. His goals against and save percentage numbers are now almost identical to Ryland Pashovitz for the league lead. Gudmandson is now second in the league with 4 shutouts. Only Kale Thomson has more with 6. A pretty solid bet for goalie of the week as well. Depending on what happens tonight of course.
  • Score First: The North Stars are tied for the league lead with 26 games where they have scored first. In those games the North Stars are 21-4-0-1. Flin Flon has scored first 21 times and are 15-5-0-1 in those games. So the first goal, as always, is key.
  • Balance: The North Stars are 4th in the league in goals for per game and 4th in the league in goals against per game. The North Stars allowed 57 goals against in their first 16 games. They’ve allowed 59 in the 29 games since then. That sound you heard was my mind blowing up. 3.56 goals against per game up til November 1st. 2.03 goals against per game since. 1.89 goals against per game if you take away that strange 6-5 loss to Melfort back in December. Think the North Stars are tough to score on? Wow.
  • Slow Down: After tonight’s game, the North Stars have just 1 game in 13 days. They are off til Thursday, play Nipawin, and then are off again until Friday the 7th of February. That’s a stretch that will allow teams to make up the games in hand they have on the North Stars and even though the Stars don’t play a lot in that time frame there will be games to keep an eye on and it will be a key phase of the season. After tonight’s game the North Stars only have 10 games left in the regular season!
  • Team Building: With the schedule coming up the North Stars will have some chances to do some team building. They have a team trip coming up. And of the course the ice fishing derby. This is a tight nit group, they didn’t collapse after a slow start in part because they are so close, but chances late in the season to team build before the playoffs are rare. I think it’s a good thing for the North Stars.
  • Fans: I mentioned the fans that came out this weekend to support the North Stars here in Flin Flon. Well some time last week a North Stars fan bought 6 of the guys their lunch when they were out at a local restaurant in the Battlefords. I’ll mention it tonight on the broadcast but they wanted me to thank Perry for the generosity. Right now the North Stars are right at the league average for attendance. Hopefully that increases down the stretch. But the Stars must be close to the league lead in best fans.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Tighten Up – The Stars felt like they gave up a few too many scoring chances last night. They will want to tighten things up tonight. Just 4 gals against in their last 5 games and they want to tighten up. That’s the level this team is striving for.

2) Dead and Gone –  The North Stars had a lot of chances last night themselves. Hofley was excellent, especially in that second period, but the Stars will feel like they can bear down and finish off some more of those chances. Kill of the Bombers if they get a lead. They did kind of let the Bombers hang around last night even though in the end it didn’t matter.

3)  I Got Mine – North Stars head coach Kevin Hasselberg said on the post game show last night that he likes the way the communication is developing between Leonenko, Young and Blair. Communication is such a big key. And in Flin Flon with strange bounces off the boards it’s a key to be talking at all times.

North Stars Lineup:

Martin
Gudmandson

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Lacoursiere – Robin Yew

McMillen – McColgan – Keller
Young – Blair – Leonenko
Quinn – Petrino – Greenaway
Fountain – Reich – Delainey

Scratches: Heinrich, Charleson, Regan Yew

Game #45 – Battlefords North Stars at Flin Flon – Whitney Forum

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 26-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars skated to a 3-1 win over Humboldt. Cam Blair scored twice in the first period and Michael Gudmandson was only beaten once all night making 37 saves for the win. Taylor Reich added a late empty netter for the North Stars.

For more on the game check my post game report here.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars and Bombers have met 3 times this season with the North Stars taking all 3. The Stars have wins of 2-0, 4-3 and 3-2 in a shootout. Michael Gudmandson is 3-0 against the Bombers. Nick Fountain has 2 goals and Dillon Forbes 3 assists versus Flin Flon in head to head games. Austin Evans, now with the Bombers, had 2 goals for the Stars versus FF.
  • Former Players: The Bombers have a couple former North Stars and two great young men, in Casey Parker and Austin Evans. Evans was traded for Cam Blair at the deadline. So far with the Bombers Evans has no points in 4 games. Parker has yet to make an appearance. For Blair it will be a big weekend. Back in Flin Flon for a few days where he spend the last 3.5 seasons and is still the team’s leading scorer this season. Blair will take to the ice at the Whitney Forum as a visiting player for the first time and that will be strange I am sure.
  • Hot versus not: The Bombers are currently on a 4 game losing skid after dropping a 6-3 decision against Melfort on Wednesday night. In their last 10 games the Bombers have juts 2 wins and they have slipped to 12th in the league standings. The North Stars have won 9 in a row and are now up to 5th in the league standings. They are now 4 points back of Kindersley for the division lead with the Klippers still having 2 games in hand.
  • 5 on 5: The North Stars haven’t given up a goal at even strength in over 3 games. The last 3 wins for the Stars have come with just 1 goal allowed in each game. And each of those goals was scored on the power play. Yorkton’s Brett Boehm was the last player to score against the North Stars at even strength back in the first period of the Stars win over the Terriers. The North Stars have also gone 4 straight games now with just 1 goal against. A sure fire way to win a lot of hockey games.
  • Stingy: As a further aside, the North Stars have allowed just 12 goals in 8 games in 2014, or if you prefer, 1.5 goals against per game in that span. A couple of those were against the high powered La Ronge offense as well. Right now the Stars defensive structure seems to be pretty dialed in. When playing coach Hasselberg’s system well the North Stars are very difficult to score against. And they are playing it very well right now.
  • Fans: Several North Stars fans are making the trip to Flin Flon for the pair of weekend games. The Whitney Forum with all it’s history and atmosphere is one of those rinks everyone needs to check out at least once. It’s a wonderful place to watch a hockey game and although it does present some challenges it’s also a great place to play.
  • Big Weekend: The North Stars have a pair of games in Flin Flon. The Kindersley Klippers have road games in Melville and Yorkton. Humboldt hosts Yorkton and visits Melfort. It’s way too early for a weekend or a series of games to be decisive but this could be a big swing weekend. The Broncos win over Kindersley on Wednesday night means the Stars are only 4 points back of the Klippers but the Klippers have 2 games in hand. Interestingly for Flin Flon, after these two home games versus the Stars, the schedule has plenty of road games coming up. The Bombers, battling for a playoff spot, play 7 of their next 8 on the road following Saturday’s game. Humboldt plays this weekend as well. They host Yorkton tonight. That’s a big game.
  • Back to back: The last time the North Stars played back to back games in Flin Flon was the 2011-12 seasons. The two teams split the games. Last season the Bombers had just 2 home back to back series. The Bombers took both in a home back to back with Kindersley. And split a home back to back against the visiting Humboldt Broncos. This season on November 8th and 9th the Bombers and Broncos split two back to back games at the Whitney Forum. In the last 3 seasons. only 3 teams out of 10 have taken both games on a back to back trip to Flin Flon. Weyburn, Melville and Humboldt all did it back in the 11-12 season. Different teams, different seasons and nothing is set in stone but I wondered if Flin Flon was a tough place to go and win to straight games and it turned out that it is tough.
  • Strength of Schedule: I spent some time Thursday morning trying to compare the schedules of the North Stars and Klippers the rest of the way. Just out of curiosity more than anything else. The Stars average opponent the rest of the way, not counting head to heads with the Klippers to close the season, has 39 points. The Klippers average opponent, not counting the Stars, has 44 points. (I rounded up) So that’s a slightly tougher average opponent for the Klippers.  The North Stars play 60% of their games against teams below .500 as of today’s standings. The Klippers play 58% of their games against teams above 500. Again slightly tougher for KK. Both teams have 5 home games remaining. The Klippers have 7 road games to the Stars 5. But the Klippers have the best road record in the league and the third best home record. What does this all tell us? Nothing really. Both the North Stars and Klippers are hot as of late. Both are capable of stringing wins together and winning on the road in tough buildings. All I know is that anything can happen down the stretch.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Penalties – These are two of the league’s top 3 in terms of penalty minutes this season. Last time they met the two teams were both 0-4 on the power play and each team took a major as Sam Williams fought Kendall Fransoo. The North Stars aren’t being scored on much 5 on 5 so they may as well keep the game at even strength.

2) Netminders –  Since trading Devin Buffalo the Bombers have struggled to keep the puck out of the net. They’ve allowed 19 goals in the 4 games since Buffalo was dealt. They are 0-4 in those games. The North Stars have two goalies who are rolling right along. If Flin Flon gets comparable goaltending to the North Stars they’ll have a chance on home ice. If they don’t?

3)  Crowd The crowd in Flin Flon is always a part of the story and they make for a great atmosphere. The North Stars will have support as some local fans are making the trip plus some parents. The Stars need to embrace trying to quiet the crowd and embrace the role of villians.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Erickson – Schmidt
Forbes – Fransoo
Robin Yew – Charleson

Young – Blair – Leonenko
McMillen – McColgan – Keller
Greenaway – Petrino – Quinn
Regan Yew – Reich – Fountain

Scratches: Delainey, Heinrich, Lacoursiere

North Stars win tense encounter with Broncos

The Battlefords North Stars won another close hockey game last night as they claimed their 9th straight victory.

The Broncos came out of the gates quickly and jumped out to an early lead in the shot department. But Michael Gudmandson made several good saves to keep the game scoreless. It took the Stars about 4 or 5 minutes to really get going and I thought they played very well for the final 15 minutes of the opening period.

Cam Blair was poised for a big game for the North Stars and he had just that last night. The Drake, SK native apparently always plays well against the Broncos, Humboldt is the team he grew up near. Blair opened the scoring when Blake Young was able to work the puck back to the right point. Latrell Charleson’s point shot was deflected by Blair. The puck fluttered up into the air and landed near the goal line. With Pashovitz down the puck eventually trickled in. I’m not sure if Blair got a second touch or if the initial deflection went in. It didn’t matter though as the Stars got in front.

Later in the period with the Stars controlling the play it was Blair scoring again. This time he found himself all alone in the neutral zone. Kyle Schmidt found him with a perfect stretch pass. Blair made no mistake in alone on Pashovitz. The puck was rolling but Blair didn’t panic and snapped a perfect shot past the blocker and just inside the post.

The Stars took a couple of late penalties in the opening period. And the Broncos capitalized when a point shot was stopped by Gudmandson. The rebound was bouncing around and the Stars couldn’t clear before Kyle Oleniuk poked it under the North Stars goalie and in. That made it 2-1 Broncos.

The highlight of the second period was Ben Greenaway landing a huge punch on Justin Lund that knocked the Bronco forward down to the ice. It was a great punch that ended the fight and sparked the Stars. At that point the Broncos had really been playing well. They had a strong second period. Gudmandson was forced into 16 saves in the middle frame even though most of them seemed to come from the outside and were easily handled.

The North Stars came out and dominated the third period. They were in such control that pretty early on coach Dean Brockman used his timeout to try and rally the Broncos. It didn’t work. it was tense and tight and still just a one goal lead for the Stars but they were never not in control in that final period. Cam Blair was set up in the slot by Blake Young and Blair flashed an incredibly quick release. But Pashovitz made the save with the blocker whe nit looked like Blair’s shot was destined for the top corner.

Ben Greenaway had a good game and his line was on the ice late and were able to hem the Broncos in their own zone meaning they didn’t get the goalie pulled and the extra attacker on the ice until just after the final minute began. The Stars did a good job blocking shots and clearing the puck and maintaining their single goal advantage.

With 10 second to go Blair got the puck free near the Stars blueline, Blake Young fired ahead to Taylor Reich who hit the empty net to wrap up the victory.

After the game, coach Hasselberg was pleased with his team’s effort. The way they dominated the third period. And he was happy with the line combinations. Igor Leonenko with Blair and Young certainly impressed. I am sure Young will end up with 2 assists once the scoring plays are corrected. And Blair should end up with a 3 point night.

Quinn, Petrino and Greenaway had a very good game. McColgan, McMillen and Keller showed flashes. Reich was with Fountain and Delainey and that line might need a little more time to gel.

Coach Hasselberg also point out his team hasn’t allowed a 5 on 5 goal in three straight games. And over 220 minutes of play has gone by since Brett Boehm scored a 5 on 5 goal for Yorkton in the first period of a game on January 11th.

The North Stars got some help with Estevan and Yorkton losing as well last night. So all in all it was a great night and the North Stars roll continues. They’ll look to make it a double digit win streak on Friday night in Flin Flon.

Game #44: North Stars host Humboldt Broncos – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 25-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars beat the Notre Dame Hounds in St Walburg as part of the Hockey Day in Saskatchewan festivities. Jack Petrino scored the game winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Taylor Reich also scored. Darren Martin picked up the win in net.

The North Stars and Hounds on ice with the Stanley Cup in St Walburg

The North Stars and Hounds on ice with the Stanley Cup in St Walburg

Storylines:

  • National Radar: The CJHL Weekly Top 20 Rankings were released yesterday and for the first time this season the North Stars appear on the list. Currently an honourable mention the North Stars strong play over the last 3 months has the team on the verge of being a top 20 team in Canada. Other SJHL teams? Kindersley is 12th and Melville 14th. A couple seasons ago the North Stars peaked as high as #4 in the country. In the scheme of things it doesn’t mean much. But it’s nice to know that people have noticed the results the Stars hard work has been garnering.
  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars and Broncos face off for the final time this regular season. Humboldt won the first three meetings with the Stars winning the two most recent matchups. Back at the start of January the Stars beat the Broncos in a home and home. The Stars won 4-0 in Humboldt and 5-3 at the Civic Center. One of Humboldt’s wins this season against the North Stars was in a shootout. So in head to head games the Stars have 5 points (2 wins and a shootout loss) while the Broncos have 6 points (3 wins). The winner of tonight’s game wins the season series. For potential tie breaking reasons that could be huge. Ryne Keller leads the North Stars with 5 points in 5 games versus Humboldt.
  • Standings: The North Stars are 2 points up on the Broncos in the Kramer with tonight’s game having a huge impact. If the Stars win? They are 4 up and the Broncos would have to pick up 5 out of 6 points during their 3 games in hand to move past the Stars. The Broncos win and the two teams are tied and the Broncos have 3 game sin hand to take a lead on the North Stars. It’s a massive 4 point game at the Civic Center tonight. Plus the North Stars are still battling with Estevan and potentially Yorkton for playoff positions as well. Estevan is playing Notre Dame this evening so again we will be scoreboard watching.
  • Hot versus not: The Broncos have been slow out of the gates in 2014 with just 1 win in 5 games. They’ve scored 9 goals in that span with 5 coming in their lone win. In November and December the Broncos were rolling and almost never lost. They’ll be looking to get back to winning ways and they will be looking at tonight’s game as a big chance to kick start 2014. The North Stars are unbeaten in the new year and looking for their 9th win in a row. This is the second 8 game win streak the North Stars have compiled this season. They have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games played which is the same record as Kindersley has in their last 10.
  • Goals: The North Stars have scored just 6 goals in their last 3 games as the Hounds made it tough on the North Stars to score. Notre Dame especially did a good job against the North Stars power play. The Broncos are tough to score on with Ryland Pashovitz sporting a 1.41GAA and a save% of 95.4 on the season so far. Interestingly though, Pashovtiz’s numbers against the Stars aren’t close to that. In 3 games head to head against the North Stars he is carrying a 2.92GAA and 90.4 save percentage. Solid numbers but not at the level he’s had against the other teams in the league. For some reason the Stars have been able to score on the league’s favourite for rookie of the year.
  • Schedule: The North Stars have a road trip to Flin Flon this weekend after tonight’s big game. They are then home for 5 straight. What a great time of the season to have a home stand of that nature. After the bus gets back from Flin Flon the North Stars won’t play a road game for almost a calendar month. The Broncos on the other hand play 7 of their next 8 games on the road. I’m not sure right or wrong way to build a schedule but both teams have very interesting schedules and it will be fun to see how it plays out. By the way, the Broncos are in Kindersley tomorrow night. So it’s important for them to get this week off to a good start.
  • Crowds: The North Stars have been around 900-1000 fans for their last couple home games. It’s a Tuesday night which will likely mean a smaller crowd tonight but hopefully with it being Innovation Credit Union 2-for-1 Tuesday, and with it being Humboldt, we will get a good crowd. Also I wanted to mention the fan that was at the game the other night and banging a drum. I don’t know a lot of details but I hope that fan comes back tonight and bangs the drum again. It adds to the atmosphere. 99% of the other fans love it. And I know the North Stars players and staff all enjoy it.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Road Game – The North Stars record the past couple years against Humboldt is actually better at the EPA than it is at the Civic Center. So while I am not suggesting the North Stars play a road style or treat this like a road game. There are lessons they can take from their successes in Humboldt that they can apply to their home games. And they did beat the Broncos at the Civic Center back on January 4th.

2) Traffic –  I actually asked coach Atcheynum after the Stars game in Humboldt on January 3rd if the North Stars had some scouting on Pashovitz that was helping them score against him. They don’t. They’ve just done a good job getting traffic in front of the net and making life hard for the young goalie. So they need to keep doing that regardless of who is in goal tonight, because just like the North Stars, the Broncos have a great goalie tandem.

3)  Intensity The Stars have always found success against the Broncos when they’ve been at their most physical and intense. They have to mange the puck well and use their speed and physicality to their advantage. Try and grind down the Broncos D over the course of the game.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Charleson – Yew

McMillen – McColgan – Keller
Young – Blair – Leonenko
Quinn – Petrino – Greenaway
Fountain – Reich – Delainey

Scratches: Heinrich, Lacoursiere, Regan Yew

Local teams win in St Walburg

Hockey Day in Canada was Saturday and SaskEnergy Hockey Weekend in St Walburg was also this weekend. Three local teams played games in St Walburg as part of the event on Saturday and I know all 3 were honoured to be a part of the celebration.

The town of St Walburg and the volunteers at the arena were fantastic yesterday putting on a fantastic event that was enjoyed by everyone I talked to. They also took care of Matty and myself as we were lucky enough to broadcast three straight games.

The Female AAA Battleford Sharks won for just the second time this season. They didn’t look like a 2 win team though. After falling behind 3-0 early in the second period the Sharks took over. Alyssa Alger and Laura Harper scored as the Sharks controlled that middle frame. Rachel Mitchell slammed the door shut after giving up the third goal. She was excellent. But it was still 3-2 Swift Current with 30 seconds to go.

The Sharks were in the process of pulling the goalie but Jetta Derenoski didn’t need the help. She used incredible speed to burn the Wildcats D and from the blueline in she was in alone. Derenoski made no mistake going over the glove and under the bar to score the tying goal. The Sharks then won in the shootout after neither team did much in OT. Brooke Lonoway scored the game winner. Rachel Mitchell picked up her first ever midget win. What a great start to the day.

The Midget AAA Stars dominated the Beardey’s Blackhawks in their game. But it took until late in the first period for the Stars to take a lead. It was Josh Laframboise scoring for the Stars. That’s not a surprise as he has been on a roll as of late. 12 seconds later Bruce Neufeld scored to make it 2-0. Kaleb Dahlgren scored late in the second to make it 3-0 heading to the third. The only reason the score wasn’t more lopsided was the strong play of Kyle Rahier in net for the Blackhawks. Laframboise scored two more in the third before scored short handed to wrap up the scoring. Laframboise, who had a hat trick today against the Saskatoon Contacts, has 18 points for the Stars in 5 games so far in 2014.

The Stars outshot Beardey’s 50-15 and Ryan Rewerts made all 15 saves for the shutout. The Stars beat Saskatoon today by a score of 5-1. They have won 7 in a row. And they’ve allowed just 4 goals in 5 games so far in 2014.

So the Battlefords teams were 2-0 on the day heading into the final game. The North Stars versus the Notre Dame Hounds.

Darren Martin picked up the win as he got the start for the Stars. For the second straight night the Stars won 2-1 over the Hounds but this time in regulation. Tanner Quinn made a great play to set up Taylor Reich in the first period and Reich opened the scoring re-directing the puck into the top corner after the great rink wide feed from Quinn.

Ram Brar scored to tie moments later on the only shot that beat Martin. Brar just jammed at the puck from the side of the net and it went in off Martin. A power play goal for the Hounds to make it 1-1. The second period the North Stars PK was the story as they killed 4 of 4 penalties that were called. Martin was a big part of that success and it was still 1-1 heading to the third.

The North Stars best chance in the second was set up by Ryne Keller but Cam Blair hit the post. In the third the Stars out shot 11-9 and eventually one of those shots beat Alexi Thibodeau. Jack Petrino’s hard shot from near the blue line beat Thibodeau low along the ice. There was a partial screen and the shot fooled the goalie who otherwise had a strong game. Petrino ended up with 2 points as did Tanner Quinn.

The Stars went 0-2 on the man advantage and the Hounds were 1-6. Martin is now 9-7-1 on the season with a 2.51GAA and a strong .911 save percentage. Petrino has 5 points in 7 games so far in 2014.

The North Stars finished the job as the three local teams went 3-0 in St Walburg. Hockey Weekend in Saskatchewan wrapped up today and was a huge success. Thanks to all who made it happen and made us feel so welcome yesterday.

Next up for the North Stars is a game Tuesday night at the Civic Center against Humboldt. That’s a huge game and I can’t wait.

Game #43 North Stars versus Notre Dame – St Walburg Arena

Today is hockey day in Saskatchewan here in St Walburg. We are live on CJNB/CJNS all day with a triple header of hockey action.

The Female Midget AAA Sharks just came from 3-0 down to beat Swift Current 4-3 in a shootout. What a start to the day! That’s the Sharks second win of the season.

Next up is the AAA Stars taking on the Beardey’s Blackhawks.

Tonight at 7:30 the North Stars take on Notre Dame. Since we will be here in the booth all day and live on the air all day I won’t be able to post the usual pre-game blog. But you can tune in to CJNB/CJNS to check in on the AAA Stars game and we will talk a little about the North Stars game coming up throughout the broadcast.