Game #55 – North Stars host Kindersley Klippers – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 34-17-0-3

Broadcast Info:

  • 1050 CJNB in the Battlefords
  • 102.3 CJNS in Meadow Lake
  • Listen Live: http://www.cjnb.com
  • Battlefords Coop Pregame Show – 7:15
  • Puck drop – 7:30

Last game recap: – The North Stars beat the Notre Dame Hounds back on Sunday, 3-0 the final. The Stars got a first period goal from Reed Delainey and a second period marker from Cam Blair to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. That’s where Darren Martin was at his best. With his mates looking a little tired Martin made 15 saves to preserve his first SJHL shutout. The North Stars did a great job keeping shots to the outside and protecting the front of their net. Delainey got his second when he scored into an empty net.

The North Stars were 2-6 on the power play and killed all 6 Hounds power plays including a double minor in the third period when Igor Leonenko took an undisciplined penalty. The North Stars have now won 4 in a row and 17 of their last 19 games.

Storylines:

  • Kramer Division: The Humboldt Broncos did the North Stars a huge favour earlier this week when they came from 3-1 down late to beat the Klippers 4-3 in a shootout. That means the North Stars have a chance to win the division and claim the second seed heading into playoffs. Do grab that division title the Stars must win both of this weekend’s games in regulation.
  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars have really struggled against the Klippers this season. Kindersley has won 5 of the 6 meetings with the Stars only win coming in a shootout. In that win the Stars were up 3-0 early but had to score a goal in the last second to force overtime. The Stars have let the Klippers get under their skin at times this season and taken too many penalties. In their last 23 games against Kindersley the Stars are 9-13-0-1.
  • Ticket Redemption Night: Tonight is the North Stars annual ticket redemption night. Basically old tickets from previous games will get you into tonight’s game. So if you have some lying around that you didn’t get to use then tonight is your night. Give them to your friends. Your family. Random strangers on the street. There should be a large crowd at the Civic Center tonight. Last year there were 1,500 fans for the final home game and the year before 1,800. Ticket redemption night is a big night for packing fans in the Civic Center. And tonight’s game has so much meaning that hopefully the weather won’t keep people away!
  • Awards: The North Stars will give out their annual player awards prior to puck drop tonight as well. Like I said, this is a huge game. I will post the award winners on the blog tomorrow as well as some of my own personal awards.
  • League Title: The Klippers still have plenty to play for as well. On top of wanting to get at least a point to clinch the division the Klippers can still catch Yorkton for first place overall in the league. They would need some help though with the Terriers needing to lose their remaining games.
  • Healthy: The North Stars are pretty close to healthy at this point in the season. A few guys may be a little banged up but it is safe to call all of the North Stars scratches tonight healthy other than Darren Martin. He has been sick and will be out tonight. Michael Gudmandson was likely to get the start anyway and he will be backed up by Midget AAA standout Ryan Rewerts. That means the Stars have some decision to be made when it comes to the lineup in terms of skaters. The Klippers can not say the same. They have been playing recent games without top players Cody Young, Cody Thiel, and Gio Bombini.
  • Road Warriors: The Melville Millionaires are done for the regular season after tonight’s home game. They have no more road games. No other team is close to the North Stars in terms of road wins. With a 18-7-0-2 record, and one game left on the road, the Stars will close the 2013-24 season as the best road team in the SJHL. 3 seasons ago La Ronge had the best road record and 2 seasons ago it was Humboldt. Both won the league. Last season Melville was the league’s top road team but Yorkton took the league title. It bodes well though as the top road team in the league has enjoyed playoff success.
  • Goalies: The North Stars Darren Martin won the SJHL’s Goalie of the Week award after going 2-0 this past week with a shutout and just 1 goal against. Martin has won that award twice this season. Michael Gudmadnson has won it 3 times. There have been 21 goalie of the week awards handed out and the Stars have won 5 of them. Since Gudmandson claimed his first in late November there have been 13 weeks. So in the last 13 goalie of the week awards 5 have gone to the North Stars. Another stat that bodes well for the Stars. The Stars and Notre Dame Hounds are the only teams with 2 goalies who have won the award and the Stars are the only team with 2 multiple winners.
    [Goalie of the Week Awards: Michael Gudmandson 3, Isaish Plett (Melville) 3, Kale Thomson (Yorkton) 3, Tyrell King (Kindersley) 3, Darren Martin 2, Alexi Thibedeau (Notre Dame) 2, Devin Buffalo (formerly Flin Flon) 2, Brett Soles (Notre Dame) 1, Rylan Parenteau (Weyburn) 1, Jack Romanuik (Melfort) 1]

Game Notes:

  • Head to Head Scoring: Blake Young leads the North Stars with 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points in head to head games versus Kindersley. In 6 games this season versus the North Stars Colby Daniels has led the way for Kinderlsey with 9 points including 3 goals. Cody Thiel also has 3 goals and 7 points in 4 games. Gio Bombini and Brandon Lauder have been at a point a game in head to head games.
  • Discipline: The North Stars troubled with the Klippers this season have stemmed from penalties. Ryne Keller, Nick Fountain, Jake McMillen, Kendall Fransoo and Ben Greenaway (Austin Evans as well although he is now a Flin Flon Bomber) all have double digit penalty minutes against Kindersley this season. The Klippers don’t have anyone with more than 8 PIMs in games against the Stars this season.
  • Out Shot: Kindersley has been out shot 27 times this season compared to 25 times when they have out shot their opponents. When they win the shot battle the Klippers are 21-3-1-0. When they lose on the shot counter they are 12-10-2-3. The North Stars are 9-3-0-1 when they are out shot. Which means they have fired more shots on target in 41 games this season.
  • Ever Present: If Ryne Keller is able to play in both games this weekend he will finish as the only North Star to play in every game this season. It would be the first time in his 3 years in the league that he has accomplished that feat. Forbes, Fransoo and Young have all cracked the 50 game mark. Erickson, Reich, McMillen and Charleson can all do it if they play this weekend.
  • Streaking: Cam Blair is on a 4 game goal streak. Kindersley’s Stefan Seel has 4 goals in his last 4 games including 2 in the Klippers most recent game against Humboldt.
  • Play With a Lead: The two teams combined have 1 regulation loss this season when leading after 2 periods. The Klippers are 26-0-1-2 while the Stars are 19-1-0-3. Both teams have 4 regulation come from behind wins when trailing after 40.
  • Getting Better: The North Stars won 8 in a row earlier this season. In those 8 wins, most of which were by a goal, the Stars goal difference was just +11. When they won 13 in a row they were +25, or roughly 1.9 goals per game more than their opponent. On their current 4 game win streak the Stars have scored 16 goals and allowed just 3. That’s +13 for goal difference. The Stars are 17-1-0-1 in their last 19 so there is nothing controversial in saying they are playing their best hockey of the season right now. But I think last week’s 4 games was maybe even better than during that 13 game streak.
  • Penalty Killing: The Klippers are the top PK team in the league. The North Stars are third in the league. The teams combined have 10 short handed goals. Both teams have great penalty kills.
  • Familiarity: By my count, I went through old game sheets so pardon any errors, Dillon Forbes has played 14 games versus the Klippers in his last 3 seasons. Tanner Quinn is also at 14 and Ryne Keller is at 15. Colby Daniels for the Klippers has played 14 games versus the Stars. Talk about getting to know a team and a player. Daniels played midget AAA for the Battlefords Stars on the same team in 2010-11 with current team mate Cody Thiel as well as current North Stars Dillon Forbes, Ryne Keller, Blake Young, as well as Regan and Robin Yew. (That Stars team also featured current Swift Current Bronco captain Colby Cave and current Humboldt Bronco forward Dylan Fluter.)

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Discipline – I mentioned it earlier but the North Stars have taken too many penalties this season versus the Klippers. But it isn’t just staying out of the box. It’s having the discipline to play your own game. The Stars have to play North Stars hockey and impose themselves on the Klippers.

2) Hit – The North Stars appear to be pretty close to healthy. The Klippers appear to be a little banged up. Even if both teams were healthy it wouldn’t change the fact that the North Stars are at their best when they are hitting and hitting hard. It fatigues the other team and energizes the North Stars and should energize what I am hoping is a big crowd.

3) Tending: – Both teams have very good goalies. The duel between Gudmandson and King, should that be who starts, will likely go a long way to deciding the game.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Rewerts (AP)

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Charleson – Robin Yew

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

Scratches: Lacoursiere, Regan Yew, Leonenko, Martin

Kramer Division Comes Down to Final Weekend

The Battlefords North Stars may or may not have been watching the scoreboard last night. But I sure was! And I was experiencing disappointment for most of that game. But all of a sudden I was excited and nervous as the Humboldt Broncos scored twice in the last 2:17 of regulation to force overtime. I sat on the edge of my seat for OT and the shootout and Matty Ryan and I celebrated when the Broncos won that shootout.

With a late, dramatic, come from behind shootout victory the Broncos ensured the Kramer Division title battle between the Battlefords North Stars and Kindersley Klippers will come down to the final weekend of the season. The North Stars still have a lot of work to do. They have to win both games this weekend in regulation to win the division. With a division win comes the #2 seed in the playoffs and home ice in the first two rounds of the playoffs if the #2 seed gets that far.

So it’s a big weekend now and that’s a big win for the Broncos.

Friday is the next North Stars game and it’s at the Civic Center. It was already going to be a big game for several reasons. It is ticket redemption night. Any unused tickets can be used to get into Friday night’s game. The North Stars will be handing out their season awards before the game as well. Plus there will be Wings upstairs in the Hot Stove Lounge before the game. And a coaches corner interview after the game. There is even more happening so check out the North Stars Facebook event page for more info.

The North Stars need a big crowd on Friday night at the Civic Center as they look to pick up a regulation win. If they do then the Kramer Division title will be on the line at the final game of the season.

—-

Earlier yesterday North Stars goalie Darren Martin was named the SJHL’s Goalie of the Week. Martin was 2-0 last week and allowed just 1 goal. On Sunday in Notre Dame he claimed his first SJHL shutout making 35 saves in the North Stars 4th straight win. Martin has now won the award twice this season. The North Stars as a team have won it 5 times.

For the season Martin is now 12-7-0-1 and has stopped 92.3% of the shots he has faced. Martin is now 6th in the league in goals against average and 3rd in GAA for rookie goalies.

North Stars sweep southern road trip

The Battlefords North Stars went 3-3 this weekend on their southern road trip finishing off with a 3-0 win over Notre Dame last night. They also beat Weyburn and Estevan on their travels.

Estevan's Affinity Place on Friday. The Stars went 3-3 down south. Photo courtesy Lee Erickson

Estevan’s Affinity Place on Friday. The Stars went 3-3 down south. Photo courtesy Lee Erickson

Darren Martin made 35 saves for his first Junior A shutout as the North Stars were able to grind out the victory. For the Stars that’s their 4th straight win and they are now 17-1-0-1 in their last 19 games. Martin is now 4-0 this season against the Hounds as the North Stars swept the 6 game season series.

Playing their third game in three days, and 4th in a 5 day span, the Stars clung to their 2 goal lead in a final period in which they were outshot 16-7. But most of those shots were from the outside as the Stars kept the Hounds from the front of the net. When they did get in close? Darren Martin was there to make every save.

Reed Delainey and Igor Leonenko got back in the lineup as the Stars used fresh legs to help claim the victory. Delainey opened the scoring in the first period with a power play deflection of a Dillon Forbes point shot. Braden Lacoursiere also got back in the lineup and he was solid alongside Robin Yew on defense. Both Latrell Charleson and Tanner Quinn were out of the lineup. Nothing serious just some bumps and bruises for those two. Nick Fountain’s game maybe isn’t suited to the Olympic sized ice in Wilcox and he was a healthy scratch.

Cam Blair scored for the 4th straight game as he got the Stars another power play goal. This time in the second period. Blair had 4 goals and 6 points in 4 games last week. He’s been exactly as good as the Stars hoped when they grabbed him at the trade deadline.

Delainey then got an empty net goal to wrap the game up late. The North Stars went 2-6 on the power play with the Hounds going 0-6. Winning the special teams battle was a big key for the Stars to get the win. With tired legs for the North Stars as the game wore on the Hounds were able to mount the pressure but Martin could not be beat. So he goes 2-0 last week with just 1 goal against as he makes a run at goalie of the week. Dillon Forbes and Cam Blair could also be in the running for some weekly awards.

After a 4 win week and 3 for 3 on a long road trip the SJHL power ranking and CJHL top 20 rankings should be interesting this week as well.

But most importantly? The North Stars still have a shot at grabbing a division title. They need Humboldt to win on Tuesday against Kindersley. For some reason I was under the impression that game was in Kindersley. But it is actually in Humboldt. The Broncos get a win, in regulation or a shootout, and the North Stars will go into their season ending home and home with Kindersley with a chance. The Stars would have to win both, and maybe would have to win both in regulation, but they would control their own destiny.

Game #54 North Stars at Notre Dame Hounds – Duncan McNeill Arena

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 33-17-0-3

Broadcast Info:

  • 1050 CJNB in the Battlefords
  • 102.3 CJNS in Meadow Lake
  • Listen Live: http://www.cjnb.com
  • Battlefords Coop Pregame Show – 4:15
  • Puck drop – 4:30

Last game recap: – The North Stars are now 16-1-0-1 in their last 18 games following a 4-1 win over Weyburn last night at Crescent Point Place.

The North Stars and Red Wings had a bit of a feeling out first period with Michael Gudmandson the busier of the two goalies. He was solid making several key saves. His best was a nice glove save in the second period. But the first was when he was at his best.

Moments after getting a shift “off” to regroup, the Cam Blair line had a real solid physical shift that helped set the tone for the second half of the period. It’s not about what happened before that shift that matters. It’s the way that group responded. And respond they did. That’s what I love about this team and this coaching staff. Everything has a purpose and lessons are learned quickly.

The North Stars had a couple good first period penalty kills as that unit continues to play well. They did get beaten later in the game. More on that in a second. In all the first period was pretty even and the Wings should be given a lot of credit for the way they came out and played in that opening period. This is a good young team that showed a lot of speed and physical play tonight.

I felt the Stars could play a lot better in the second period and they certainly did just that. But the period started on a sour note. Latrell Charleson did not return for the second and his night was done. The big 18 year Surrey, BC native has been so good for the Stars this season but they had to soldier on without him. That meant Jake Erickson and Kyle Schmidt played a ton the rest of the way. As did Dillon Forbes as he skated with either Robin Yew or his usual partner Kendall Fransoo.

Ryne Keller opened the scoring after he was initially stopped by a good save from Rylan Parenteau. Just another in a long line of excellent young SJHL goaltenders that have stood out this season. He’s one of the very best and his save off Keller was a very good one. But Keller was able to pop in his own rebound as he was all alone in front. Erickson and McColgan drew assists on the goal.

The Stars got a power play goal from Kyle Schmidt that was credited to Cam Blair. But after the game it was confirmed that Blair didn’t get a piece of the puck and Schmidt will get credit for the goal. It was a power play goal that made it 2-0.

It maybe should have been a bigger lead for the Stars. Kyle Schmidt and Luke McColgan both hit the bar just seconds apart. And they made different sounds. I thought Schmidt scored and I wasn’t alone. But coach Hasselberg thought the second shot went in. He saw the net ripple. Schmidt’s initial shot did come straight back out to McColgan who fired a blast right back on net and his went straight down. Rapid fire, back to back shots off the iron but no goal given. And really there’s not much that can be done in those situations but to buckle down and get on with the game and that’s what the Stars did.

The North Stars juggled the forward lines a little last night as well. In the third period Nick Fountain moved up to play with Blair and Young. Regan Yew moved onto the line with Reich and Greenaway. And that line clicked. Greenaway found Yew with a nice back door feed. With Parenteau diving across the net to try and stop a shot from Yew the puck was fired back across the ice to Reich. He tapped home the great pass from Regan and it was 3-0 North Stars.

The Wings got one on the power play when Colton Laroque fired into the top corner with a screen in front. That goal came moments after Cam Blair was knocked down from behind while trying to clear the puck. Maybe it should have been a penalty and not a goal. And it was 3-1. So what did the North Stars do? They buckled down.

Tanner Quinn helped Brenden Heinrich keep his composure and then Luke McColgan skated away from a confrontation as the Stars showed good discipline. They didn’t want to give the Wings another PP just after they had scored to get within 2.

With 3 minutes left the Wings pulled their goalie in an aggressive attempt to get back in the game. I liked the move but the North Stars made them pay when Ryne Keller hit the post and McColgan followed up to hit the empty net. McColgan ended up with a goal and two assists, a crossbar/maybe goal, and several notable defensive plays. He was the first star and it was well deserved.

The Stars 5 remaining D deserve great credit for their performance as well. And Gudmandson was stellar again. That’s 3 straight wins for the North Stars and in those 3 wins they’ve allowed 3 goals. Martin and Gudmandson. 7 strong D. 14 very good two-way forwards. 8 forwards with 10 or more goals. This is a loaded team.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 5-0 against the Notre Dame Hounds this season. Almost all have been close hard fought games. They met earlier this week with the Stars winning 5-1 but they pulled away in third period. For a long time that game was close and tight and could have gone either way. This is the Stars second trip to Wilcox. Earlier this year they snapped an 8 game losing streak with a 3-2 OT win. Robin Carlson scored for the Stars before Regan Yew tied the game in the third and Reed Delainey scored the winner in extra time.
  • Balance: The North Stars have 8 players on their roster who have scored 10 or more goals this season. That’s almost 3 full lines of forwards. They have 3 D men with 5 or more goals. That is a ridiculously balanced lineup that can hit you from all angles.
  • Standings: Kindersley won last night beating La Ronge handily. That means, with the Klippers holding the tie breaker, if the North Stars don’t win tonight the Klippers will clinch the division. There was a slight error on the SJHL website which has been corrected. The Klippers own the first tiebreaker so the Norht Stars at the moment still need help from Humboldt. If the Stars win then the Kindersley game against Humboldt would be a very meaningful game for the Kramer Division title. Also, if the North Stars grab a victory tonight they will move into a tie with Melville for 4th in the league. With the Mills holding the tiebreaker there as well.
  • Big Ice: The Olympic size ice in Wilcox always makes for an interesting game. It’s not an easy rink to play in for several reasons. The Hounds always work hard and have a dangerous team. There often isn’t much of an atmosphere in the rink. And it’s a different ice size. But the North Stars have traditionally done well there and know what it takes to win.
  • Southern Sweep: Battlefords can take all 3 for the second time in the last 3 seasons. They did it 2 years ago as well. It’s not easy to do for a number of reasons. They’ve gone 2-1 a couple times and 2-0-0-1 earlier this season. They’ve done so well on these tough southern trips and once again have a shot at a 3 for 3 sweep.
  • Turn Around: The North Stars won here in Wilcox on November 2nd. Including that win their record since that game is 29-5-0-2. 60 of a possible 72 points and a ridiculously good .833 win percentage. The league’s top team is Yorkton with a .708 win percentage this season. It isn’t a fair comparison and I am not saying the North Stars are the best team in the SJHL but……

Game Notes:

  • Goalies: Darren Martin is 3-0 against Notre Dame this season with just 4 goals against and 85 saves on 89 shots. Michael Gudmandson is 2-0 this season against Notre Dame with 3 goals against and 61 saves on 64 shots. Martin’s GAA versus the Hounds is 1.30 while Goody’s is 1.44.
  • Aulie: Sam Aulie is the Hounds top offensive threat with 26 goals in 52 games. Which is a half a goal per game this season. Against the North Stars he has 2 goals in 5 games played and just 3 points. One of those goals, in the most recent game in NB, was a late consolation goal that had no real impact on the game. Aulie and his linemates are very dangerous and the Stars will have to continue to do a good job against them.
  • Last game: This is the North Stars last regular season game this season against everyone other than Kindersley. It is the last game that the departing players will play in the SJHL against Notre Dame on the big ice in Wilcox.
  • BC: Brett Soles and Will Lightfoot are from Cranbrook BC. Ram Brar is from Surrey. Dion Antisin is from Kelowna. The North Stars have players from Kelowna, Surrey and the Cranbrook area on their team. So it won’t just be the Saskatchewan kids who will be familiar with each other.
  • Americans: This game may lead the league in American players. Petrino, McColgan, Erickson and Leonenko for the Stars. Donovan, Cummings, Anderson, and Paris for the Hounds.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Between the Dots – The ice in Notre Dame’s arena is the same length as a normal rink. And it’s the same width between the face off dots. The extra ice is around the outside. The North Stars will find success if they play the game the way they usually do. With puck support in close areas. And get the puck to the front of the net and into scoring areas.

2) Zone Exits –  On the bigger ice passes to the blueline have to be crisp. Soft passes leave too much to do to get out of the zone before the pressure comes from the forecheck. Turnovers leave teams really stretched as they try and regroup. So exiting the zone as a unit with hard passes is key. Speed in transition is killer on big ice as well. Something both teams have and have to be aware of tonight.

3) Wide rushes: – There is more room on the rush out wide and the angles are tough for the goalies as they are different than usual. Former North Star forward Robin Carlson scored off the rush in Wilcox earlier this season. Speed wide and well placed shots are a weapon to be used tonight.

North Stars Lineup:

Martin
Gudmandson

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Lacoursiere – Robin Yew

McMillen – McColgan – Keller
Young – Blair – Delainey
Leonenko – Petrino – Heinrich
Regan Yew – Reich – Greenaway

Scratches: Quinn, Charleson, Fountain

Game #53 – North Stars at Weyburn Red Wings – Crescent Point Place

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 32-17-0-3

Broadcast Info:

  • 1050 CJNB in the Battlefords
  • 102.3 CJNS in Meadow Lake
  • Listen Live: http://www.cjnb.com
  • Battlefords Coop Pregame Show – 7:15
  • Puck drop – 7:30

Last game recap – The North Stars came away with a solid 4-1 win in Estevan last night avenging a couple of tough losses against the Bruins earlier in the season.

There was a real turning point early in the game. And I mean really early. Just seconds after the opening face-off Stars goalie Michael Gudmandson made his best save of the game. A fantastic glove save as he came off his post to rob Austin Roesslein. A pass from below the red line found Rosselin on the left side of the slot. His quick shot was snatched by Gudmandson to keep it scoreless. About 40 seconds later the Stars were in front. Gudmandson made some key saves and some good ones the rest of the way but the first save stands out as his best and maybe his most important.

Moments later, Jake McMillen stole a puck in the high slot and flicked a back hander towards the Bruins goal. Somehow Estevan failed to control the puck and clear it and Luke McColgan burst onto the loose biscuit. He went shelf over a diving Matt Gibney.

The Bruins roster showed just 21 skaters and with 3 scratches they were forced to call up 2 affiliate players. And an ‘AP’ scored their only goal. Another pass out to the slot and Brady Anderson, not the former Baltimore Oriole center fielder, scored past Gudmandson to tie the game. The Bruins then had a good looking power play that threatened. The Stars killed it in the end though. And after that they dominated.

Cam Blair created about 2 scoring chances on every shift he had in the opening period and the final 10-12 minutes of the opening frame was really one sided. The Bruins had a tough time clearing their zone and when they did the Stars D moved quickly to get pucks back in deep. There were several turnovers and chances before Blake Young set up Cam Blair who beat Gibney blocker side with a nice shot to make it 2-1.

The second period was a little more even as the Bruins got into the game a bit. But in that middle frame the shot were just 6-5 in favour of the North Stars. There wasn’t a ton of action although I think the Stars had more than 6 shots. Both teams had 2 second period power plays and there was some 4-on-4 play but no scoring.

The North Stars then came out and played a darn near text book perfect road third period. Hell, it would have been a great period in any rink home or away in the world. They outshot the Bruins 15-6 and spent the vast majority of the final frame controlling the puck in the attacking zone.

Blair set up Blake Young in the slot and Young beat Gibney on the blocker side just inside the post. It was a poise play all around. Regan Yew found Blair on a partial 2-on-1 and Blair made a great play to find the trailer. Young made no mistake. For the second straight game Blair and Young each had a goal and an assist and were the game’s first and second star respectively.

The road team had other chances in the final period as well. Taylor Reich had a couple good chances but Gibney made some nice saves to hold the Stars at bay. Reich did get on the scoresheet in his final game in Estevan. The 20 year Estevan native won a late draw back to Kyle Schmidt who blasted home a shot to round out the scoring. It was nice to see Reich pick up that point in what must have been a special game for him at home for the last time in his junior career. (unless a playoff matchup between these teams ends up on the cards)

There was an interesting moment in the third with the Stars on a power play with about 2:30 left in regulation and the score 3-1. The Bruins chose to go with 3 penalty killers in their own zone and Austin Daae floating at the North Stars blue line. They even called a time out to set that up. It was an aggressive play. But the North Stars handled it perfectly. With a 2 goal lead and 5-on-3 they just kept the puck around the outside and against the wall. There was no panic and no need to give the Bruins the puck. With Estevan unwilling to really challenge the Stars it ended up just killing time with Daae never able to get a chance out of the strategy.

Other than the Blair and McColgan lines up front I thought another real good game came from Braden Lacoursiere. He was solid against Flin Flon as well. With Robin Yew putting in a good shift against Notre Dame it’s now really tough to say who the North Stars will go with from game to game in that spot next to Latrell Charleson.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 3-0 this season against Weyburn. But it has been a grind getting those wins. 3-2(SO), 2-1, 2-1(SO) are the three scores. The Stars had to score late to tie in the first meeting of the season when Brenden Heinrich poked the puck off the stick of the Weyburn goalie and in with less than a minute left. On November 8th Luke McColgan scored in the third period to lift the Stars to a 2-1 win. In the third meeting Dillon Forbes scored the Stars only goal and they had to win that one in a shootout as well. Jake Erickson has 2 assists against Weyburn and in 3 games is the only North Stars with more than a single point. In those three games Rylan Parenteau 114 of the 119 shots he has faced. He is a very good young goalie and that’s fantastic goaltending that the North Stars have overcome. Darren Martin has been equally impressive in his two starts against the Wings stopping 70 of 72 shots faced.
  • Standings: The La Ronge Ice Wolves are in Kindersley tonight and could do the North Stars a huge favour. It’s a long shot but anything is possible in this league. Also, Melville lost in a shootout last night so the North Stars can still keep pressure on the Mills for 4th as well. It would be fantastic to get home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Once again I will be keeping an eye on the out of town scoreboard.
  • Southern Swing: In the 3 years now that coach Hasselberg has been in charge of the North Stars they have had success down south. Earlier this season the Stars went 2-0-0-1 on the 3 game trip losing to Estevan in a shootout when they led with 3 seconds left in the third before giving up the tying goal. Last year the Stars went 2-1 on the trip once. Two years ago the Stars went 2-1 and 3-0 on southern road trips. In the three years that’s  11-4-0-1 in their southern road trip games. That is fantastic success in tough games. Almost always 3 in 3 days as well.
  • Streakers: A win tonight and the North Stars would be on a little mini win streak. 3 in a row. It would be the 5th time this season that they’ve won 3 or more in a row. They’ve won 13 straight, 8 in a row, and 3 in a row twice. Only 3 times this season have they won a single game sandwiched between two losses. Generally if they get 1 win they get several.

Game Notes:

  • Multi-point Men: Cam Blair has multiple points in 4 of his last 8 games with the North Stars this season. Including 2 in a row. Since Blair has been with the team Blake Young as multiple points in 6 of 12 games including the last two games. Blair has a goal and 3 assists in 2 games against Weyburn, while with Flin Flon, this season.
  • Home Cooking: 13 of Weyburn’s 20 wins have come on home ice this season. They have 79 goals at home compared to 69 on the road and they’re goal difference is plus 8 on home ice versus minus 29 on the road. The only thing that Weyburn does better on the road is score on the power play. Otherwise they are a different team at home.
  • Third Period: The Red Wings have been outscored this season by 20 goals. They’ve been outscored in the third period by 23. The North Stars have 60 goals in the third period this season, 14 more than they’ve allowed in the final frame.
  • Playoffs: Weyburn has played a game more than Flin Flon and they are just 3 points ahead of the Bombers. The playoffs are not guaranteed in Weyburn and they need a win. Both the Wings and Bombers are 5-5 in their last 10 but Weyburn has lost 3 straight.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Back Pressure – The North Stars created numerous, almost countless, turnovers last night against Estevan with their back pressure. Any time the opposition tries to skate the puck out of their zone they are in danger because the Stars don’t rest at any time. They hound the puck at all times. That’s an area they can continually have success.

2) Traffic –  It’s been tough for the North Stars to score on Rylan Parenteau this season. So whenever possible the North Stars should be in his face. Deflections, rebounds, greasy goals. Whatever it takes to beat the young tender. Nick Fountain could be a key player tonight.

3) Be Ready: – This is a pretty good young Weyburn team that has played really well in the second half of the season. They’ve played the Stars tough this season as well. This won’t be an easy game and the North Stars will have to be ready to go right away.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Robin Yew – Charleson

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

Scratches: Leonenko, Delainey, Lacoursiere

Game #52 – North Stars at Estevan Bruins – Affinity Place

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 31-17-0-3

Broadcast Info:

  • 1050 CJNB in the Battlefords
  • 102.3 CJNS in Meadow Lake
  • Listen Live: http://www.cjnb.com
  • Battlefords Coop Pregame Show – 7:15
  • Puck drop – 7:30

Last game recap – The North Stars skated to a 5-1 win over Notre Dame two nights ago at the Civic Center. But it was a lot closer than it looks on the surface.

The Stars took a lead in the first period when Igor Leonenko and Blake Young worked a puck to the net and it squirted free to the side of the goal and onto the stick of Cam Blair. He made no mistake, his 4th as a North Star, and it was 1-0 after a very strong opening period for the North Stars.

In the second period the game was a lot more even. The Hounds had several good chances and Darren Martin was excellent in the game but especially in the middle period. Martin made several good saves including the best of the period when he kicked a rebound right to Ram Brar. Martin then made a good hard push and got across to stop Brar, again with the pad, and this time no rebound. Late in the second Martin was able to challenge a shot from Aulie and force the Hound forward to hit the crossbar.

The North Stars pulled away with with a goal explosion midway through the final period. Blake Young faked like he was going in behind the net but instead cut out front and used his long reach to slide the puck around Alexi Thibedeau. A little over 2 minutes later Dillon Forbes blasted a one timer on the power play to make it 3-zip. And just 28 seconds after that Tanner Quinn was set up in the slot and beat Thibedeau with a perfect shot just inside the post on the blocker side.

Later in the period Latrell Charleson scored on the power play as the Stars went 2-6 with the man advantage en route to a 5-0 lead.

The only real down side to the game was that Darren Martin was unable to complete the shutout. A late shot from the point took a bad bounce right in front of Martin and it somehow got through him and to the back of the net. Martin improved his already impressive rookie season stats and showed once again that he is a very viable option whenever Michael Gudmandson needs a break.

The line of Jack Petrino, Brenden Heinrich, and Tanner Quinn had a particularly strong game. Heinrich looked good despite being out of the line up a lot since December. Petrino ended up with 2 points. The whole line of Blair, Young and Leonenko had 2 points and they continue to develop some nice chemistry.

The defense was really solid against Notre Dame as they were able to limit the Hounds offensively and chip in offensively as well. Schmidt (28), Forbes (25), Charleson and Erickson (24) all have over 20 points this season for the North Stars. Any team in Canada would envy that production from the back end.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: I would say the North Stars two most disappointing losses this season have come at the hands of the Estevan Bruins. Back on November 1st the Stars lost a game that they were leading with less than 10 seconds left. The other night at the Civic Center the Stars had a 5-1 lead after the first period and lost in a shootout to the Bruins. On November 30th the North Stars doubled up the Bruins 4-2. So the Stars are 1-0-0-2 against the Bruins this season. Dillon Forbes and Latrell Charleson each have a goal and 4 assists for 5 points in 3 head to head games against the Bruins this season. Austin Daae leads the Bs against the Stars with 8 points in 3 games.
  • Schedule: The North Stars have a busy weekend with 3 games on tap. They play in Weyburn tomorrow and in Wilcox against Notre Dame on Sunday. The Kindersley Klippers were able to beat the Notre Dame Hounds last night 2-0. The Stars can’t really afford a loss at this point in the season if they want to challenge for the division title on the final weekend of the season. The Klippers are 6 points up and have 4 games left. The North Stars would have to win out and hope that Kindersley drops a point against either La Ronge or Humboldt.
  • Final Trip: For the North Stars 20 year old players the regular season is winding down. And because you never know how long the playoffs will last you never know how much hockey is left in your junior career. Add Blake Young to that list as well as he is off to play at Minnesota-Duluth next season. All of a sudden this is the last long road trip of these guys junior career.
  • Family: Jake Erickson has some family in Canada this weekend as they drove up from Minnesota to see the games down at the south eastern part of the province. I believe Dillon Forbes’ parents are making the trip. Taylor Reich is from Estevan and will have family and friends on hand. We may see former North Star Brody Luhning at some games this weekend. And I believe a few billet parents are making the trip as well. The North Stars should have some fan, and family, support this weekend.
  • Team Canada: We were able to watch the game on the bus this morning as we drove south. With Jack Petrino, Luke McColgan, Jake Erickson and Igor Leonenko all on the bus there was a nice rivalry between Canada and the US. Luckily the right team won. It was a great experience and hopefully one that will help the team focus and get energized for tonight’s game.

Notes:

  • Lineups: Will any or all of last game’s scratches get back in tonight? Ben Greenaway, Braden Lacoursiere and Regan Yew will all be ready to go if called upon. And with 3 games in 3 days it will be interesting to see how the North Stars workout the goaltending duties. Gudmandson tonight and tomorrow and then Martin against Notre Dame, a team he has had success against this season? Or will they alternate? Time will tell.
  • Special Teams:  Coaches often talk about that magical number of 100 if you combine the PP and PK percentage. The Stars at 18.3 and 83.6 are at 101.9 when the 2 numbers are combined. The Bruins lead the league in that stat with a combined rate of 105.5. So two of the league’s best special teams units will go head to head tonight.
  • Affinity Place: The league’s shiniest and newest and one of it’s nicest arenas. The city of Estevan can be proud of what they’ve built for their hockey team and the community at large. It’s a great place to broadcast a game with a fantastic view from up high between the luxury boxes. It sets up to be a great game tonight and I will hopefully have a great call for you as I will be sitting in the best seats in the house. The North Stars are 3-3-0-1 in the last 3 years versus the Bruins at Spectra/Affinity Place.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Impose – The North Stars have struggled at times this season against Estevan and teams that play a similar style. They work hard, fly around and hit, and play with a little less structure than some other SJHL teams. And it works for them. The North Stars like to play hard within their system. They need to impose that system tonight and figure out how to combat the Bruins style by sticking to North Stars hockey.

2) Stop Daae –  Hockey is a team game and it will be up to the North Stars to beat the Bruins. But a big key to that happening is if the Stars can limit the damage from Austin Daae. He has 3 goals and 5 assists in 3 games against the North Stars this season. A big chunk of that came last time they met as the Bruins came from 5-1 down to win 7-6 in a shootout.

3) Chemistry: – Forbes and Fransoo. Erickson and Schmidt. McMillen, McColgan and Keller. Young, Blair and Leonenko (Leonenko has 7 points in his last 7 games playing on that line). Petrino and Heinrich. The North Stars have some pretty set combinations that they have relied on when healthy. Reich and Fountain of late have seen a lot of ice together and put up points since Christmas. Latrell Charleson with either Lacoursiere or Yew work well together. The North Stars style of puck possession, puck management and commitment to a team system is certainly aided by that chemistry. The trust of knowing where the other guys will be and knowing that someone has your back at all times. That chemistry is always a key and will be tonight against a team that can really run and gun.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Lacoursiere – Charleson

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

Scratches: Delainey, Leonenko, Robin Yew

Game #51 – North Stars host Notre Dame Hounds – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 30-17-0-3

Broadcast Info:

  • 1050 CJNB in the Battlefords
  • 102.3 CJNS in Meadow Lake
  • Listen Live: http://www.cjnb.com
  • Battlefords Coop Pregame Show – 7:15
  • Puck drop – 7:30

Last game recap – The North Stars lost 2-0 to the Flin Flon Bombers. Bombers D men Simon Derosiers and Cole Nichols scored the goals in the first period, both assisted by former North Star Austin Evans, and that was all the scoring in the game. The North Stars couldn’t find a way to beat Simon Hofley in the Flin Flon net. He stopped 36 shots for the win and the shutout. The North Stars went 0-3 on the power play.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 4-0 so far this season against the Notre Dame Hounds. But all of those wins have been hard fought. The Stars have won once in overtime and once in a shootout. The two most recent meetings both ended 2-1 with the North Stars winning in St Walburg on Hockey Day in Saskatchewan. The North Stars biggest win was back on November 22nd when they won 5-2.
  • Schedule: The North Stars have had a pretty light schedule of late. That all changes starting tonight. The Stars play 4 games in the next 5 days with a big southern road trip coming up starting Friday in Estevan. The North Stars face Weyburn on Saturday night and Notre Dame again on Sunday. Then the North Stars will just have the two home and home games with Kindersley left on the schedule. After tonight the Stars only have one home game left on the regular season schedule.
  • Kramer Division: The North Stars are now 6 points back of Kindersley in the Kramer. But the Stars now have a game in hand on the Klippers. At this point the North Stars must run the table and get some help in order to catch the Klippers. But Kindersley has tough games left against Notre Dame and Humboldt. So that could change but right now the division title is looking like a long shot. That would leave the North Stars in a battle with Melville in a 4 vs 5 seed matchup. And right now the Mills would have home ice. Melville is 7 points ahead of the North Stars but the good guys have 3 games in hand. With just 6 games left, and 4 this week, there is a lot left to play for prior to playoffs.
  • Ice Fishing Derby: On the weekend out on Jackfish Lake the North Stars held one of their annual fundraisers and one of their biggest fundraisers. The Jackfish Lake Ice Fishing Derby was once again a huge success thanks to the work of Darren Huxley and a team of volunteers, sponsors and of course the players and staff of the North Stars. Terrance Grams (what a great name for a winner of a contest involving the weight of the fish) won the grand prize with a fish OVER 11 POUNDS! For more follow the link: http://www.northstars.ca/news_article/show/351267?referrer_id=618157

Notes:

  • Lineups: The North Stars should be close to having a fully healthy lineup again as Brenden Heinrich should be close to a return. There was some concern about Dillon Forbes possibly being suspended after a late penalty against Flin Flon. There’s nothing on the SJHL’s disciplinary report but that’s not always the most reliable source.
  • Shots: The North Stars lead the league in shots on goal and are 4th best in limiting shots against. Every rink seems to be different in what counts as a shot and what doesn’t. And sometimes the shots don’t really seem that accurate. But over the course of 50 games some of that should even out. That’s a large enough sample size to draw a few conclusions. There are some advanced stats in hockey these days like Fenwick and Corsi which are not tracked in the SJHL. But getting shots for and limiting shots against does correlate well to wins. That’s no surprise as the teams who have high shots for and low shots against are Yorkton, Melville and Melfort. Interestingly, Kindersley has more shots against than they have shots for and they get outshot in the third period. Playing with leads and with Tyrell King in goal has allowed the Klippers to get away with that.
  • Tough Division: With a win tonight the Notre Dame Hounds could improve to 22-22-2-5 on the season which would be a .500 record. That would make the Kramer the only division in the SJHL with all 4 teams at or above .500. Right now both the Kramer and Viterra divisions would send all 4 of their teams to playoffs with just 2 Sherwood teams making the dance.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Physicality – The Notre Dame power play on the road isn’t great. And they’ve given up 10 short handed goals this season, including 7 on the road. You never want to take penalties so discipline is always a key. But a couple of penalties that stem from trying to be aggressive and physical aren’t the end of the world.

2) Play with a lead –  The North Stars are +9 (54GF and 45GA) in third period scoring. The Hounds are -10 (42GF and 52GA) in the final frame. The North Stars style is also usually conducive to strong final pushes. This league has been very tough for teams who fall behind this season. The North Stars have great thirds, play well with a lead and win almost every time when they score first. So get a lead to play with.

3) Depth – It might not have as big an impact on tonight’s game but the North Stars have no problem rolling all 4 lines and 3 D pairs. The Hounds have been short handed several times this season against the North Stars in terms of forwards. They’ve used APs and played with 10 or 11 forwards at times. The Stars can use their depth to their advantage and of course their depth will come in handy this week with so many games this weekend to come.

North Stars Lineup:

Martin
Gudmandson

Forbes – Fransoo
Erickson – Schmidt
Yew – Charleson

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

Scratches: Lacoursiere, Greenaway, Regan Yew

Game #50 – North Stars host Flin Flon Bombers – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 30-16-0-3

Last game recap – The North Stars had the craziest game of the season last time out. They led 5-1 after 1. And 6-5 after 2. They eventually lost 7-6 in a shootout to the Estevan Bruins.

It was a dream start for the North Stars as they once again came out flying in the first period. They now have 45 first period goals this season. They are plus 10 in first period goal difference. Plus 9 in the third. And minus 4 in the second.

Jake McMillen opened the scoring on an early power play as he popped in his 3rd goal in 2 games last week. The Bruins responded almost right away as they tied the game against the run of play. It had been all Stars before the Bruins goal and that’s the way it continued.

Midway through the opening frame the Stars grabbed two more quick goals. Igor Leonenko scored two in the first period on his birthday. His second was a beauty as he batted a rebound out of midair to make it 4-1 Stars. That was after Dillon Forbes had scored on the power play for the North Stars.

Reich and Delainey combined to set up Nick Fountain for his 10th of the season with 1:10 left in the first to make it 5-1 North Stars heading to the second period.

And then the wheels came off. The Bruins outscored the Stars 4-1 in the second. A couple of power play goals for the Bruins, both teams went 2-3 on the PP, and Austin Daae and Tanner Froese teaming up repeatedly led to a tie game. Daae ended up with a goal and 4 assists heading to the final period.

But the North Stars had a lead thanks to a late second period goal from Cam Blair. And it kind of felt like it would settle down. The feeling around the rink was that the Stars might just close it out and finish off a 6-5 win.

But it wasn’t to be as the North Stars got a late 3rd period power play but gave up a game tying short handed goal. A bouncing puck eluded Charleson at the point and led to a break for the Bruins. Michael Gudmandson made the initial save but Charleson and Forbes couldn’t stop in time to clear the rebound and Ben Johnstone popped the tying goal into the net.

There was no scoring in the third and Daae was able to score in sudden death in the shootout after the Jake McMillen had missed. Cam Blair had extended the shootout into sudden death but the North Stars couldn’t find a way to pull out the win.

They are now 13-0-0-1 in their last 14 games and haven’t lost in regulation in 2014.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 5-0 so far this season against Flin Flon. And all of those wins have come since late November. The Stars have won close games as well. 3 of the wins have been by a goal. Another win was by a 2-0 score. The two games at the Civic Center have been close as well. So the Bombers have been close against the North Stars but have fallen just short. In the most recent meeting the Bombers led 2-0 and then tied the game late in the third. But the Stars were sparked by some of the Bombers celebrations and Luke McColgan scored the game winner on a great individual rush.
  • Former Team: Last time it was Taylor Reich. This time it’s Cam Blair. He faces his former team for the third time but the first time at the Civic Center. Austin Evans and Casey Parker could be in line to play at the Civic Center for the first time since leaving the North Stars at various points earlier this season.
  • Bad Blood: There was some bad blood brewing last time these teams went head to head. They Stars were in Flin Flon for back to back games back on Jan 24th and 25th. The nature of back to back games means there will be some bad blood spilling over. The North Stars weren’t necessarily happy with their composure at times in those games and will be looking to learn from that experience.
  • Defenseman of the Week: Another weekly award for the North Stars. This time it’s big Surry BC native Latrell Charleson claiming the defenseman of the week award. He joins Dillon Forbes and Kyle Schmidt as winners for the Stars this season. Charleson had 4 points in 2 games last week and now has 25 points in 44 games this season.
  • Point Streak: Luke McColgan has a point in 5 straight games. In that span he has 2 goals and 7 assists for 9 points. McColgan now has 13 points in 13 games in 2014 to go with the 19 he had in 28 games in 2013. Cam Blair has 8 points in 9 games since joining the North Stars on January 11th. In that span McColgan has 10 points in the same 9 games. Clearly the North Stars are enjoying having a little more balance offensively and teams have no idea which line to focus on. Blair is on a current 7 game home points streak and has 10 points in that span going back to just before the trade to the Battlefords.
  • Power Rankings: The North Stars dropped to number 2 in the SJHL’s power rankings despite being 13-0-0-1 in their last 14 games. They have the league’s best record in the past 10 games. And are unbeaten in regulation in the new year. But the Yorkton Terriers are in 1st in the power rankings. Which shows how good the Terriers have been of late. And how meaningless the power rankings really are.
  • CJHL Top 20: The North Stars dropped a spot to number 15 in the national top 20. Yorkton moved up to number 8 with Kindersley staying in at number 17.
  • Schedule: Tonight’s game is the only game on the schedule for the North Stars this week. After today they will be preparing for the Ice Fishing Derby which is Sunday out on Jackfish Lake. And I believe they have a function on Sunday to honour and thank the billets. The Kindersley Klippers will make up their games in hand this week. They play 4 in 5 nights all on the road down south. Notre Dame, Weyburn, Estevan, Weyburn. Wednesday through Sunday. The North Stars need some help to have a chance in the Kramer Division.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Bounce Back – The North Stars suffered a tough loss on Saturday night. Blowing a 5-1 lead and having a 13 game win streak come to an end left them feeling pretty low. So a key tonight will be how quickly they bounce back. They still haven’t lost in regulation since before Christmas. There’s plenty to be excited about.

2) Scoring –  The North Stars have scored 20 goals in their last 4 games, an average of 5 per game. They need to bounce back defensively and get back to being a team that is very difficult to score against, and I am sure they will, but they also need to remember that they are flying offensively. Plenty of players are hot and hopefully continue to have that good feeling and that poise with the puck.

(North Stars top 10 scorers so far in 2014 Points: McMillen & McColgan 13; Blair 10; Young, Reich, Fountain 9; Schmidt & Charleson 8; Petrino 7; Keller 6. Goals: McMillen 8; Reich 6; Petrino 5; Blair 4; Leonenko 4 (in just 7 games); Young, Fountain, Keller 3)

3) Second Period – The Stars have been fantastic in the first and third periods for a couple weeks now. But occasionally, and at home for some reason, they have struggled in the middle frame. It’s not a big deal and they shouldn’t let it get in their heads. It should be a relatively easy fix for a group that has learned so many lessons this season and made so many adjustments. Dominate the second they way they do the first and third? A team that’s 13-0-0-1 in their last 14 could get even more dominant.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Schmidt – Erickson
Charleson – Lacoursiere

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

Scratches: Robin Yew, Brenden Heinrich, Reed Delainey

Game #49 – North Stars host Estevan Bruins – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 30-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars pulled away in the third for a 5-2 win over Nipawin last night at the Civic Center. The Stars came out of the gates strong and put up a pretty dominant opening period. They fired 20 shots on net and Joe O’Brien topped them all. But there were numerous rebounds that bounced just wide or sat in the slot only to be cleared. When the Stars did find the rebounds they were stopped by O’Brien.

Perhaps the North Stars best chance came when Jake McMillen looked like he was going to go in behind the net with the puck but then saw an opening. McMillen stopped and tried to quickly tuck the puck in past O’Brien at the near post. For a moment it was loose on the goalline but the goalie covered the puck before Reed Delainey could find it. The North Stars had 3 power plays in the first period, one was abbreviated, but couldn’t convert.

Michael Gudmandson didn’t have much to do in the first period. He faced just 8 shots and 6 of them came in the final 5 minutes. A good double save off Tad Kozun was followed by 2 or 3 saves on a late Hawks power play.

The scoring began early in the second. For the second straight game Jack Petrino was able to score early in the middle frame. This time he converted from the slot just moments after missing short side with a nifty little back hand. The big goal of the game followed moments later. A loose puck came to Kendall Fransoo in the high slot and he rifled a shot past O’Brien. It may have hit a Hawk on the way but no one cared. There were smiles all around and a massive bear hug from Ben Greenaway as Fransoo celebrated his first ever Junior A goal in game number 69 (including playoffs). The bench was so happy for Fransoo that they then lost their concentration a little and the Hawks got back in the game.

First it was Lockeridge and then Kozun’s 33rd goal of the season less than 2 minutes later and the game was even at 2.

And that’s how it stood headed to the third. And in the final period the North Stars again dominated and scored 3 goals to put the game away. In the second period Igor Leonenko made a nice little move to the backhand to get room at the side of the net with O’Brien no-where to be found. But Igor in trying to roof the puck got it wrong and fired up over the glass and into the netting for a faceoff outside Nipawin territory. Leonenko couldn’t believe it. But he atoned in a big way for that miss when he scored the game winner. It was a 2 on 2 for Blair and Young and they eventually worked the puck to the trailer, Igor. He had a Nipawin Hawk all over him but he showed great strength and determination to keep his stick free and to protect the puck before poking a backhand shot past O’Brien.

55 seconds later the North Stars were cruising. Jake McMillen made a little toe-drag move to get loose just inside the right faceoff circle. He then fired his 15th of the season in off the post and over the blocker of the Hawk goalie. Later int he period McMillen added an insurance marker thanks to a great pass from Latrell Charleson. McMillen was alone at the side of the net and just re-directed the puck into the net.

The Stars out-shot the Hawks 16-6 in the final period and 46-26 overall. Luke McColgan had 2 assists to go along with McMillen’s 2 goals. That line has been playing so well lately. All of the Stars have been playing well obviously because the team is on a 13 game winning streak.

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 1-1 against the Bruins this season with a 3-2 SO loss on November 1st and a 4-2 win on November 30th. That loss in Estevan on November 1st was clearly the turning point of the North Stars season. The Stars had lost 7 straight heading into that one and were 4-12 on the season. They had a lead late but the Bruins tied the game with 3 seconds left. The North Stars deserved to win that game. They played so well. But at that time they just couldn’t find a way to win. Well the next night Reed Delainey scored in OT to beat Notre Dame and the Stars haven’t looked back. It’s almost as if they just decided they were tired of losing and weren’t going to take it anymore. Head to head this season with the Bruins Dillon Forbes, Jack Petrino and Latrell Charleson all had 2 points in 2 games.
  • Streaking: The North Stars have won 8 straight at home. But the streak overall is up to 13. In coach Kevin Hasselberg’s first season with the North Stars they won 9 games in a row just prior to posting a 13 game win streak. So now, for the second time in three seasons as the North Stars GM and Head Coach, Hasselberg has guided his team to 13 straight victories. That is almost unbelievable. Two seasons ago it was Humboldt that ended the streak. The Stars will try and go one better this time around with a win tonight.
  • Former Team: This is a big game for Taylor Reich as he faces his former team once again. Reich has yet to register a point in 2 games against the team that traded him earlier this season. And of course it’s his hometown team as well and he has plenty of friends on the other side of the ice tonight.
  • Home Cooking: The North Stars are 15-2 in their last 17 games on home ice after starting the season 0-7 at the Civic Center. The North Stars have won 8 straight at home. The stars currently have the 6th best home record in the league which is pretty good considering they did get off to such a slow start. The North Stars have the league’s best road winning percentage but the don’t head out on the road again until February 21st.
  • Last Night’s SJHL Action: The Kindersley Klippers came from a goal down to roll to a 5-1 victory over Estevan. Notre Dame ended Weyburn’s winning streak at 7 and Yorkton beat Melville. The Terriers have now won 6 straight and are in first place in the league. Yorkton is on 66 points and they have 2 games in hand on Melville who also have 66 points.
  • Tonight: The Mills will look for revenge but this time the game is in Yorkton. Kindersley hosts Nipawin. The Klippers are still a point ahead of the North Stars and have played 2 fewer games. Weyburn and Notre Dame go head to head again.
  • Crowd: Just under 1,000 fans were at the Civic Center last night. It is so great to see the fans starting to come out to the rink. The Stars average attendance this season is creeping up to 700 with a couple big crowds of late. If the weather was more in line with normals for this time of year the crowds might even be bigger. The fans have stuck with this team and are being rewarded with this win streak and now they are returning the favour by rewarding the North Stars with more and more support.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Good Dumps – The last few games, and in particular the last two against Nipawin, the North Starshave been relentless on the forecheck at times. Every chance they get they are chipping pucks in and chasing them. Or dumping the puck into a corner and then being very physical to try and regain the puck. And it’s working. When they do decide to carry the puck in, with a D man jumping in the rush or someone like McColgan or Leonenko, it is that much more effective because the opposition isn’t ready for it.

2) Limits –  The North Stars did a good job in their head to head games limiting the damage that Nipawin’s top line was able to do. Kozun put up some point against the Stars including a goal last night. But in 3 of the 4 games he was never really able to be a big difference maker. The Bruins have a similarly dangerous player and top line with Austin Daae leading the league in scoring and Tanner Froese in 5th. In the two previous meetings between these two teams Froese has a goal. Daae has 2. Limit those 2 and the Stars have a great chance to do some damage.

3) PK – Daae and Froese are 1-2 in the league in  power play goals and power play points. The Bruins have the league’s best power play at a little over 21%. So the North Stars will need to stay out of the box and the PK will have to be good. The Stars scored 5 times last night at 5 on 5. They have been very good this season at even strength. If this game is played 5 versus 5 the Stars are in the drivers seat.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Rewerts (AP)

Forbes – Fransoo
Schmidt – Erickson
Charleson – Robin Yew

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

Scratches: Martin, Heinrich, Regan Yew, Lacoursiere

Game#48: North Stars host Nipawin Hawks – Civic Center

40TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

North Stars Record: 29-16-0-2

Last game recap – The North Stars have won 12 games straight. They beat Nipawin 4-2 eight days ago at the Civic Center. Check out the recap here: North Stars 4 – Nipawin Hawks 2

Storylines:

  • Previous Meetings: The North Stars are 2-1 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. The most recent meeting saw the Stars jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Hawks scored a couple in the second period to get within a goal but Luke McColgan added an insurance marker and there was no scoring in the 3rd period. The Stars also got goals from Forbes, Young and Petrino. Michael Gudmandson faced the Hawks for the first time this season and picked up the win.
  • Streaking: The North Stars have won 7 straight at home which is tied for the league’s longest home winning streak this season with Humboldt. The Stars won 7 straight at home earlier in the season as well. The Nipawin Hawks have the league’s longest road losing streak which is 9. And that is a current streak that they are hoping to break tonight. If the North Stars get a point tonight they will tie Yorkton, 13 games, for longest home streak with at least a point.
  • Power: The Stars were in top spot on the SJHL’s power rankings, no surprise there as they have won 12 in a row. Michael Gudmandson was on the “Who’s Hot” list and was described as a “fortress”. The North Stars were also moved up from an honourable mention in the weekly CJHL National Top 20 Rankings to the number 14 spot. The Stars are ahead of Kindersley on the list and just one spot behind Yorkton. With a win tonight the Stars would join Melville as the only teams in the SJHL with 30 wins. Yorkton can also reach that mark if they beat Melville tonight.
  • Home Cooking: The North Stars are 14-2 in their last 16 games on home ice after starting the season 0-7 at the Civic Center. The North Stars have won 7 straight at home. The stars currently have the 6th best home record in the league which is pretty good considering they did get off to such a slow start. The North Stars have the league’s best road winning percentage but the don’t head out on the road again until February 21st.
  • Recent SJHL Action: This week has seen the Humboldt Broncos blanked 3-0 by Melfort. The Mustangs are rolling and they have a great shot to win their division. The Nipawin Hawks need wins to keep pace. The Stars now have a 4 point lead on the Broncos and have a game in hand. Staying ahead of Humboldt basically guarantees the North Stars would avoid a survivor series. Weyburn beat Estevan in OT earlier in the week. The Red Wings have won 7 in a row a streak they put on the line tonight.
  • Light Schedule: The North Stars have had 8 days between games and after this weekend’s pair of games they have just one game next week. The North Stars host Flin Flon on February 11th and then have another 8 day break. Next weekend is the ice fishing derby and the North Stars have the whole weekend “off”. They are off in terms of SJHL action but they will be busy with preparing for, and pulling off, one of the team’s largest fundraisers.
  • Team Building: The North Stars spent this past weekend doing team building. They were in Calgary for a Flames game. You may have seen them on HNIC with their cowboy hats on. Cam Blair and Luke McColgan got to ride on the Zamboni during the intermission and the guys took in the game day skates as well. It was a great chance to get away and do some bonding. And it will pay dividends in the long run. They’ve had a good week of practice to prepare for tonight’s game and they should be fired up tonight.
  • Sherwood: The North Stars are facing the Sherwood Division’s Nipawin Hawks tonight. The Stars are 14-4 against Sherwood teams this season. Melfort, Flin Flon, Nipawin and La Ronge are the 4 teams in that division and only the Mustangs are over 500. The North Stars have the SJHL’s best record against the Sherwood. Yorkton is 10-3 against that division. Kindersley is 11-4. The North Stars are 14-4. They are beating the teams that they are supposed to beat which is not easy in this league this season where it seems anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
  • Shootout Specialists: Latrell Charleson leads SJHL D men with 3 shootout winning goals. That’s also the league’s overall best output in that stat. Several other players have 2. No one else has 3. In terms of SJHL D-men with more than 1 attempt, Dillon Forbes is 1-for-1, Charleson has the best shootout percentage as he has gone 4 of 6. The North Stars are 6-2 in shootouts but they are just 8th in the league in SO% scoring 12 of 50 attempts. That’s been enough to win most shootouts because Stars goalies have stopped 42 of the 50 attempts they’ve faced.
  • Helpers: Kyle Schmidt is on a 4 game home assist streak and in that time has 4 assists. The Stars captain is 7th in the league in defense scoring and would be higher but he has the fewest games played of anyone on that list due to some injuries earlier in the season.
  • Double Digits: McColgan’s goal last game was his 10th this season. Leonenko, Blair, Young, McMillen, Keller and now McColgan all have at least 10 goals for the North Stars. Others who could join that club? Taylor Reich and Nick Fountain both have 9. Reed Delainey has 7 and Jack Petrino has 6. Both could crack double digits with a strong finish.

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Be Different – The North Stars have found so many different ways to win games this season that is has become kind of a trend. Last game they jumped out to a big lead, almost lost that lead, took too many penalties (not always their own fault though) and then shut up shop in the third and didn’t give the Hawks a sniff. As the French might say, “Vive la difference!”. The North Stars have embraced that roller coaster nature and learned to harness it. They had games earlier in the season when they collapsed after giving up a few goals. They don’t do that anymore. Whatever happens tonight the North Stars know they have what it takes to find a way to win.

2) Shots, Shots, Shots –  The North Stars have out-shot their opponents this season by over 300. That’s an average of slightly over 6 shots more per game for the Stars. They are also pretty consistent with 581 shots in the 1st, 580 in the second and 566 in the third period. Against? 463 in the 1st, 541 in the second and 452 in the third. The North Stars come out of the gates strong and close strong. And when they have the lead? Their opponents struggle to come from behind because they struggle to get shots. As Luke McColgan showed us last week any shots can lead to a goal and the Stars are good at getting shots for and limiting shots against. If they out-shoot the Hawks tonight they will likely win. They are 22-13 when they get the most shots.

3) PP vs PK – This may have been in the keys last week. But the Hawks PK is second best in the SJHL on the road. The North Stars have the 3rd best home ice power play in the SJHL. So the battle between those units could be a key. The North Stars also took too many penalties in the game 8 days ago. They need a little more discipline. The North Stars also have 5 home ice short handed goals which is tied for the league lead.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Rewerts (AP)

Forbes – Fransoo
Schmidt – Erickson
Charleson – Lacoursiere

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

Scratches: Robin Yew, Regan Yew, Brenden Heinrich, Darren Martin