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.
- 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:
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