Playoffs Game #3: North Stars at Estevan Bruins – Affinity Place

40th Anniversary Season – 2014 Kramer Division Champions

North Stars Regular Season Record: 36-17-0-3

Best of 7 Series: Series tied 1-1

Schedule:

Game #1 – Estevan Bruins 4 – Battlefords North Stars 1
Game #2 – Battlefords North Stars 2 – Estevan Bruins 1

Game #3 – Battlefords North Stars at Estevan Bruins, Tonight @ 7:30pm – Affinity Place
Game #4 – Battlefords North Stars at Estevan Bruins, Wednesday March 19th @ 7:30pm – Affinity Place

Game #5 – if necessary) – Estevan Bruins at Battlefords North Stars, March 21st @ 7:30pm – Civic Center

Game #6 – (if necessary) – Battlefords North Stars at Estevan Bruins, March 23rd @ 7:30pm – Affinity Place

Game #7 – (if necessary) – Estevan Bruins at Battlefords North Stars, March 25th @ 7:30pm – Civic Center

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 bounced back on Sunday night with a very solid effort and a 2-1 victory to even this series at a game a piece. But it wasn’t a great start.

SJHL President Bill Chow was on hand to present Michael Gudmandson with his Kramer Division MVP award. The Stars netminder was fishing the puck out of his net not long later. The Stars came out flying and earned an early power play. But a D to D pass along the blueline was picked off by Austin Roesslein and he raced in alone and beat Gudmandson. That was the only shot that got past the Stars netminder all night. He stopped 26 shots in the end to pick up the win.

Cam Blair scored later in the period on the power play to tie the game. It was his second of the playoffs. A shot from the slot appeared to change directions and slide underneath Gibney.

The only other goal of the game came in the second period. Nick Fountain stole a puck in the left face-off circle. He looked up to find a play and the seas parted. A huge lane opened up for Fountain to go right to the net and fire a perfect shot up under the crossbar on the short side. 2-1 North Stars and that was the final score.

But it wasn’t easy. The North Stars PK had to be great as they gave the Bruins 6 power plays. I thought the North Stars were very physical in game #2 and that will pay dividends as the series moves along. The line of McColgan, McMillen and Leonenko was good after the two Macs struggled a little in game 1. McMillen had a great chance in the second period as he cut around a check into the shot but his shot was gloved by Gibney.

Dillon Forbes made a great play to break up a 2 on 1 and Gudmanson stopped a break away at one point after a turnover at the Bruins blueline and a lucky Estevan bounce. Latrell Charleson missed the game with a suspension and it’s a credit to the play of Robin Yew and Braden Lacoursiere that Charleson’s absence wasn’t really felt. He will be back for game 3 tonight but the Stars know they have plenty of depth on the back end.

The one area that showed improvement I thought was the face-off circle. The Stars were better in game #2 and need to continue to improve. Reich, McColgan, Blair, Petrino and Delainey are all more than capable of winner 55-60% of their face-offs. And with Keller and Regan Yew around as well the Stars have a plethora of face-off winners if the need arises. Speaking of Petrino I thought he was very good in his return. And Igor Leonenko created several chances with his big frame and great hands.

So all in all it was a good win with plenty of positives and lots to build on.

Storylines:

  • Home Ice: The Bruins have stolen away home ice advantage and for the first time in the series will play on home ice. Game #3 in a 7 game series is a huge swing game. The Stars can steal home ice right back. The Bruins can get back in front and protect that home ice that they grabbed in game 1.
  • Road Warriors: The North Stars were the SJHL’s best road team in the regular season. The won at a rate of .714 in the regular season on the road. No one else was close to that mark. In fact only Yorkton and Kindersley had better winning rates on home ice than the Stars had on the road. A road split would be great for the Stars.
  • Odd man rushes: The North Stars gave up another couple odd man rushes last game. That’s still something to watch as the series moves forward.
  • Home Coming: You never know what the Stars will do with their lineups but as long as he plays I think Taylor Reich is going to have a big game today in front of the home town crowd. He’s not been as influential in this series so far as he was in the final two games against Kindersley. The Stars 20 year old forward is capable of doing a little bit of everything to help his team win and I expect playing in his home town and in his old home barn he will have a really good game tonight.
  • Preparation: The North Stars came down south yesterday and stayed an extra night on the road. They won’t have bus legs to shake off in the warmup tonight. They will have a whole day of a regular routine prior to the game. It’s all designed to give the team the best chance of performing to their maximum. It’s important that they use that time and prepare in the right way.
  • Back to Backs: The North Stars set up their schedule with a bunch of back to back games in January and February to prepare for the playoffs. They knew that the playoffs would likely turn up match-ups that would lead to overnight back to back games. They wanted to prepare for just this time of situation and it will be interesting to see how it works.
  • Game 5 Tickets: After the split of the first two games we now know for sure that the Stars and Bruins will play a game 5 Friday night at the Civic Center. And tickets are now on sale for that game. Tickets for game 5 at the Civic Centre are now on sale and available through the team’s website, by going to the Civic Centre during office hours or calling the office at 306-445-7827. For more check out http://www.northstars.ca

Game Notes:

  • Roger Neilson Award: I was reading about La Ronge forward Sebastian Beauregard winning the Roger Neilson Award which is given to the player who:
    a) Displays fair-play and honest dedication to the game of hockey.
    b) Embodies the values of the League and his team.
    c) Is dedicated to fair play and sportsmanship throughout the season under all circumstances.
    And I was pleased to see that Beauregard is sharing the award with Battlefords North Stars captain Kyle Schmidt. Two very deserving winners.
  • Affinity Place: The newest and nicest of the SJHL’s modern arenas is always a real treat. I get a great view of the action and a little area all to myself to concentrate on the broadcast. It’s everything a guy could ask for as a broadcaster. I am really looking forward to being there for a playoff game.
  • Blair: Cam Blair has scored in 5 of 6 meetings with Estevan this season. He has scored in both games so far in this series.
  • Discipline: Interestingly the Stars gave up more power plays in game #2 than they did in the first game and yet I thought they were more disciplined. I didn’t like a lot of the calls against both teams. It’s the playoffs. I say let these guys play. Staying out of the box will be key.
  • Losing Streak: Sunday night’s win for the North Stars snapped a franchise 5 game playoff losing streak. That stretched back two seasons to a game 6 OT loss to Humboldt. And of course last season’s sweep at the hands of Melfort. It was a streak that wasn’t likely to last long. Nice to have it over with.

Some Keys for the Stars:

(Michael Gudmandson provided help with today’s keys)

1) Poise – The North Stars made a great poise play last game and it ended up being Nick Fountain’s great game winner. They showed increasing poise as the game went on. Everything ramps up during the playoffs and things happen very quickly. That makes the poise that the Stars showed in the regular season even more important.

2) Forecheck The North Stars are at their best when they are on the attack hunting down the puck. Get pucks deep and then go get them back. Guys like Brendan Heinrich who had 9 hits last game are huge keys for the Stars in a potentially long series. The more time the Stars spend on the forecheck the less time the Bruins great forwards will spend with the puck.

3) Traffic – Gudmandson thought the Stars did a better job getting to the front of the net last game. But says they can still do even more to get traffic in front of Gibney. The Bruins goalie has been excellent so far in the series and right now if he sees the puck he stops it. So the Stars will try and make his life difficult and make sure he can’t see some of the shots coming his way.

North Stars Lineup:

Gudmandson
Martin

Forbes – Fransoo
Schmidt – Erickson
Charleson – Robin Yew

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

Scratches: Lacoursiere, Delainey, Regan Yew

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