SJHL Game #48 – Battlefords North Stars at Flin Flon Bombers

North Stars 2014-15 Record: 24-16-6-1

NorSask North Stars Hockey Broadcast Info:

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

Last game recap: – The North Stars beat the Nipawin Hawks 3-2 last night in a shootout. It was a very fun hockey game at the Cage and I am sure all the fans felt like they got their monies worth after that game.

The Hawks had an early chance in the first period that hit the crossbar. I wonder how differently the game may have played out if that shot had gone in? Not long after the Stars had their first chance of the game when Brenden Heinrich and Nick Fountain had a 2-on-1. Heinrich saucered over to Fountain but he was stopped by Joe O’Brien with a pad save as the Stars forward tried to go to the backhand. The rush drew a penalty though as Fountain was slashed on the play. That first power play moved the puck pretty well but didn’t convert.

Matt Havens had a strong game. In the first he set up Jordan Townsend but again O’Brien stood tall. 5 minutes into the game the Stars were up 5-0 on the shot counter. Brady O’Sullivan was back for the Stars and his first really good contribution came in his own zone as he cleared the puck from the slot after a good rush up the wing from Brandan Arnold. Not long later Spencer Tremblay made a good save and poked the rebound away from his crease to deny the Hawks of another good first period chance.

Kendall Fransoo got a good hit in on Wyatt Hinson. Igor Leonenko then hammered Kris Spriggs but was called for interference. The Stars killed the penalty. North Battleford native Kevin Bendall made his North Stars debut as an ‘AP’ tonight. He made a nice back check defensive play later in the period to help Brock Weston break up a Nipawin rush. The Stars took the lead not long later. The Hawks took a penalty for holding and then a bench minor for their protests. The Stars scored on the 5-on-3. Connor Sych setting up Michael Statchuk to blast a one-timer past O’Brien. Brenden Heinrich drew the second assist. The Stars almost scored on the remainder of the second power play. Brady O’Sullivan got a tip that was stopped and he batted the rebound out of mid-air but just wide. The Stars then had a good late PK that carried over into the second period.

The shots were 12-7 after 1 and the game could have been over after 40 minutes. But Joe O’Brien made several more key saves. Matt Havens was stopped with the glove, Heinrich had a short handed chance turned away twice on the same PK, Leonenko and Havens created chance after chance and one particular scramble I am still not sure how they didn’t score and the Stars remained on just one goal. The Hawks tied it when a pass out front from the wing was tipped home by Spriggs. Tremblay then made a key save on Chase Thudium who was angled off by the Stars defense and stopped on a partial break away. Brock Weston had a good burst in the second period that was stopped and looked to me like a trip but there was no call.

Bryce Hall had a great chance late in the second as the puck came to him on the door step back door. But it was on his back hand and he fired high. It was still 1-1 going to the third despite the shots being 22-17 Stars.

The Havens line had more chances in the third. But as the period wore on it became more and more about Tremblay in the Stars net. He did in the third what O’Brien did in the second. Tremblay denied the Hawks early 3rd period power play with a nice blocker save and then a stop on a deflection. Tremblay slid across to stop Dunlop on another Hawks power play. Later in the frame Tremblay again went post to post for a good save on a one-timer. A shoulder save on Eric Bolden kept the game tied.

The Stars best chance in the third may have been a feed from Fountain to the trailer on the play Jake McMillen but he couldn’t beat the Hawks goalie. The Stars PK also had chances in the final frame including Brady O’Sullivan almost jamming home after a turnover in deep by the Hawks and a Kendall Fransoo shot stopped by O’Brien. Nick Fountain beat Carter Danczak down low but Brenden Heinrich fired of the outside of the goal and out of play.

Late in regulation Jake Erickson fired home with Brady O’Sullivan screening in front. That goal was set up by good work from Havens and then Leonenko who came off the wall on the backhand into the slot and dropped to Erickson who rifled the puck home. It was 2-1 Stars late. But despite a few more highlight reel saves from Tremblay, and a great shot block from Logan Nachtegaele, the Hawks tied the game with 12 seconds left. Carter Coben’s second or third great chance in the last minute ended up past Tremblay. The 6-on-5 goal with the net empty forced OT and eventually the two teams went to a shootout.

Jake Erickson scored the winner on a nice move to the back hand. He was the first shooter for the Stars in sudden death after Statchuk, Leonenko and Havens had missed. All 4 Hawks shooters were unable to get the puck past Tremblay.

The Stars got another win and this time on the road, without Saharchuk and Delainey in the lineup. Jake Calverley is out with a suspension as well. Jake McMillen was okay to play and was good. O’Sullivan returned and had a strong outing. Bendall did not look out of place. Lots of positives for the Stars as they won the special teams battle as well. To win IN Nipawin against some of the obstacles in front of them was a great result from the Stars after a great performance.

Storylines:

  • Final Meeting: This will be the final meeting this season between the Stars and Bombers. Why is it a big game? Well the Bombers, along with Nipawin and Notre Dame, are battling for playoff positioning. They are also the teams the North Stars are chasing in hopes of avoiding a survivor series playoff. This is a chance for the Stars to control their own destiny and gain points in the standings on the Bombers. The Stars are 5 points back of the Bombers and Hounds and have played 2 more games than both those teams.
  • Schedule: The nice thing about the North Stars trying to chase down the teams ahead of them? They play each other. Notre Dame has games left against Nipawin and Flin Flon has 3 games on the schedule versus Nipawin as well. Only one team can win those games although I am sure there will be an overtime or two. Notre Dame’s schedule down the stretch looks to be pretty tough. In the end though all the Stars can control is how they play. Get the most points you can with strong play and see what happens.
  • Offense: The Bombers have scored the most goals in the league this season. They have 3 more goals for than Kindersley and they’ve played a couple fewer games than the Klippers. They have Kocur, Boehm, Rauckman, Switzer and Allison all at a point a game or higher. Tyler Bell is a defenseman who has 9 goals in just 32 games played so far this season. The Bombers can really put the puck in the net. They appear to be struggling to find consistent goaltending but if they do find that at some point? Look out.
  • Final Trip: At this time of year it is interesting to note that this could be the final game that some of these players will ever play in Flin Flon. This morning at the rink here in Nipawin as the Stars were loading the bus and doing their pregame meetings I had a chance to wander around and check out the rink a bit. You never know when you’ll see a place for the last time. Maybe I am just a sentimental guy but the Whitney Forum is a special building in this league that I will be appreciating tonight.

Other Notes:

  • Last game’s Canadian Tire 3 Stars: 3) Michael Statchuk 2) Jake Erickson 1) Spencer Tremblay
  • Last game’s San-Berg Collision Collision of the Game: Igor Leonenko
  • Head to Head:
    Flin Flon 5 @ Battlefords 3 (Dec 20 2014)
    Flin Flon 3 @ Battlefords 0 (Dec 19 2014)
    Battlefords 4 @ Flin Flon 3 (OT) (Oct 11 2014)
  • Out of Town Scoreboard: No other games

Some Keys for the Stars:

1) Tight – The Stars have to keep things tight at the back tonight and have to keep a tight lid on the pace of the game. They can’t get into a run and gun style game with the Bombers. Flin Flon’s offense is just too good for that. The Stars will have to play a similar style to last night’s game. Be solid in their own zone as a team and defend well.

2) Special Teams (Again) – The Bombers have the league’s best power play coming into tonight’s game and they score on 22% of their chances on the man advantage. The Stars PK is getting back to top form after a bit of a blip. They are back to battling with Kindersley and Melfort for the best PK in the league. That’s going to be a big battle whenever the Stars take a penalty. But the game could be won or lost by the North Stars power play. It’s going to get chances and it will need to connect. The Bombers are 15-3-3-1 at home and their PK at home is killing 87% of the penalties they take. The Bombers weakness may be in their own zone so when the Stars get chances tonight on the power play they need to capitalize.

3) Be Alert – Bell, Chartrand and Lishchynsky are all in the top 20 in scoring for defenseman this season in the SJHL and Bell and Lishchynsky have done that while playing in just 32 and 29 games respectively. The Bombers have forward lines that can really score and attack and the Stars will be ready for that. But they can’t forget to stop the Bombers back end as well. Being alert and aware of danger at all times in their own zone will be a key for the Stars.

North Stars Lineup:

Tremblay
Rewerts

Erickson – Statchuk
Fransoo – Sych
Weston – Vermeulen

O’Sullivan – Havens – Leonenko
Nachtegaele – Kanter – Mitchell
Fountain – Hall – Heinrich
Townsend – Bendall

Scratches: Delainey (inj), Saharchuk, (inj), McMillen (inj), Calverley, (susp)

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