The Melville Millionaires have had their share of struggles this year, but one thing that has been consistent is the play of forward Damian Bentz.
The soon-to-be 20 year-old (his birthday is this Sunday) leads the Millionaires in goals with 13 despite not having played in a game since Jan. 1 and prior to missing the last two contests the 5-foot-9, 160-pound product from Punnichy, Sask., had notched five points in his previous two outings giving him 13-15-28 totals on the season.
Bentz, who is closing in on eclipsing his totals from last year (he had 31 points in 47 games with Melville), was back in action this week when he competed with Team Kunitz at the inaugural SJHL/MJHL Showcase in Regina. Bentz picked up where he left off prior to his absence as he tallied a shorthanded goal in a 4-2 win over Team Belfour and then added an assist in a 5-2 decision over Team Zajac.
After three seasons of playing with the Yorkton franchise in the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League, where he registered 48 goals and 50 assists in 120 games and was named a second-team all-star in his final campaign, Bentz began his Junior “A” career with the West Kelowna Rockets of the British Columbia Hockey League last season. That stint on the other side of the Rockies only lasted four games, however, as he was brought back closer to home in a deal that only cost the Millionaires a player development fee.
Bentz finished his rookie season second in team scoring with the Millionaires, but Melville missed out on the post-season by just two points. This time around, the Millionaires appear to be headed for a post-season berth, but it will take continued consistent play from Bentz and others to hold off Yorkton and La Ronge.
A former ninth-round pick of the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft, Bentz has enjoyed a modestly successful career at the Junior “A” level. His play at the Showcase undoubtedly got noticed and getting the Millionaires back into the post-season will only pad his resume. With one more year of junior eligibility remaining, that portfolio, and the Millionaires, will only get better.
The Notre Dame Hounds are one of the youngest teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and one of the youngest players on that squad is 17-year-old forward Zack Kosteniuk.
Still eligible to play at the midget level, Kosteniuk has been a huge contributor to the Hounds’ success this season scoring 11 times and assisting on nine others in 37 games.
The 6-foot-0, 180-pound forward from White City, Sask., was recognized for his efforts when he was named to Team Schwartz for the inaugural SJHL/MJHL Showcase held in Regina this week. Although he was held off the scoresheet in two games he undoubtedly gained valuable experience playing against the best of his age class.
Kosteniuk moved up to the Junior “A” Hounds after spending the last two seasons with Midget AAA Hounds of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. In 86 regular-season games with that squad he posted 20 goals and 44 assists while also helping Notre Dame capture the league championship as a 15-year-old during the 2015-16 campaign.
Kosteniuk has consistently been recognized for his abilities as at almost every level he has been called upon to play for a higher calibre team. While playing Bantam AAA with Notre Dame, where he tallied 45 points in 38 games, Kosteniuk appeared in six games with the Midget AAA Argos and in his final season with the Midget AAA Hounds he was brought up for one game with the SJHL’s Hounds. Kosteniuk has also appeared in the Western Canada under-16 championships where he played in four games.
A sixth-round pick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2015 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Kosteniuk could possibly chose that route in the future, but for now he is focused on helping the Hounds finish as high as possible in the regular-season standings. Notre Dame is in a fierce battle with three other teams to place in the top six and avoid an opening Wild Card round in the playoffs and with continued improved play from young rising stars like Kosteniuk they could be a real threat when the post-season starts in just under two months.
After keeping his suitcase packed early on in the season, Merek Pipes appears to have found a nice landing spot in La Ronge. Pipes began the year in Yorkton, and moved on to Nipawin where he played (and won) one game, before ending up with the Ice Wolves. There, despite routinely facing 40+ shots a night, Pipes has maintained a .500 record, and in 12 appearances with the Ice Wolves, has a .912 save percentage, while averaging 41 shots per 60 minutes of action.
In Chance Longjohn's 20-year-old season, he will more than likely eclipse the goal and point totals of his previous two seasons, combined! The forward from Maskwacis, AB had very respectable outputs in first two campaigns, putting up 12-goals and 28-points as a rookie, and then bettering that last year, with 14-goals and 30-points. At Christmas this season, Longjohn had 19-goals and 46-points in just 33-games. Hounds' Coach/GM Clint Mylymok said "What school wouldn't want a shutdown centre who can score? I don't know how many nights he'll stop the other team's top line, then you check the scoresheet and he's also put a couple pucks in or set up three."
20-year-old defenseman Clayton Eisler is poised to lead the Melville Millionaires in points by a blueliner this season. He enters the New Year with 25 points (12g-13a) in 36 games. That already gives him career highs, after an impressive 11-goals and 22-points a year ago, when he played in all but one regular season game. The Edmonton product is sure to be a coveted addition to a post-secondary roster should be decide to pursue that avenue. With plenty of season left, Eisler and the Millionaires have roughly a 10 point cushion built up to try and return to the post season after missing it a year ago.