BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS vs MELFORT MUSTANGS
BETWEEN THE PIPES: This is, likely, where the series will be decided. Neither team has an abundance of scoring punch; but both have solid Junior ‘A’ veterans between the pipes.
The North Stars will go with Connor Creech, who was sixth in the league in goals against average while playing in 40 of the club’s 54 games. His post-Christmas numbers of 2.34-GAA and .927-SPCT are better than his overall regular season marks of 2.52 and .912. As I’ve said all season, he’s the biggest key for the North Stars and any playoff success they may enjoy. He’s backed up by Casey Parker, who kept improving as the season went along and isn’t at all rusty after getting the start in the regular season finale this past Sunday.
The same could be said about Melfort’s playoff success and Jesse Wilkins. Wilkins fended off a challenge from Patrick Johnson for his number one spot at midseason and played fourteen of the last twenty games, going 6-7-and-1 with a 2.90-GAA and a very impressive .921-SPCT after starting the year with a 3.67-GAA and .897-SPCT from September through the middle of December. Johnson will back him up and Gavin Holcomb won’t hesitate to use him should Wilkins struggle or the team need a spark.
OTHER NOTES: The North Stars won the season series 4-2 with none of the six games going into overtime or a shootout...Battlefords has the league’s 6th best powerplay, but were ranked 8th on the penalty kill. Melfort was 8th with the man advantage and an impressive 4th killing penalties...The Stars have been consistent in the first and third periods of games, but have given up considerably more goals then they’ve scored in the second period. Melfort seems to finish strong with more goals for than against in the third period...It’s, therefore, not surprising that if Melfort h as the lead after two periods the game is pretty much over (13-and-0). The Stars, though, have won a league high four games when trailing after two...Battlefords had eight players score more than ten goals and Kyle Hall was tops with 19. He also led their team in points with 43. Brody Luhning scored ten of his thirteen goals on the powerplay. Tanner Quinn led the team in goals after Christmas with 9 in 21 games. ...Jay Aasen led Melfort with four powerplay goals. Their top powerplay producer was Logan Sceviour (12 powerplay points). Anthony Pickering had a team high three shorthanded goals. Godric Tham had a team best five game winners. Brandon Sloan led the team in points with 40 and Brandon Formosa was the team leader in goals with 18. All nine of Sceviour’s goals came after Christmas. In fact, the Mustangs got improved offense in the second half (Sceviour 19-9-9-18, Tham 20-9-9-18, Sloan 20-8-9-17, Zentner 20-4-12-16, Saunderson 20-3-10-13, Formosa 17-6-7-13).
CONSENSUS: Stars are heavy favorites, but don't discount the Mustangs, who got improved offense in the second half and Wilkins has deceiving overall numbers as he was much improved down the stretch.