By Craig Stein
50 GOALS IN 52 GAMES, JUST 3RD SJHL’ER SINCE 2000
(Photo courtesy: Melfort Mustangs)
Melfort Mustangs forward Justin Ball took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Jake Hobson in the second period of Wednesday’s 6-4 win in Melville, and quickly snapped it into an open side of the net for his 50th goal of the season, in just his 52nd game of the year.
In doing so, Ball became the first SJHL player to reach the 50-goal plateau since Travis Eggum of the La Ronge Ice Wolves notched 58 during the 2010-11 season, when the Ice Wolves won their second straight championship.
Since the year 2000, Ball is just the third player to hit 50 or more, as fellow Mustangs’ forward Garrett Cameron potted 53 in the 2002-03 campaign.
“I had an idea it hasn’t been done a lot, but I honestly try not to think about it. It’s pretty exciting though, I’m pumped. I’m a team-first guy. The points and personal success are always nice but as long as the team’s winning I’m happy.”
The 20-year-old from Saskatoon saw his production skyrocket this season, compared to his totals from ‘AAA’ Midget and onward. He had three and nine goals respectively in two seasons with the Saskatoon Contacts (SMAAAHL), eight goals as a rookie with the Mustangs in 2016-17, then had a break-out year last year with 24-goals and 48-points. He’s doubled those totals as a 20-year-old sits with 50-goals and 95-points, still with six games left to go.
“I’m more surprised than anyone at the success I’ve had. I have to give credit to my linemates (Carson Albrecht and Tanner Zentner for the most part) they’re a big help. It’s just been going the way it’s been going, I try not to think about it, just go out there and play and do what I can, and success just seems to come.”
With the Mustangs’ Wednesday night win, they broke out of a tie with Battlefords and are now alone in 5th place in the overall standings, but they have their sights set on more. 4th place would mean home ice in the Quarter-Finals against a tough opponent, whoever it is, and they’re now just one point back of Humboldt for that spot with two games in hand. More than that, top spot in the Sherwood Division and the league is still attainable as Melfort now sits just four points back of Nipawin. The Mustangs and Hawks both have six games remaining but two of them are head to head on March 1st and 2nd, meaning Melfort could control their own fate if they’re able to sweep. Ball says knowing they could still finish anywhere from 1st to 7th, it puts their mindset in a good place before the post-season.
“It’s like playoff hockey already. They’re exciting, tense games and the best games to play in. We’re just going out there playing as hard as we can and that’s all we can ask for.”
At the mercy of some third party stats websites somewhat, it appears Ball is the 15th player since the start of the 1989-90 SJHL season (last 30 seasons) to score 50 or more goals in a single season, and there’s some NHL content in that company.
Justin Ball, Melfort – 50 (2018-2019)
Travis Eggum, La Ronge – 58 (2010-2011)
Garrett Cameron, Melfort – 53 (2002-2003)
Kevin Marushak, Kindersley – 63 (1998-1999)
Chris Kunitz, Melville – 57 (1998-1999)
Kevin Doell, Melfort – 54 (1998-1999)
Scott Markowsky, Melfort – 54 (1998-1999)
Mark Hartigan, Weyburn – 59 (1997-1998)
Wes Dorey, Weyburn – 57 (1996-1997)
Jerry Cunningham, Lebret – 50 (1996-1997)
Jason Duda, Melfort – 60 (1995-1996)
Kyle Miler, Nipawin – 52 (1993-1994)
Evan Anderson, Estevan – 51 (1991-1992)
Devin Edgerton, Humboldt – 71 (1990-1991)
Brett Stewart, Humboldt – 50 (1989-1990)
Ball also sits at 95 points, five shy of the 100-point plateau, something Battlefords forward Layne Young was able to eclipse just last year, but prior to that, it hadn’t happened since La Ronge teammates Travis Eggum and Marc-Andre Carre each had 106 in 2010-11.