By Craig Stein
HAWKS & STARS WIN TIGHT FINALES TO TAKE TWO TWO SEEDS
The SJHL’s regular season needed overtime in the final game of the final night to completely shake out the standings and post-season matchups.
In the end, the Nipawin Hawks and Battlefords North Stars were victorious in one-goal games at home, and captured the first and second playoff seeds respectively.
The North Stars and Kindersley Klippers needed extra time to solve the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division, and Braydon Buziak finished off the regular season, taking a pass from Cody Spagrud on a 2-on-1, before sliding a backhand home to give the Stars the division crown, and the second overall seed heading into the playoffs.
If there’s such a thing as a quiet 30-goal season, Owen Lamb just did just that, scoring twice on Tuesday night to help his club to the win and get to that mark. The 20-year-old from North Battleford scored 11-goals over his last 11-games of the season to hit that plateau. He had five goals last season and 14 career markers coming into this year.
Buziak finished with a goal and two assists, while Regan Doig also found the net and Joel Gryzbowski made 28/31 saves.
Steven Avalone, Noah Bankowski and Kyle Bosch took turns answering Stars’ leads for the Klippers (36-16-4-2), and Justen Close made 28/32 saves. The overtime loss was the difference between second overall, and fifth, as Kindersley will start on the road in the playoffs, against the fourth place Melfort Mustangs.
The North Stars (35-13-5-5) will have to wait and see who they’ll face, as they’ll meet the highest remaining Wild Card Series winner. If Flin Flon wins their series, the Bombers would face Battlefords, and if they don’t, the Stars would face the Yorkton/Notre Dame winner.
In Nipawin, Declan Hobbs was a minute away from his second straight shutout and seventh this season when the Melville Millionaires got on the board at 18:54 of period three, but Hobbs and the Hawks (38-15-2-3) hung on for the 2-1 win, grabbing their second straight Sherwood Division pennant, and top spot in the overall standings, also for a second year in a row, eliminating Melville from the playoffs in the process.
The defending champions will face the lowest remaining Wild Card team in the Quarter-Finals beginning March 15th.
Hobbs made 25/26 saves in his final regular season game, and finished the year with a 1.84 GAA and a .937%, with six shutouts. For his career, you can mark it down as a record of 53-20-2-5, 1.98 GAA, .930%, and 11 shutouts.
Brodie Girod opened the scoing six minutes into the game, and Michael Makarenko appeared to put it away with under five minutes left, but Melville made it close when Aidan Steinke found the net with 1:06 remaining.
Colby Entz was excellent in his final SJHL game, capping a three year career with a 33/35 save performance, giving his team a chance, as they were out-shot 20-7 in the first period alone. The Millionaires (16-32-6-4) miss the playoffs but couldn’t have come much closer. Had they found the late equalizer they would have been in the post-season, even getting the game to overtime as Weyburn lost in regulation. The Wings and Millionaires end up tied with 42 points but Weyburn had one more regulation win, and the difference was winning the two head to head meetings late in the season.
The Melfort Mustangs had the top seed and Sherwood crown out of their own control as Nipawin took care of business, but a loss in Flin Flon Tuesday still sees Melfort finish with a home ice position in the Quarter-Finals, as they’ll take the fourth seed after a 3-1 loss to the Bombers.
Melfort will get the fifth place Kindersley Klippers in a Best-Of-Seven. With the standings as tight as they are, had Kindersley won in overtime rather than lost, the Mustangs would have finished 5th and played Battlefords.
Nate Hooper (2g-1a) and Brandson Hein (1g-2a) each had three point nights and Gabriel Waked made 19/20 saves for the Bombers (34-20-1-3), who already knew where they would finish before dropping the puck on Tuesday, and that’s 7th overall. They didn’t know who they’d face in the Wild Card series until stepping off the ice though, and that will be the Weyburn Red Wings, as Cade Kowalski and Dawson McKenzie will go up against their former teams.
With the travel, the expectation is Game 1 goes Friday in Weyburn despite being the lower seed, with Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) in Flin Flon to follow.
Shawn Parkinson made 33/36 saves and Colin Schmidt scored a third period powerplay goal for the Mustangs (37-17-4-0). Justin Ball was held off the scoresheet for only the sixth time all season (second straight game – only time that’s happened all year), but still ran away with the scoring title, with 54-goals and 103-points. His linemate Carson Albrecht was next in line with 89-points. Hooper’s three point night for the Bombers lifted him into third with 87-points. Hein was second to Ball in goals, with 43.
There was some nervous scoreboard checking in the stands at Crescent Point Place in Weyburn, as the Red Wings fell 4-1 to Yorkton, but with Melville’s narrow loss in Nipawin, the Wings captured the 10th and final spot in the playoffs.
As above, the Wings are expected to host Flin Flon Friday in Game 1 of their Best-of-Three Wild Card series, before heading north to the Whitney Forum for the rest of the series.
Andrew Henderson made 38/39 saves for the Terriers (31-26-1-0), and Mason Mullaney had a strong finish to the year, adding two more goals on Tuesday. Mullaney had seven goals in his last seven games. AP call-up Casey McDonald had his first two SJHL points with a goal and an assist and Cody Bruchkowski also hit the net.
Yorkton will face Notre Dame in the 8th vs 9th Wild Card series, with Game 1 Friday in Yorkton, Game 2 Sunday in Notre Dame, and if necessary, Game 3 back in Yorkton on Tuesday as the teams will alternate venues due to close proximity.