By Craig Stein
STARS MOVE INTO DIVISION LEAD, BRUINS CLINCH VITERRA
Where to begin on a crazy final Friday night of the SJHL regular season?
The Battlefords North Stars seem like as good a place to start as any. The Stars spent much of this season in third place in the hotly contested Global Ag Risk Solutions Division while Humboldt and Kindersley took turns with the division lead. Now, through 56 of 58 games, the Stars lead the pack for the first time all season, thanks to a 6-3 win over the visiting Notre Dame Hounds (and a Klipper loss to Humboldt).
The North Stars (33-13-5-5) now sit one point up on Kindersley and two ahead of Humboldt. The division will officially come down to either Battlefords or Kindersley, as the two go head to head on Tuesday, so with one of them picking up two points that night and Humboldt having just one game left, the Broncos will fall just short of the division crown.
Quinton Loon-Stewardson (2g-1a) and Owen Lamb scored twice each to lead Battlefords on Friday. Dayton Heino and Dylan Esau added singles while Chad Duran made 33/36 saves.
The Stars are in Humboldt on Saturday before hosting Kindersley on Tuesday.
The Hounds (25-22-5-5) scored once in each period as Nolan Renwick, Jarrett Penner and Tanner Tarbell all found the net. Notre Dame wraps up their regular season Saturday in Kindersley. They now know for sure they’ll face the Yorkton Terriers in the 8th vs 9th place Wild Card series. Home ice is yet to be determined as the Hounds are up by one point with the Terriers having a game in hand (two left).
Defenseman Jake Hobson scored in the ninth round of a shootout, to get the Melfort Mustangs a crucial extra point in a 4-3 (SO) win in Nipawin.
That puts the Mustangs (37-15-4-0) back in front of Nipawin by a point for the Sherwood Division and league lead, setting up for the return matchup Saturday in Melfort.
Justin Ball had a goal and an assist, and for those keeping track that’s 54-goals and 104-points in 56-games for Ball, who can officially be named the SJHL’s goal and points scoring leader around 10:00 PM on Tuesday. He was also Melfort’s first shooter in the shootout, and scored, but it was a stalemate until Hobson’s winner eight rounds later.
Kenzie Arnold and Colin Schmidt had the others. Shawn Parkinson made 31/34 saves and 8/9 in the shootout.
Declan Hobbs made 32/35 saves for the Hawks (36-15-2-3) while Jaxsen Wiebe, Carson Erhardt and Walker Cote did the scoring.
The two teams meet again Saturday and it’s the SJHL Game Of The Month on SaskTel Max Local. A Melfort win, and they would clinch the division and top spot in the league heading into the playoffs.
If Nipawin wins Saturday, it would come down to Tuesday night when the Hawks are home to Melville and Melfort heads to Flin Flon.
Rookie Rayce Ramsay stopped 40 of the 41 shots he faced as the Humboldt Broncos picked up a 3-1 road win in Kindersley.
The win ensures that the Broncos (35-18-3-1) will finish no worse than sixth place in the overall standings, avoiding the Wild Card series. Mitch Zambon opened the scoring with his 20th of the season before Drew Warkentine added his 22nd and 23rd.
Josh Fletcher had the only goal for the Klippers (35-16-3-2) while Justen Close made 25/28 saves.
The Klippers are fifth in the overall standings, one point up on the Broncos. Kindersley welcomes Notre Dame on Saturday before visiting Battlefords Tuesday. Humboldt closes out their regular season schedule at home Battlefords Saturday night.
Ben Hiltz scored his second goal of the game, on a breakaway 3:39 into overtime as the Weyburn Red Wings picked up a big 4-3 (OT) win at home against the Estevan Bruins.
Melville had just beaten Yorkton and the Red Wings needed the two points to keep pace in that race for the final playoff position.
Jacob Piller (1g-1a) and Drew Anderson also scored and Cody Levesque was busy making 41/44 saves.
Weyburn sits tied with Melville for 10th spot and both teams have two games left. The Wings are in Estevan Saturday to complete the home and home, and they’ll host Yorkton on Tuesday. Weyburn can actually clinch that playoff spot as early as Saturday, with a win and a Melville regulation loss, as they hold the tie-breaker.
Despite the loss, the Bruins (30-22-3-2) clinched the Viterra Division pennant for a third straight year, and will hold the third playoff seed when the Quarter-Finals begin in two weeks.
Will Koop scored twice on Saturday with Tyson Manz adding one. Grant Boldt made 29/33 saves in his first action since February 15th, and just his second appearance since January 26th.
The Bruins’ home game against Weyburn on Saturday is their final regular season game. They’ll get set to host the sixth place finisher in the Quarters after that.
Josh Borynec (2g-1a), Luke Spadafora (3a) and Damian Bentz (2a) combined for eight points, leading the Melville Millionaires to a big 6-2 win in Yorkton.
The Millionaires (16-30-6-4) ended a ten game winless streak in the process, and for a few minutes held sole possession of the final playoff spot, until Weyburn won in overtime to keep pace.
Rookie defenseman James Philpott scored his first SJHL and added one assist, while Luke Nkwama and Mike Wong rounded out the scoring. The story was Colby Entz who made 38/40 saves in the Melville crease.
The Millionaires host the Terriers Saturday before finishing their regular season schedule Tuesday in Nipawin.
The loss now means the Terriers (29-26-1-0) now have no shot at winning the division, so they’ll play Notre Dame in the 8th vs 9th Wild Card series. Kishaun Gervais scored on the powerplay and Mason Mullaney potted a short-handed goal for Yorkton on Friday. The Terriers go to Melville Saturday and are on the road again once more Tuesday in Weyburn. Winning both would ensure home ice in the Wild Card series. They’re one point back of the Hounds and have two games left to Notre Dame’s one.
Donavan Houle-Villeneuve scored a pair of goals 2:38 apart in the second period of the Flin Flon Bombers’ 3-1 win over the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves.
Daylan Marchi opened the scoring late in the first period and Gabriel Waked made 28/29 saves.
Grant Longtin spoiled the shutout with a third period marker for La Ronge, and Jordan Frey made 55/58 saves. The Ice Wolves (11-44-1-1) will close out their season in front of their home crowd when they welcome the Bombers on Saturday.
Despite Flin Flon’s victory, with Humboldt also winning, it means the Bombers will not avoid the Wild Card series. They’ll finish right where they are, seventh place in the overall standings, and face either Weyburn or Melville in the 7th vs 10th Wild Card series. With the travel distance, it’s expected that Game 1 of the Best of Three would be in Weyburn or Melville, with the Bombers then hosting Game 2 and if necessary Game 3 on back to back nights back in Flin Flon.