By Craig Stein
KLIPPERS ONE POINT OUT OF TOP SPOT
There was no sign of a Division I scholarship hangover for Justen Close, as the Kindersley Klippers were out-shot 40-17 in Nipawin, but the Minnesota commit stood on his head, making 39/40 saves as the Klippers pulled to within a single point of the Hawks for the league lead with a 2-1 victory on Friday.
Walker Cote struck first for the Hawks, 7:43 into the game but Clay Keeley evened things before the opening frame was done, and Austin Nault’s early second period marker stood up as the winner. All of the scoring came on the powerplay.
Declan Hobbs made 15/17 saves in goal for the Hawks (35-14-2-2) who now sit just one point ahead of Kindersley (34-14-3-2). The Klippers are now one point up on Humboldt for the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division lead as the Broncos fell in overtime on Friday.
It’s a nice start to huge, challenging weekend trip for the Klippers which has them up against the league’s top three teams points-wise (other than themselves), as they’ll continue on from Nipawin to Melfort on Saturday and Humboldt Sunday.
The Hawks welcome Yorkton on Saturday night.
The Melfort Mustangs won their eighth straight game, 5-4 in overtime in Humboldt, and after going into the night a point back of the Broncos, the two teams are now deadlocked for fourth place in the overall standings, and they’d meet in the Quarter-Finals if the season was over today.
The Mustangs (34-15-4-0) have 33 regulation and overtime wins, to Humboldt’s 31, which is the first tie-breaker, making the fact the Mustangs won before the game got to a shootout even that much bigger, as they’ll likely hold the tie-breaker with Humboldt now down to just three games to go.
Both teams are also very much alive in their own divisional races and for the top seed overall, as Melfort’s now just two points back of Nipawin, and Humboldt’s one behind Kindersley (Klippers have 2 games in hand).
Zach Anderson scored twice for Melfort on Friday while George King had three assists. Justin Ball added his 51st goal and 96th point of the season, while Tyson Meyers and Zack Smith finished off the scoring. Noah Giesbrecht made 33/37 saves in the win.
Defensemen Chase Felgueiras and Mark Edmands each had a goal and an assist for the Broncos while forwards Bryson Cecconi and Reid Arnold chipped in with the others.
Melfort’s back to their home rink on Saturday, welcoming Kindersley. Humboldt’s off on Saturday before that all-important Sunday rematch with Kindersley, a game the Broncos likely have to have in order to keep their shot at a division pennant. In fact the Klippers would be guaranteed to finish ahead of Humboldt if they’re able to sweep their weekend three game road trip. Battlefords is also still in the picture for the division lead.
A close second to Justen Close for top goaltending performance on Friday would have to be Yorkton’s Andrew Henderson, who stopped 52 of the 54 shots he faced as the Terriers went to Flin Flon and beat the Bombers 5-2.
Just like that, the Terriers (29-24-1-0) have won four straight, and are now just four points back of Estevan for the Viterra Division lead, with a game in hand on the Bruins, and in the overall standings they’re now two points up on Notre Dame for eighth.
Chantz Petruic had another three points with a goal and two assists, and he’s now tied for second in league scoring with 82 points (32g-50a). Cody Bruchkowski racked up four assists, Colby Brandt scored twice, with Aiden Bulych and Brendan Mark adding singles.
Brandson Hein scored his 42nd goal of the season and Cade Kowalski followed just 1:11 later early in the second period, and at that point the Bombers had a 2-1 lead.
The gap between Flin Flon and a top six position is now five points as the Bombers (31-20-1-2) have lost three in a row and are down to four games left.
Flin Flon has the rest of the weekend off before hosting Nipawin on Tuesday. Yorkton wraps up their trip in Nipawin on Saturday.
The La Ronge Ice Wolves snapped a 14 game winless skid, picking up a 3-2 shootout decision in Melville in Gaelan Patterson’s first game behind the bench as Head Coach.
Jordan Frey was solid again, stopping 35/37 shots. Zach Bannister and Daunte Fortner gave the Ice Wolves (11-42-1-1) a 2-0 lead, before Melville’s Max McPeak scored a pair in the second period.
After a scoreless third, and overtime, Jake Gudjonson scored the lone goal of the shootout, and Frey was perfect on three Melville breakaways.
In terms of the standings, the single point for Melville was certainly bigger than the two points were for La Ronge, as the Millionaires (15-29-5-4) stretched their lead over Weyburn to three points for the final playoff spot. Melville’s winless in eight (0-5-2-1) but those OT/SO losses have allowed them to chip away in the standings.
That sets up the much-anticipated back to back with Weyburn starting Saturday (and finishing Wednesday). Both games are in Melville, and two regulation wins would clinch the Millionaires a playoff spot.
La Ronge wraps up their three game swing Saturday night in Wilcox against Notre Dame.
As cloudy as the entire playoff picture still is, no one’s fate is arguably more in flux than the Battlefords North Stars, who, still aren’t out of the woods to avoid the Wild Card series, but with a season finale with Kindersley on the horizon, they could still finish at the very top, and certainly anywhere in between.
The Stars (30-13-5-5) now have points in five straight games (4-0-0-1) after a 5-1 win in Weyburn which kicked off a three game swing.
With everyone right in front of them also picking up points Friday, the Stars finished the night where they started it, alone in sixth place, but now five points up on Flin Flon, and now two points back of fourth place Humboldt and Melfort. The Stars are even in games played with Melfort and have two games in hand on Humboldt.
MacGreogor Sinclair and Owen Lamb each had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win, with Brett Gammer, Ryan Gil and Austin Becker adding the others. Adam Dmyterko made 21/22 saves.
William Cruise replied for the Red Wings (15-32-5-1) who are almost in must-win country when they head to Melville on Saturday night. The Wings are winless in nine (0-7-1-1) with five games remaining, the next two of which are in Melville and they trail the Mils by three points for a playoff berth.