A look at the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings entering this weekend’s action might have the avid fan doing a double take as the Nipawin Hawks, for the first time in recent memory, are at the bottom of the Sherwood Division standings.
The two-time defending regular season and division champion Hawks were leapfrogged by the surging La Ronge Ice Wolves on Thursday and while a three-game winless streak has them still comfortably in a playoff spot, the gap is closing.
Nipawin, which started the season with six straight wins, has just a 6-9-1-0 mark since then and what has consistently been the stingiest team defence over the last several years is now looking slightly better than average.
The Hawks will look to get things untracked this weekend when they host the Kindersley Klippers on Friday and Notre Dame Hounds on Saturday.
The relatively light schedule will also see the surprising Ice Wolves complete a three-games-in-three-nights homestand when they host the Humboldt Broncos in a doubleheader on Friday and Saturday.
La Ronge, which will honour long-time official Bruce Skilliter when he works his final game on Friday, matched their win and point’s totals from last year with Thursday’s 4-2 decision over Notre Dame.
Winners of their last five games, the Ice Wolves sit sixth overall in the league standings with Humboldt the next team in their sights. The Broncos head to La Ronge with a two-point edge on the Ice Wolves, but Humboldt also holds a game in hand.
Notre Dame will also continue its three-game-in-three-nights grind through the north with a stop in Flin Flon on Friday before concluding the trip in Nipawin on Saturday. The Hounds had registered points in six straight games prior to Thursday’s setback in La Ronge and that run has given Notre Dame some breathing room in the playoff battle for the eighth and final spot as they are five points clear of the four teams behind them. The Hounds, however, are just two back of Nipawin and three behind La Ronge so finishing the swing strong could move them up in the standings.
Flin Flon, which claimed a share of the Sherwood Division lead with its shootout win over Humboldt on Thursday, has just the lone game against Notre Dame this weekend while the Melfort Mustangs will look to keep pace with the Bombers when they host Kindersley in their lone match on Saturday.
The only other games this weekend have the Weyburn Red Wings at home to play the Melville Millionaires on Friday and the red-hot Yorkton Terriers on Saturday.
The Red Wings are deadlocked with Kindersley and the Estevan Bruins for the fewest points overall with all three of those teams just one point back of Melville. Weyburn, which has lost its last three, has averaged less than two goals per game and they will need more than that this weekend as both Melville and Yorkton have put together winning streaks in the last week.
Estevan and the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s No. 1 team, the Battlefords North Stars, are both idle this weekend. The Bruins have played the fewest games of all 12 teams so far and they will gain even more games in hand after this weekend’s action. The North Stars, meanwhile, will use their 10-day break to recover from just their second loss of the season, both of which have come at the hands of the Viterra Division-leading Terriers.
SJHL NOTES – Yorkton forward Chantz Petruic is running away with the individual scoring race as the 20-year-old veteran has 28 goals and 26 assists in 25 games. His 54 points is 15 more than Alec Mayo of the Bombers and his goal total is nine better than the 19 put up by both Flin Flon’s Donavan Houle-Villeneuve and Quintin Loon-Stewardson of the Battlefords. Petruic, who is just 12 points shy of 200 for his career, has figured in an astonishing 61 per cent of the Terriers offensive output this year…Another factor in the Terriers 8-1-1-0 run in their last 10 games is the play of goaltender Ryan Ouellette. The soon-to-be 19-year-old from Colorado is 6-0-1-0 in his seven starts since returning from south of the border and his .950 save percentage is the best in the league. Ouellette also has a 1.99 goals-against average trailing just Battlefords’ rookie Parker Rey, but both of those netminders have less than half the minutes played posted by workhorses Riley Kohonick from Notre Dame, Keenan Rancier from Estevan and Shawn Parkinson from Melfort…A couple of interesting stats that pop off the pages have the Battlefords, who have by far scored the most goals overall with 107, in the bottom third for power-play efficiency and the Mustangs have scored the most shorthanded goals with five, but they have also allowed the most shorthanded goals against with the same number – five.
Notre Dame at Flin Flon
Humboldt at La Ronge
Kindersley at Nipawin
Melville at Weyburn
Humboldt at La Ronge
Notre Dame at Nipawin
Kindersley at Melfort
Yorkton at Weyburn
Melfort at Melville postponed until Dec. 3