By Dave Leaderhouse
A relatively light Thanksgiving long weekend schedule got even lighter with the postponement of the opening game of a Highway 10 doubleheader on Friday.
Ice plant problems in Melville have forced the Millionaires to reschedule their match against their rivals from Yorkton until later in the month leaving just a handful of games to be played on Friday and Saturday before everyone gets a few days off for the remainder of the holiday weekend.
Yorkton and Melville will still get together this weekend as they will square off in Yorkton on Saturday with the Terriers’ organization extending an offer on discounted ticket prices to entice fans from down the highway to make the trip and get in some hockey action this weekend.
Yorkton and Melville are chasing both the Weyburn Red Wings and Estevan Bruins for top spot in the Viterra Division standings with the frontrunners also each having just one game this weekend when the Global Ag Risk Solution Division-leading Humboldt Broncos visit each of those southeastern centres as part of their first extended road trip of the season.
After dropping their first two games to open the season the Broncos have recorded at least one point in each of their last seven outings to open up a three-point lead on the Kindersley Klippers for the divisional lead and to also creep to within one point of the league-leading Nipawin Hawks in the overall points race.
Kindersley will be looking to close that gap when they head to Flin Flon for a pair of games against the Bombers this weekend, but the doubleheader also has significance for Flin Flon as they are just four points back of the Hawks in the Sherwood Division standings after reeling off two straight victories over Melville last weekend.
Nipawin, the defending league champions, opened the season with six straight victories before suffering a 5-1 setback in Kindersley on Tuesday. The Hawks rebounded with a 2-1 decision over the North Stars in the Battlefords the following night and will look to complete a home-and-home sweep against the North Stars when those two clubs meet in Nipawin on Friday.
The only other games this weekend have the Melfort Mustangs and La Ronge Ice Wolves playing a home-and-home series with Melfort looking to keep pace with both Nipawin and Flin Flon in the Sherwood Division race while La Ronge will be looking to build off their first win of the season when they got past Melville 3-1 last Sunday.
The Notre Dame Hounds are the lone team not scheduled to play this weekend and they will not return to action until next Thursday when they will look to extend their two-game winning streak in a game against Flin Flon.
SJHL NOTES – Special teams have been a big reason for the Weyburn Red Wings grabbing a share of the Viterra Division lead as they top both the power-play and penalty-killing stats. The Red Wings have converted nine of 32 man-advantage situations into goals while they have allowed just two short-handed tallies in 27 times where they have been assessed a penalty. Some other interesting things that stand out when looking at these stats have the Ice Wolves with the second-best power play operating at 27.8 per cent efficiency, but their penalty killing is dead last at 63.2 per cent. The Notre Dame Hounds have been by far the most tested in both disciplines as they have had 52 penalty-killing situations and 51 power-play opportunities. By comparison, La Ronge has had 18 power plays and has been shorthanded 19 times. Another interesting tidbit has Flin Flon already having scored five times while shorthanded. They had just seven all of last year. Just the Battlefords and Humboldt have scored more than once while shorthanded and they are both well back of the Bombers with two apiece… Flin Flon has scored the most goals so far this year with 40 so not surprisingly they have three players in the top 10 in individual scoring. Brandson Hein shares the overall lead with Yorkton’s Jared Legien with 17 points while Caleb Moretz, who recently committed to a Division 1 scholarship with RIT, is grouped with Weyburn’s Ben Hiltz and TJ Irey from Estevan with 14 points each. Daylan Marchi is in another grouping one point back with 13 points. All three Flin Flon players have risen to the top of the scoring race thanks to a recent run that has seen the trio scored a combined 17 goals in the last four games. Hein has six in his last four outings while Moretz has scored the same number in the last three. Marchi has netted five tallies in his last three games… A pair of newcomers to the league have put an early mark on their SJHL careers as both Patrick Pugliese from Nipawin and Rayce Ramsay from Humboldt have goals-against averages under 1.00 with both sitting at 0.97. Another freshman, Cody Levesque from Weyburn, has a 1.67 GAA after his first two appearances while last year’s co-winners of the top goaltender of the year award – Declan Hobbs from Nipawin and Justen Close from Kindersley – have the best numbers among regular starting netminders. Close has a 2.18 GAA and Hobbs is right behind at 2.20 with both having seen more than 300 minutes action…Two players have recorded at least one point in each of their respective team’s games this year with Legien having collected eight goals and nine assists in Yorkton’s first eight games while Hiltz has 8-6-14 totals in Weyburn’s six games to date…Nipawin’s quick start has them atop the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings for two consecutive weeks. Humboldt’s seven-game point streak has lifted them to No. 14 overall.
Kindersley at Flin Flon
La Ronge at Melfort
Yorkton at Melville (postponed until Oct. 27)
Battlefords at Nipawin
Humboldt at Weyburn
Humboldt at Estevan
Kindersley at Flin Flon
Melfort at La Ronge
Melville at Yorkton