By Dave Leaderhouse
After a busy week that saw all 12 teams converge on Saskatoon for the annual Showcase, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League resumes its regular schedule this weekend with a very light schedule, albeit with some intriguing match-ups to highlight the action.
The one game that jumps off the page is the undefeated Melfort Mustangs travelling to Nipawin to take on the Hawks on Friday.
The Mustangs have easily been the early surprise of the season having won their first six games largely due to a stingy defence that has allowed just 10 goals in that span.
Veteran netminder Evan Plotnik has been exceptional for the Mustangs posting a 1.66 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in taking the torch and playing every second so far between the pipes.
The perfect start has allowed the Mustangs to open up a five-point lead over the Hawks for top spot in the Sherwood Division standings, but Nipawin appears to have turned around a slow start with three straight wins including convincing 5-2 and 7-3 triumphs over the Humboldt Broncos and Kindersley Klippers, respectively, at the Showcase.
Nipawin had a similar start last year where they were sluggish out of the gates, but connected at the Showcase and went on to battle the Flin Flon Bombers right down to the final night of the regular schedule for the division banner.
While it is still real early in the season, if the Hawks hope to keep Melfort in their sights they will need a strong performance on Friday and add to the fact that these two teams are fierce rivals the fans can expect a classic tilt at the Cage.
The Bombers are just one point back of the Hawks and they too will be looking to keep pace with both Nipawin and Melfort as they host the Melville Millionaires on Friday and Saturday.
After opening the season with convincing wins over the La Ronge Ice Wolves, Flin Flon has dropped their last three with the latter pair both being in a shootout at the Showcase against the Weyburn Red Wings and Notre Dame Hounds.
The Estevan Bruins, who have flexed their offensive power early in the season leading the league with 32 goals scored in their first six games, will take on the Yorkton Terriers in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday.
Zach Goberis has been involved in 50 per cent of the Bruins’ offence leading the league in scoring with seven goals and nine helpers while Michael McChesney is also off to an explosive start with eight goals and four assists in the first six games.
The Bruins will look to take advantage of a Yorkton team that has struggled to find the back of the net scoring a league-low six goals in its first six contests, but the Terriers can also turn the tables as Estevan has not only scored the most goals (32), but they have also allowed the most (24).
There are only two other games this weekend with Notre Dame travelling to Melfort on Saturday and Melville completing its gruelling tour of the north with a stop in La Ronge on Sunday afternoon.
The Humboldt Broncos, Battlefords North Stars, Kindersley Klippers and Weyburn Red Wings are all idle this weekend, but they will all be back in action early in the week when the schedule gets into a normal routine for the remainder of the season.
Melville at Flin Flon
Melfort at Nipawin
Yorkton at Estevan
Melville at Flin Flon
Estevan at Yorkton
Notre Dame at Melfort
Melville at La Ronge