By Craig Stein
(Melfort/Nipawin picture courtesy: Clark Stork)
The Melfort Mustangs have had the Nipawin Hawks’ number this season, and beat them for the fifth time in six tries this season on Friday night, 3-2 in a shootout at The Palace.
The Mustangs (31-9-4-1) are 5-0-1-0 against their Sherwood Division rivals, but remain nine points back of them for the division pennant.
The Hawks (35-5-2-4) are 1-2-2-1 in those six head-to-head meetings, so they’re still picking up points, and they’ve now picked up points in each of their last 27 games (24-0-1-2). Take away their games against Melfort, the Hawks are 34-3-0-3 against the rest of the league.
Ben Allen and Tristen Elder gave Melfort a pair of one goal leads during regulation, before Drew Warkentine and Colin Schmidt scored in the shootout. Evan Plotnik turned away 24/26 shots, and 2/3 in the shootout.
Austin Mikesch scored both goals for Nipawin. Brandan Arnold opened the shootout with a goal, and Declan Hobbs stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced in regulation and overtime.
The two clubs still meet another four times, for a total of 10 this season. They’ll go right back at it Saturday in Nipawin to wrap up the weekend home and home. Nipawin will play host again on Saturday, February 17th, and they’ll have one more home and home on March 2nd and 3rd.
Jake Fletcher scored all three goals for the Estevan Bruins, but it was the Battlefords North Stars getting the two points, as they edged the visiting Bruins 4-3 in a shootout.
Layne Young had a goal and an assist for the North Stars (34-8-2-0), upping his totals to 84 points on the year, 16 shy of the century mark with 14 games left. Chaseton Braid (also scored shootout winner) and Garan Magnes also scored and Cole Johnson added two more assists, giving him 18 points (11g-7a) in 10 games as a North Star. Joel Gryzbowski made 35/38 saves in the win, and went 3/3 in the shootout.
Bo Didur made 34/37 saves in goal for the Bruins (26-16-3-2), who are now five points up on Weyburn for the Viterra Division lead.
The middle of the pack continues to feature some of the more intriguing playoff races, and that was the case again Friday as the 6th place Notre Dame Hounds went into Humboldt and beat the 5th place Broncos 5-3.
Curtis Wiebe scored twice, while Jared Hamm (1g-1a), Ahmed Ally and Max Salpeter also scored and Jack Ryan made 30/33 saves for the Hounds (26-16-1-3).
Logan Schatz (1g-1a), Jaxon Joseph (1g-1a) and Jacob Leicht replied for the Broncos (26-16-3-2).
The Hounds are now just one point back of Humboldt for 5th place overall. There’s a better than half-decent chance that the 6th place finisher will face Estevan in the Quarter-Finals and the 5th place team will take on Melfort. 7th place Weyburn is also in the mix to get into the top six, or even win the Viterra and have the third seed.
Those Red Wings kept pace with the teams ahead of them Friday, blanking the visiting Yorkton 6-0.
Arik Weersink needed 16 saves for his second shutout this season.
Mike Eskra (1g-1a), Dexter Robinson (1g-1a), Jessie Young, Connor Pyne, Jordan Kazymyra and Ben Hiltz did the scoring and Tyran Brown had assists on all three third period goals.
The Red Wings (24-17-4-0) remain in 7th, four points back of 6th, and five back of Estevan for the division lead.
The Terriers fall to 9-31-2-2 on the season.
Justen Close stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, and the Kindersley Klippers picked up a 3-1 win over the Melville Millionaires.
Keillan Olson and Tate Page each had a goal and an assist with Tanner Thompson notching the other Kindersley goal.
Taylor Elmy replied for the Millionaires (15-28-0-2) and Brandon Wells made 40/43 saves. Melville is now 9 points back of 9th place Flin Flon, but 10 points up on Yorkton for the final playoff spot.
The Klippers (19-18-3-3) sit three points up on Flin Flon for a home ice position in the Wild Card series.
The other game in a full six game Friday night schedule saw the Flin Flon Bombers roll to a 6-1 win on the road in La Ronge.
Nate Hooper (2g-1a) and Brandson Hein (1g-2a) had three point nights to lead the way offensively. Hein has seven points in five games (4g-3a) as a Bomber. Chrystopher Collin (1g-1a), Donovan Houle-Villeneuve and Dawson McKenzie also scored and Brenden Newton made 23/24 saves for the Bombers (17-20-3-4). Flin Flon sits three points back of 8th place Kindersley.
Zach Bannister had the only goal for the Ice Wolves (8-34-0-2).
The two clubs meet again Saturday in Flin Flon.