By Craig Stein
(Photo courtesy: Clark Stork)
The last time the Nipawin Hawks lost a game in regulation was November 10th, when they fell 2-1 to the Melfort Mustangs on the road. To put that into perspective a little, that was 99 days ago. The CFL hadn’t played a playoff game yet.
Fast forward to February 17th, 30 games and 99 nights later, the Mustangs went into Nipawin and beat the league-leading Hawks 7-3. That was also the Hawks’ first regulation loss at home since September 16th, a day past five months, and that loss also came at the hands of Melfort.
Tanner Zentner led the way on Saturday with two goals and two assists, while Drew Warkentine also scored twice and added one assist. Justin Ball had a goal and two helpers, Andrew Thompson and Reed Gunville also found the net and Loch Morrison picked up two assists. Evan Plotnik turned away 25 of 28 shots.
The Mustangs (35-11-4-1) are now 6-1-0-1 against Nipawin this season, with still two more meetings to come, March 2nd and 3rd. Melfort is seven points back of Nipawin for 1st in the Sherwood, and they’re almost assured of no worse than 4th overall, now 10 points up on Humboldt with the Broncos down to six games left.
Things started out promising for the Hawks (38-6-2-4), as Grant Baetsen (1g-1a) scored just 36 seconds into the game, and Brett Harasymuk (1g-1a) made it 2-0 at the 5:36 mark. Brandan Arnold (1g-1a) made it 3-2 Hawks 18 seconds into the second period, but Melfort scored four answered in the second, and five straight in the game after that. Josh McDougall had two more assists, and has 64 points to lead all SJHL defensemen.
Nipawin now takes on Flin Flon three times in a row starting Monday night at the Whitney Forum. Melfort’s in Humboldt Monday afternoon.
It was the first time all season where both the Hawks and Battlefords North Stars lost in regulation on the same night, as the Estevan Bruins edged the visiting Stars 4-3.
Zach Goberis broke a tie in a back and forth game with 4:07 left, and his 29th of the season stood as the winner. The two clubs alternated goals all night, as T.J. Irey scored twice after Jayden Davis opened the scoring for the Bruins (29-17-3-2). Bo Didur made 46/49 saves as the Bruins were out-shot 49-20.
Not only did the Hawks and Stars both lose which is rare enough, but Layne Young was nearly held off the scoresheet as well, but the league scoring leader scored in the third period, his 33rd goal and 96th point of the season, running his point streak to nine games (8g-12a-20p). Chaseton Braid added a goal and an assist, while Brad Girard also hit the net.
The Stars (38-10-2-0) missed a rare chance to gain two points on Nipawin, as they remain four points back of the top spot overall. Each team has eight games left, and the last one is head to head on March 9th.
The Kindersley Klippers finished off their four game road trip on a high note, coming from behind to defeat the Melville Millionaires 2-1 in overtime.
The Millionaires (19-29-1-2) led 1-0 most of the night thanks to a first period powerplay goal by Shane Sherban.
Keillan Olson struck on the powerplay in the third period to tie things up, and then added his second of the night 2:12 into overtime, which helped the Klippers secure three of a possible eight points on their trip. They went to overtime twice with Melville and had a pair of regulation losses in Yorkton in between, including a heartbreaking late one on Wednesday.
Both goalies were dynamite on Saturday as Justen Close stopped 36/37 shots, while Colby Entz made 39/41 saves for Melville.
The Klippers (23-20-4-3) still have a chance to move up, as they now trail Weyburn by three points, and Notre Dame by four, with a game in hand on each. They’ve got a huge game coming up on Wednesday when they’ll play their fifth straight road game, in Notre Dame, before seeing Yorkton twice more again, Friday and Saturday back at home.
Melville’s single point Saturday puts them that much closer to wrapping up the 10th and final playoff spot. They’re now 13 up on Yorkton, and the Terriers have eight games to play.
Battlefords @ Notre Dame 4:30
La Ronge @ Yorkton 4:30
La Ronge @ Yorkton 2:00
Melfort @ Humboldt 3:00
Battlefords @ Weyburn 3:00
Nipawin @ Flin Flon 7:30