By Craig Stein
DEFENDING CHAMPS START TITLE DEFENCE WITH OT WIN
The defending Canalta Cup Champions needed extra time to chalk up their first goal, and win of the 2017-2018 SJHL season, as defenseman Levi Kleiboer scored just over a minute into overtime, as the Battlefords North Stars edged the Kindersley Klippers 1-0 (OT) on the road, in one of five games kicking off the campaign.
Coming off a five shutout season a year ago, and an unbeaten playoff run, goaltender Taryn Kotchorek made 29 saves, shutting the door in his first start of his 20-year-old campaign, good for the 10th regular season shutout of his career.
Klippers’ goalie Justen Close, also with five shutouts last year, stopped everything he faced in regulation in Friday’s opener, finishing with a 37/38 save performance.
The North Stars will raise the championship banner Saturday when the two teams hold their rematch at the Civic Centre in North Battleford.
The Stars and Klippers weren’t the only ones working overtime on opening night, as the Melfort Mustangs won their home opener 4-3 (OT) over the Nipawin Hawks.
In his first game as a Mustang, defenseman Loch Morrison scored a powerplay marker 1:58 into extra time to give his new club the win. Morrison spent the past four seasons in the Western Hockey League with Calgary, Prince Albert (his hometown) and Victoria.
Tanner Zentner (1g-1a), Jaxon Joseph and Carson Albrecht added goals for Melfort, while Rock Rushkowski had a pair of assists and 20-year-old Evan Plotnik made 26/29 saves.
17-year-old Lance Alm got the start at the other end for the Hawks, making 27/31 saves. Austin Mikesch, Jordan Simoneau and Michael Grant scored unanswered goals for the Hawks, who led 3-2 with less than two minutes left the in the third period.
Nipawin hosts the return matchup on Saturday.
The Estevan Bruins scored three straight third period goals to come from behind and beat the Melville Millionaires 4-2 at Affinity Place on Friday.
Zach Goberis was in on all four goals for his club, picking up a goal and three assists. Michael McChesney, looking to follow up a stellar rookie season, added a goal and two assists, while Isaac Embree and newcomer Aigne McGeady-Bruce each had a goal and an assist.
Shots were 41-18 Bruins, as Matt Lukacs made 16/18 saves in his SJHL debut.
Estevan salted things away with an empty-netter, as Melville’s Colby Entz made 37/40 saves. Clayton Eisler opened the scoring and Alex Maticic made it 2-1 for the Millionaires, who look to even the score Saturday when they host the Bruins.
Brenden Newton kicked off his 20-year-old season making 25 saves on 26 shots, helping the Flin Flon Bombers to a 5-1 opening night win over the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves.
Nick Shumlanski led the way offensively with a goal and two assists. Chrystopher Collin and Donavan Houle-Villeneuve, both Bomber rookies from Quebec, got their first SJHL goals in the first period. Kurtis Rutledge, a 20-year-old first year Bomber defenseman from Alberta, and Tyler Nyman added third period goals.
Justin Bill replied for the Ice Wolves, who get set to welcome the Bombers to the Mel Hegland Uniplex Saturday night.
The Weyburn Red Wings got on the board first, early in the second period, but it was all Yorkton from there as the Terriers won their first game, 3-1 on the road.
Shane Sherban and newcomer Slater Strong each picked up a goal and an assist for the Terriers. Rookie Dalton Ossman scored his first SJHL goal into an empty net to seal it, and Ottawa product Logan Bateman turned away 36/37 shots in his first SJHL game to earn the win.
Dawson Atamanchuk scored first for the Red Wings, while Arik Weersink got the start for Weyburn, making 31/33 stops.
The Wings and Terriers will take Saturday off, before meeting again in Yorkton Sunday afternoon.
Notre Dame travels to Humboldt on Saturday, to kick off their usual Saturday/Sunday opening weekend home-and-home.