Hot Team – Notre Dame Hounds
The young Hounds started the year 0-3 after they were outscored 20-7 over those three contests; since then, Coach Brett Pilkington’s men have gone 8-2, scored 36, and allowed 22.
There is no doubt that the largest element of the turnaround has been in net, as 2004-born Austin Elliott has gone 7-0 with a league-second-best 1.79 goals-against average and a league-best .942 save percentage since joining the club just before the Warman Showcase. He was joined in the ND crease well by veteran Ryley Osland from the Drumheller Dragons of Alberta Junior Hockey League, and in his three games has a similarly impressive 2.19 GAA and .926 save percentage.
That confidence has seeped through the team, as captain and 2003-born Kevin Anderson – committed to Division I NCAA Princeton University – leads the SJHL in assists with 17, and his fellow 18-year-old winger Elliot Dutil has the most goals in the league with 11 through only 13 games (even with Humboldt’s Alec Saretzky on one fewer contest at the time of writing). Fellow rookies Jaryd Sych (2003 birth year) and Sam Kroon (2002) have been at or near the top of the SJHL points among defencemen all year.
This is a group of skaters with very well-defined roles right now, with team speed and work ethic up and down the roster, so while this is on-average the youngest squad in the league at just over 18 years of age, they are determined to establish this program as one difficult to beat on any given night.
The past week yielded home victories over Flin Flon, La Ronge, and Melfort, two out of three of those teams ahead of sixth-placed ND at the time of writing, with the increasingly stingy Hounds allowing a mere four goals over those contests.
Connor Nolan, the team’s lone 2001-born skater, scored three goals and two assists in those three games.
Hot Player – Logan Kurki, Humboldt Broncos
There has been no more individually dominant skater in the SJHL so far this year than Humboldt’s Logan Kurki, and to go along with his just-under two points-per-game is the consistency of a man who has at least a point in all but one of the 11 Broncos games he has appeared in so far this season.
Much was made and anticipated about this past weekend’s clash of the titans between Humboldt and the then-red hot Melfort Mustangs, and the 20-year-old Kurki clearly took it personally, as he cashed five goals over the home-and-home, including four at the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt Oct. 23.
The skill and instincts are immense in equal parts for the Maple Ridge, B.C. native, and is without a doubt the veteran focal point for an overall very potent Humboldt attack. Kurki remains uncommitted to a post-secondary institution, even though he leads the league in points (tied with his centreman Connor McGrath) with 21, and points-per-game at 1.9.
Cold Team – Nipawin Hawks
Doug Johnson’s Hawks came into the Warman Showcase 4-1 and at the top of the league, but since then injuries and inconsistency have crippled the always-proud club, and caused them to limp to a 2-6-1 record since. A number of those games have come away from the always-imposing confines of the Centennial Arena in Nipawin, so look for the Hawks to right the ship with a few more games in November and December.
Captain Mkyllan Couture has only played in four games, key rookie defenceman Liam Bell has not been 100 percent either, and this is probably the youngest Nipawin team the league has seen in a long time, so the early growing pains were likely expected to some degree, but Johnson is one of the league’s best tacticians, so there is no need to panic in Nipawin.