By Dave Leaderhouse
In the last two weeks both the Flin Flon Bombers and Nipawin Hawks have made swings through the southern portion of the province and between them they came away with just one victory in six contests.
Now those two clubs will be looking to return the favour this weekend as the Weyburn Red Wings and Notre Dame Hounds venture into the northern reaches of the province for a series of return matches.
Weyburn in fact has been up north since early in the week when they began a four-game swing with convincing 7-1 and 8-2 victories in Melfort and La Ronge, respectively.
Those two wins have increased the Red Wings’ winning streak to eight games and have also given Weyburn a share of first place in the Viterra Division standings. Included in the current streak is a 7-4 decision over the Bombers on Oct. 14 and a 3-1 verdict over the Hawks last Saturday.
When Nipawin visited Crescent Point Place last weekend they themselves were riding a nine-game streak in which they had collected at least one point, but the Red Wings put an end to that so now it will be the Hawks looking for a little payback.
Before Nipawin gets that chance on Saturday, however, the Red Wings will make a stop in Flin Flon on Friday and the Bombers will be looking to put the brakes on a seven-game losing skid, with the last six all coming on the road.
Prior to their tailspin, the Bombers were keeping the Melfort Mustangs in their sights for the Sherwood Division lead, but as a result of the recent cold spell Flin Flon is now 12 points back of the front-running Mustangs and are also five in arrears of the Hawks in the divisional race.
The other southern visitor this weekend, the Notre Dame Hounds, are also on a roll of late having won six straight to challenge for top spot in the Olympic Buildings Division standings. Notre Dame enters the weekend one point back of the Humboldt Broncos, but the Hounds hold three games in hand.
Notre Dame’s game in Nipawin on Friday to open their gruelling weekend swing will be their first road match in nearly a month as they completed a seven-game homestand with the aforementioned six straight victories. The Hounds have played just four games away from the friendly confines going 2-1-1-0 so this weekend, which also has stops in Flin Flon on Saturday and La Ronge on Sunday, will be a test to see if their improved play can be carried out on the road.
The only other games this weekend has the Yorkton Terriers playing a doubleheader in the Battlefords against the North Stars. The Terriers ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 decision in Estevan last weekend, but they were handed a 6-0 setback in a game on Thursday in Humboldt to begin their trip through central Saskatchewan.
The Battlefords, meanwhile, have been sitting idly on the sidelines having played just nine games this year, but in those nine games the North Stars have yet to suffer a regulation-time loss. As a result of the near perfect start (8-0-1-0), the North Stars have been ranked the second-best team in the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League and with a busy schedule staring them in the face they will have plenty of opportunities to catch the division-leading Broncos and pull closer to the Hounds, who are three points clear of the Battlefords despite playing in five extra games.
In a strange scheduling twist, the Estevan Bruins, Melfort Mustangs, Kindersley Klippers, Melville Millionaires and Humboldt Broncos all have the weekend off.
SJHL NOTES – With Estevan being idle this weekend, the individual scoring race could tighten up a bit. Bruins’ forwards Zach Goberis and Michael McChesney continue to lead the way with 30 and 24, points, respectively, but Layne Young of the Battlefords and the Hounds’ duo of Chaz Smedsrud and Chance Longjohn are all within striking distance. Young has at least one point in all nine games this year having collected eight goals and 13 assists in that span while both Smedsrud and Longjohn each had recent spurts to push them into the top five with 20 and 19 points, respectively…Not surprisingly, as a result of the Red Wings having gone on a tear of late, three players are in the midst of lengthy consecutive-point streaks. Cole Woodliffe has 14 points in his last nine outings while Erik Olson is on a six-game run where he has posted five goals and five assists and Cade Kowalski has a nice stretch of his own in the works having collected three goals and six helpers in his last five games. As mentioned earlier, Young has a nine-game streak intact entering the weekend while Notre Dame’s Tim Gould has a goal and eight assists in his last eight games… Weyburn netminder Carter Phair is leading all goaltenders with a sparkling 1.57 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. Phair has won his last four starts and allowed opposing teams just five goals in that span while his partner in the Red Wings’ goal, Arik Weersink, has won his last three straight to improve his stats to 2.68 GAA and .917 save percentage for the season. Despite losing in his last outing, Nipawin’s rookie Jake Anthony has the second best GAA at 1.95 to go with a .926 save percentage…The Estevan Bruins, who are by far and away the most explosive team offensively with 75 goals scored in 16 games, have crept past Melfort for the top power-play results. The Bruins are operating at 24.0 percent efficiency while the Mustangs are at 23.9 percent. On the other side of the special team’s equation, the Mustangs continue to have the best penalty killing at 88.6 percent while the Battlefords are at 88.0 per cent.
Weyburn at Flin Flon
Yorkton at Battlefords
Notre Dame at Nipawin
Notre Dame at Flin Flon
Weyburn at Nipawin
Yorkton at Battlefords
Notre Dame at La Ronge