By Dave Leaderhouse
The first week of the 2017-18 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular schedule is in the books and to say there have been some surprises would be somewhat of an understatement.
The defending Canalta Cup champion Battlefords North Stars are 2-0 and while that isn’t overly surprising, the fact that they have yet to allow a goal can be considered as such.
The North Stars opened up their title defence last weekend with 1-0 and 4-0 triumphs over the Kindersley Klippers, but they will have a stiffer test this weekend when they face off against the Estevan Bruins in Saturday’s lone game, which will be played in the Battlefords. The Bruins and North Stars will also get reacquainted in Tuesday’s early game at the Showcase event being held in Saskatoon, which is set to begin on Sunday.
Conversely, while the North Stars failed to allow a goal on the opening weekend, the Klippers were unable to get one past veteran netminder Taryn Kotchorek, who stopped all 62 shots he faced in the pair of tilts against Kindersley. The Klippers, did however, get on the board in their latest contest when they dropped a narrow 3-2 setback to the Humboldt Broncos on Wednesday.
That win by Humboldt improved their record to 3-0 and moved them ahead of the North Stars for top spot in the Olympic Buildings Division and also gives them a share of the overall lead with the Melfort Mustangs, who are 3-0 to sit atop the Sherwood Division standings. Something is going to have to break on Friday though as the Mustangs travel to Humboldt to face the Broncos in a busy night of hockey leading up to the Showcase event.
The Flin Flon Bombers will look to run their early start to 3-0 when they host the Nipawin Hawks and Estevan will also be gunning for a third straight win to start the season when they head to Kindersley to square off against the Klippers. The Bruins, who are the defending Viterra Division champs, are riding the impressive start of veteran forward Zach Goberis who has been involved in seven of the nine goals Estevan has scored heading into the weekend.
Two other matches on Friday have the winless Melville Millionaires hosting the Weyburn Red Wings while the Yorkton Terriers and Notre Dame Hounds will complete a home-and-home set, which started on Thursday in Wilcox.
As mentioned, these weekend games all precede the annual Showcase event that has all 12 teams gathering in one location for a slate of games to be observed by scouts from various levels of hockey.
The Showcase, which will all be played at the Hamm Latrace Arena in Saskatoon, will have each team playing a pair of games with all points from these matches being included in the regular-season standings.
The objective of the event is to provide scouts, and fans, with an opportunity to see all 12 teams in a neutral location so that players can be evaluated and hopefully generate interest for scholarship opportunities for those interested in pursuing a post-secondary education while still playing the game at a high level.
An interesting fact to note is that of the 14 games played to date, 11 of those have been decided by two goals or less with five needing extra time to settle the outcome. Parity is alive and well setting up for an exciting weekend of action leading up to an even more thrilling series of games at the Showcase.
Nipawin at Flin Flon
Melfort at Humboldt
Weyburn at Melville
Estevan at Kindersley
Notre Dame at Yorkton
Estevan at Battlefords
SHOWCASE (All games at Hamm Latrace Arena in Saskatoon)
1 p.m. – Nipawin vs. Humboldt
4:15 p.m. – Battlefords vs. Melville
7:30 p.m. – Flin Flon vs. Weyburn
10 a.m. – Estevan vs. Battlefords
1:15 p.m. – Weyburn vs. Kindersley
4:30 p.m. – Melville vs. La Ronge
7:45 p.m. – Notre Dame vs. Flin Flon
12:45 p.m. – La Ronge vs. Estevan
3 p.m. – Humboldt vs. Yorkton
5:45 p.m. – Melfort vs. Notre Dame
11 a.m. – Kindersley vs. Nipawin
2:15 p.m. – Yorkton vs. Melfort