By Craig Stein
BROOKS & PENTICTON ADVANCE TO RBC
It was a season to remember for the 2016-2017 Battlefords North Stars, who re-wrote the franchise record book, and did some things that have either never been done in the league, or at least not in quite some time.
The Stars won their franchise’s first SJHL Canalta Cup Championship since the 1999-2000 season, and did so with a 48-9-1 regular season, followed by a perfect 12-0 post season record, with four game sweeps of Weyburn, Estevan, and Flin Flon in the finals.
Taryn Kotchorek and Joel Gryzbowski were the goaltenders of record for all 48 wins in the regular season, as the team allowed just 103 goals in 58 games, good for a 1.78 Goals Against Average. The duo combined for 11 shutouts, Gryzbowski holding the slight edge with 6, while Kotchorek took the nod in Wins (27), GAA (1.61) and SV% (.936).
The Stars headed west for the Sun Life Financial Western Canada Cup in Penticton, B.C., where they battled the best of the best from B.C., Alberta and Manitoba. The SJHL Champs got off to a slow start, going winless through their first three round robin games, however a single point for a 2-1 overtime loss to host Penticton in their opener would prove pivotal later on. The Stars followed that with a 5-3 loss to the MJHL’s Portage Terriers before falling 4-1 to the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL.
Heading into the final day of round robin play on Thursday, the North Stars needed a regulation win over the BCHL rep Chilliwack Chiefs, and for the round robin final between Penticton and Chilliwack to end in regulation, so both clubs couldn’t pick up points in the standings. The Stars did their part as Gryzbowski stopped all 22 shots he faced, while shutting out Chilliwack 3-0. They then had to wait, as the host Vees did them a favour, beating Portage in regulation, eliminating the Terriers from playoff contention, and putting the Stars into the 3 vs 4 page playoff game against Penticton on Saturday.
While the Stars prided themselves on defense during the season, they also had very little trouble scoring, but in the short tournament format, just weren’t able to find the same rhythm, and were blanked 4-0 by the hosts, ending their remarkable season on Saturday afternoon.
Gryzbowski played every minute of action in the Stars’ crease at the Western Canada Cup, going 1-3-1 with a more than respectable 2.77 GAA, .914% and a shutout. The Stars scored eight goals in their five games, and Keaton Holinaty, who led the SJHL Playoffs with 10-goals in just 12-games, also led the Stars at the WCC, with 3-goals and 4-points. Layne Young (2g-1a) and Connor Logan each scored twice at the tournament, while Coby Downs and Reed Delainey each provided three assists.
The Brooks Bandits beat Chilliwack 6-1 in the 1 vs 2 game, to claim the Western Canada Cup Trophy, while Penticton managed to grab the 2nd berth at the RBC Cup, beating Chilliwack 3-2 in a rematch of the BCHL Final, which went the full seven games.
The RBC Cup is in Cobourg, Ontario, running May 13-21. Former Humboldt Bronco Daniel McKitrick is part of the host Cobourg Cougars.