By Craig Stein
MUSTANGS & HAWKS TIED FOR SHERWOOD LEAD
With their 10th consecutive win, and some help from Flin Flon, the Melfort Mustangs have moved into a tie for first place in the Sherwood Division, and the entire SJHL.
The Mustangs went into Notre Dame and beat the Hounds 4-1 as their winning streak reached double digits.
With the late 8:00 start in Wilcox, Mustangs fans knew the result of the other game before their players did, as Flin Flon defeated the Nipawin Hawks 3-1 at the Whitney Forum.
That brings the rival Mustangs and Hawks into a deadlock, both with 76-points to top the Sherwood Division and the league, as they’re both one point up on Kindersley. All three of those clubs have three games left, and on the same three nights, Friday, Saturday and next Tuesday.
The Hawks and Mustangs go head to head twice, with a home and home Friday in Nipawin, and Saturday in Melfort, which also just happens to be the Game Of The Month province-wide on SaskTel Max Local.
Noah Giesbrecht stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced for Melfort, as Notre Dame out-shot the Mustangs 36-20.
The Mustangs (36-15-4-0) led 2-0 after the first period as Kayle Tosh and Tanner Zentner each scored their 10th goals of the season, which captain Carson Albrecht assisting on both. Zack Smith added another midway through the second, making it a 3-1 Melfort lead at the time, and that was it for Notre Dame rookie goalie Riley Kohonick, who surrendered three goals on 10 shots.
For good measure, Justin Ball, who’s seldom held off the scoresheet, added an empty-netter later for his 53rd goal and 101st point on the season.
Jakob Breault scored his 24th goal of the season for the Hounds (25-21-5-5) while Matt Lukacs stopped all nine shots he faced in relief.
With the loss the Hounds can’t finish any higher than 8th, and they remain one point up on Yorkton for that home ice Wild Card position. They now have just two games left, to Yorkton’s three. Notre Dame visits Battlefords Friday and Kindersley Saturday to cap their regular season. There’s still a mathematical chance that Yorkton could catch Estevan for the Viterra Division crown, which would launch the Terriers up to the number 3 seed, and put Estevan against Notre Dame in the Wild Card. The Terriers are five points back of Estevan with three games to go (two for Estevan).
In Flin Flon, Gabriel Waked stopped 32 of the 33 shots sent his way and the Bombers kept their hopes of a top six playoff position alive, with that 3-1 win over Nipawin.
The Bombers (32-20-1-2) won’t finish any lower than 7th, or higher than 6th, meaning their playoff opponent will be either Melville, Weyburn, Estevan or Yorkton.
Tyler Higgins opened the scoring Tuesday night, 2:33 into the game. After a scoreless second, fellow defenseman Jack Michell added some insurance early in the third and Donavan Houle-Villeneuve potted an empty-netter.
Christian Bosa answered Higgins’ goal just 3:17 later, and Declan Hobbs made 37/39 saves for the Hawks (36-15-2-2).
The Hawks host Melfort Friday, visit them Saturday, and finish at home against Melville on Tuesday. Flin Flon has a home-and-home with La Ronge this weekend and host Melfort to wrap their regular season on Tuesday.
Another playoff race takes centre stage on Wednesday as the Melville Millionaires host Weyburn for the second time in five nights. Weyburn won in Melville on Saturday to get to within one point of the 10th and final playoff spot.