Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

Unique schedule offers second-place teams an opportunity to overtake divisional leaders

By Dave Leaderhouse

Once again the landscape of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League could be altered as a unique weekend schedule offers the opportunity for the three second-place teams to move to the top of their respective divisions.

The Melfort Mustangs, who have led the Sherwood Division and overall standings since opening night, can only sit back and watch as the Nipawin Hawks face the Melville Millionaires in a home-and-home set and should the red-hot Hawks get at least one point from that match-up they will pull even with the idle Mustangs.

Ditto for the Notre Dame Hounds as they, too, have the weekend off while the Battlefords North Stars travel to La Ronge for a pair of games against the Ice Wolves. Notre Dame, which has won seven of its last 10 games, hold a one-point lead in the newly renamed Global Ag Risk Solutions Division (formerly Olympic Buildings Division), but the Hounds have played five more games than the North Stars leaving the Battlefords with numerous opportunities to gain ground beginning with this weekend.

The Viterra Division also has the frontrunners separated by just a single point with the Estevan Bruins looking to stay ahead of the Weyburn Red Wings when they play the Yorkton Terriers in a home-and-home series while the Red Wings will entertain the Kindersley Klippers on back-to-back nights.

The Hawks enter the weekend as the hottest team in the league, having recorded points in nine straight games, and thanks to a recent offensive outburst that included consecutive wins where they outscored their opponents 19-3 they possess the league’s best goal differential at +51.

The Battlefords began the season with a very light schedule, but lately have made up most of those games and are now within striking distance of the Hounds for the divisional lead and the Mustangs in the overall point’s race, a title they have owned for the last two seasons.

Estevan and Weyburn are well ahead of the rest of their division, but neither has taken an opportunity to break away from the other as both are playing at a .500 clip in the last 10 games. This weekend could follow a similar path as both of their opponents have played them very tough this year as the Terriers, despite only posting five wins all season, have two wins, an overtime loss and a one-goal setback in five previous meetings with the Bruins while Kindersley has won all three of their encounters with the Red Wings so far this year.

Not to be lost in the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division race is the Humboldt Broncos as they are just five points behind the Hounds and should they expand on their current streak with at least one point in their last five games when they travel to Flin Flon for a doubleheader against the Bombers then that tightens things up even more.

SJHL NOTES – Those Bombers will be without head coach and general manager Mike Reagan and forward Chrystopher Collin, likely for the remainder of the schedule leading up to the Christmas break, as both are part of Team West that will be competing at the World Junior “A” Challenge in Truro, N.S., next week. Battlefords defenceman Levi Kleiboer is also a member of that squad as he and Collin were the only two successful SJHL hopefuls to crack the final roster. A total of nine SJHL players were invited to the selection camp last weekend with the remaining seven now back with their respective clubs…Now that the schedule is at the half-way mark an interesting fact that pops out is the breakdown of games for some of the teams. Notre Dame, for example, has just nine home games remaining and while they have taken advantage of home ice with a 15-3-0-1 mark they have struggled on the road with a 4-5-2-1 ledger. On the flip side, Weyburn has by far spent the most time on the road and with a 9-8-2-0 record in those games they can look forward to a second half that sees them play 18 of their final 28 games at Crescent Point Place where they are 8-3-0-0…Battlefords forward Layne Young continues to pile up the points as his latest streak has him registering 20 points in the last nine games. The veteran forward has only been held off the scoresheet three times this season and as a result leads the league with 51 points in 26 games. Estevan’s Zach Goberis, who burst out of the gate with 22 points in the first nine games, has fallen six points off of Young’s pace, but continues to lead the league in goals scored with 25…Young’s teammate Chaseton Braid is on a nice little run of his own with five goals in the last four games and while it has been a hugely frustrating season for the Terriers, Cody Bruchkowski has been one of their more consistent players as he presently has a seven-game point streak in which he has registered four goals and four assists in that span…A big reason for the Hounds’ run to the top of the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division has been the play of netminder Jacob Standen. The 20-year-old from Nanton, Alta., has won six of his last eight starts and leads the league in minutes played (1402) and shutouts (3) and is tied with Melfort’s Evan Plotnik for wins (13) while trailing Nipawin rookie Jake Anthony by percentage points in both goals-against average (1.96 to 2.05) and save percentage (.929 to .928).

Weekend Schedule
Yorkton at Estevan
Melville at Nipawin
Humboldt at Flin Flon
Battlefords at La Ronge
Kindersley at Weyburn

Nipawin at Melville
Estevan at Yorkton
Humboldt at Flin Flon
Battlefords at La Ronge
Kindersley at Weyburn

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