Photo Credit: Outer Edge Imagery
With the first half of the season wrapping up this weekend it is time to take a look into the crystal ball and see if what transpired through the first 170-plus games is a true indicator of how the season unfolds down the stretch.
The defending champion Battlefords North Stars appear well on their way to both a Global Ag Risk Solutions Division and overall point’s title as two losses in the first 26 games has given them double-digit leads in both races. A colossal collapse will only make those races close.
Yorkton Terrier veteran Chantz Petruic has a double-digit advantage of his own in the individual scoring race and his two-points-per-game average bodes well for that to continue. Barring an injury, the scoring title is his; it is just a matter of how wide of a margin he finishes with.
Rookie goaltenders Ross Hawryluk (Nipawin), Liam McGarva (La Ronge), Noah Decottignies (Weyburn) and Brendan Forman (Humboldt) have given their respective clubs an opportunity to win on any given night, but the same can also be said for a handful of veteran puckstoppers including Ryan Ouellette from Yorkton, Adam Dmyterko from the Battlefords, Shawn Parkinson from Melfort, Keenan Rancier from Estevan, Jacob Delorme from Flin Flon and Riley Kohonick from Notre Dame. One can’t overlook Berk Berkeliev of Melville who was sidelined for two months after an ugly incident on opening weekend put him out of action with a concussion and Ethan Slobodzian, who opened the season with back-to-back shutouts for Nipawin has since been traded to Kindersley.
The La Ronge Ice Wolves have blossomed under the guidance of first-year head coach and general manager Kevin Kaminski and as a result they are firmly entrenched in a playoff spot heading into the second half. Their continued improved play should get them playing beyond the end of the regular schedule.
There will be a lot of battles going down the stretch for playoff positioning and likewise there will be some tough decisions to be made when the year-end awards are handed out in March. Here is one soothsayer’s look at what to expect when the regular season ends in three months.
RBC Player of the Year – Unless something radical happens this is a lock for Petruic. Having figured in 60 per cent of the Terriers’ offence during the first half, Petruic appears to be a runaway leader in individual scoring and with that should keep Yorkton atop the Viterra Division standings.
SGEU MVP – The reason all the goaltenders were listed earlier is because each one of them could have an argument for being the most valuable player for their respective teams. Naturally, Petruic is going to get a lot of consideration for this as well and Daylon Mannon from La Ronge also has to be in the conversation. If the Terriers continue their upward trend, however, my nod has to go to Ouellette in the Yorkton goal. After returning from a stint south of the border to start the season, Ouellette was 8-1-0-1 in his first 10 games with the Terriers including a win and overtime loss against the Battlefords.
Mayfair Diagnostics Defenceman of the Year – A pair of 20-year-old veterans lead the way for this award with Matthew Fletcher of the Battlefords looking like the early favorite. Through 26 games the Saskatoon product had already set career highs in goals and points and his play in his own zone has helped the North Stars become the stingiest team by a large margin. Nolan Kadachuk of the Mustangs has also established career bests in assists and points while playing a big part in taking care of Melfort’s own end.
SaskTel Top Goaltender – Take your pick from those listed earlier. Ouellette is on track to becoming the frontrunner, but Rancier has been vital for Estevan’s success as have all of the others that were mentioned. Berkeliev could be the dark horse here as he is 4-2-0-2 in his eight starts and if he remains healthy he will be a huge asset for the Millionaires as they chase down a playoff spot.
DirectWest Rookie of the Year – The SJHL has a bounty of freshmen talent this year with first-year goalies Forman, McGarva and Hawryluk highlighting that class. Throw in Kyle Ford from La Ronge, Nic Porterfield from Melville and Karter McNarland from Humboldt and this one is too tough to call. Porterfield and McNarland have been so impressive that they were the lone SJHL invitees to the Team West selection camp for the upcoming World Junior “A” Challenge scheduled in Dawson Creek B.C., in mid-December.
Canalta Hotels Coach of the Year – As it stands Kevin Kaminski of La Ronge and Brayden Klimosko of the Battlefords have to be the favourites, but Matt Helm of Yorkton is in a position to make a second-half challenge and Scott Barney has also done a splendid job with Humboldt’s young line-up. If the season were to be over right now I’d have to give it to Kaminski as he already has the Ice Wolves with more wins than the team has recorded in the last four years and they would be in the post-season for the first time in that same time period.
These, of course, are just one person’s observations and there is no intent to slight anyone for being omitted from this dialogue. The season has two halves for a reason and the most obvious is that strong finishes can change the discussion for year-end awards drastically.
It has been an incredibly interesting first half of the schedule and the next three-plus months will only make it more so.
Humboldt at Nipawin
La Ronge at Melfort
Kindersley at Melville
Battlefords at Weyburn
Flin Flon at Estevan
Melfort at La Ronge
Kindersley at Yorkton
Flin Flon at Weyburn
Notre Dame at Estevan
Nipawin at Humboldt
Melville at Weyburn