North Stars take 2-0 series lead after dominant 5-1 win

By Nathan Kanter
April 1, 2017 - 11:49pm

The North Stars improved upon their game one performance with a dominanting 5-1 win in game two over the Estevan Bruins on Saturday night at the CIvic Centre to take a 2-0 series lead.

They didn't quite fire 50 shots on goal again, but did outshoot the visitors 48-25 and got goals from five different players.

"I think tonight was a better game," North Stars associate coach Braeden Johnson said after the win. "The defensive play was a little more our style and we controlled a lot of the play and kept shots to the outside. That was our key to success throughout the year and tonight it was another sign to the guys to realize what it takes. If we stick to our game, we're an extremely hard team to beat."

"We didn't give them as many prime scoring chances," North Stars head coach Nate Bedford said, echoing Johnson's thoughts. "I think that's the main thing. We're going to give up shots. We're going to give up scoring chances. We just can't give up lots of good ones."

Rookie goaltender Joel Gryzbowski shook off some early nerves and finished with 24 saves on 25 shots to get his first career playoff win. His only other post-season start so far resulted in him being pulled after allowing three goals on 16 shots against Weyburn in game four.

In the regular season, the Hafford native compiled a stellar 21-4-1 record and was named to the all-rookie team after posting a 1.66 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage.

"I thought [Gryzbowski] did extremely well," Johnson said. "It was his first time playing in the Civic Centre, a 17-year-old, with 1,700 fans here and we wouldn't expect anything different from him [than what we saw.] He was a little shaky off the start but after that he controlled the game really well. His rebound control was awesome and his communication and puck play was definitely noticable."

"Today I had to get into the mindset that I'm going to stop everything," Gryzbowski said. "It went well today and hopefully another game along the road comes."

The offence, meanwhile, continued to role, as the North Stars have a league-leading six goals-per-game so far in these playoffs.

They struck seven times last night, and tonight, they chased Bruins starter Nathan Alalouf after just two periods.

Keaton Holinaty and Layne Young scored back-to-back early in the first before Bruins forward Kaelan Holt made it 2-1 but Logan Nachtegaele responded with a rebound goal 11 seconds after Holt. Ben Allen and Connor Logan would score as well, both on the power play.

"I think we've got four lines that are balanced right now," Bedford said. "[Keaton] Holinaty's line, they don't give you much. [MacGregor] Sinclair's line works as hard as anybody in our league does and [Delainey's] line is starting to score as well. Everyone is coming around right now and playing well."

A quick start has been the case for Battlefords in every single home playoff game so far, striking 10 times in the opening frame in their four home games to date.

Bedford believes part of that has to do with who they're playing.

"We don't necessarily like playing against Estevan – they're a tought eam to play against – but we know if we don't start well, we're in trouble," Bedford said.

The power play came through on multiple occasions as well on Saturday, something that did not happen in game one.

It finished a strong 3-for-9, after going 0-for-7 on Friday.

But Johnson, who runs the special teams, said on both nights there was good puck movement.

"I think both nights our power play had a lot of control and it was five guys thinking ahead of the play and anticipating things," he said. "Tonight, they did go in but we could have had a lot more...but they're moving the puck extremely well. We're probably going to change up a few things just to shorten up our shifts a little bit. They got long [tonight]."

Bryce Hall also turned 20 on Saturday and picked up an assist on his birthday.

Coby Downs had two assists to bring his playoff total to 13 in just 6 games, which leads the SJHL. Young was the only other North Star to have a multi-point night, with a goal and a helper, to bring his playoff total to 12 points, which is second in the league. Ben Allen's goal was his seventh of the post-season, which also leads the SJHL.

The best-of-7 series now shifts to Estevan, with games three and four set for Monday and Tuesday.

Both games begin at 7:30 p.m. with the Ultra Print pre-game show on CJNB/CJNS beginning at 7:15 p.m.



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