It took a while to get going, but the Battlefords North Stars topped a much younger Humboldt Broncos squad 5-4 in overtime in pre-season action on Tuesday night at the Civic Centre.
They fired 25 shots on goal in the first period alone — to Humboldt's eight — but the team admitted most of those were fringe shots that weren't difficult for Humboldt netminder Isaac Labelle to stop.
After falling behind 4-1 early in the third, the North Stars erased a three-goal deficit to force overtime — something that was a good sign — but simply meant the North Stars' first 40 minutes wasn't up to snuff, according to head coach Brandon Heck.
"We were sloppy and emotionless until the eight-minute mark of the third period," Heck said following the win. "I want to compare it to the Bonnyville [loss Sunday]. The benches were chirping back and forth and it took us until the eight-minute mark of the third period before we got any emotion."
Winger Layne Young, who scored the overtime winner on a wicked shot and added two assists, agreed with his head coach.
"Our first two periods weren't great," Young said. "It seemed like we couldn't get anything going shift to shift. But come the third we started staying positive and just believing in ourselves. We made a goal at the second intermission to get 20 shots [in the third] so we really focused on that and once we started throwing pucks on net, things started to go our way."
It was just 56 seconds into the third period when the Broncos increased their lead from 3-1 to 4-1.
Three and a half minutes later, MacGregor Sinclair cut the lead to 4-2, after his backhander off the rush squeaked by Bronco netminder Calum Humble.
Connor McIntosh then beat Humble with a low shot fron the slot less than three minutes later to make it a one-goal game with over 12 minutes to go in the game.
While on a brief power play following 4-on-4, Ontario native Elijah Loon-Stewardson then tapped one home into a yawning cage after a pass from Young to square things up at 4-4 with six minutes to go in the game.
"Playing with [Young] and [Sinclair] makes hockey easy a lot of times," Loon-Stewardson said, who started the game with Jacob Tibbatts and Michael Curran but was moved up to the top line in the third. "Couldn't ask for an easier one from them.
"It's pre-season, so it's not too, too big," he added, when asked how it felt to tie the game so late. "But it's nice to get a 'W' and just help the boys out."
Heck credited Young's line with getting the comeback rolling.
But the more important thing is for the whole squad to learn from the subpar performance in the first 40 minutes, especially considering Humboldt's lineup had just two 1998-born players and no 97s, while the North Stars had nine 1998-born players and one 97.
Young said the youthful opponent may have had something to do with what happened.
"It probably had a lot to do with why our start, our first periods, weren't good," Young said. "We thought we could come out and relax a little bit and we were just going to roll over them but really we've got to play every team tough no matter who they [decide to] play."
Heck, however, said it shouldn't have been the case.
"Nowadays, everyone's a skilled, good hockey player...[so] I don't think so," he said. "Maybe we tried being a little selfish at the start but I don't think [their youth] played into it.
"They better learn from it because we've still got a lot of numbers here and decisions aren't getting any easier. We told them in the meetings tofday, we're not throwing anyone any more bones."
The North Stars play the back half of the home and home on Wednesday at the Elgar Peterson Arena in Humboldt, where the Broncos will likely dress an older lineup.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.
Battlefords also released Hunter Cuthbert following Tuesday's game.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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