North Stars edge Broncos in overtime yet again

By Nathan Kanter
December 5, 2017 - 11:59pm

All four games this season between the Battlefords North Stars and Humboldt Broncos have needed extra time.

And all four times, the North Stars have won, after their 3-2 victory in overtime on Tuesday night at the Civic Centre.

The thing was, the North Stars were outshot 31-23, and according to head coach Brandon Heck, didn't play very well at all.

"Goalie [Joel Grzybowski] won us a game," Heck said after the team's 20th win of the season. "Everyone wanted someone else to go get the puck for them. We compared it to football players. Everyone wanted to be the quarterback. No one wanted to be the o-linemen."

The Broncos neutral zone trap seemed effective throughout much of Tuesday's game. At first, it didn't work, as the North Stars outshot the visiting Broncos 9-3 early on but Humboldt outshot the North Stars 11-3 in the third and 12-8 in the third.

Heck said it wasn't the trap that gave his club trouble. Instead, he said laziness got the best of them.

"In the first we were able to penetrate it," Heck said. "We just had guys that were lazy, that wanted someone else to go get the puck. We'd dump it in deep and then they would break it out uncontested.

"In Notre Dame we at least worked way harder and tried our best, per say, but tonight I don't think a lot of players broke a sweat."

Troy Gerein netted the game-winner 1:06 into the extra frame after a pass from behind the net from Matthias Urbanski.

Since moving to defence on Nov. 19, Gerein has logged a ton of ice-time, and for good reason.

He was named the first star on Tuesday.

"I think he's one of the better defencemen in our league when he plays that way," Heck said of Gerein. "He has incredible vision, he uses his partner with and without the puck, he supports, he's physical. I think he's actually a more offensive threat from the blueline than he is on forward."

Grzybowski's stellar performance did not go unnotcied either.

He was named the second star of the game after making 29 saves on 31 shots.

"He made probably three or four saves that a lot of goalies don't make in this league," Heck said, agreeing it was by far his best game of the year, although it was also only his third start since returning from the Saskatoon Blades.

Dakota Huebner, although not named a star, was also a huge influence in his return to the lineup following an upper-body injury.

He registered three assists, and although he started the game skating with Chaseton Braid and Brad Girard, was quickly reunited with MacGregor Sinclair and Layne Young on the top line.

"Just wasn't clicking," Heck said of new acquisition Dylan Williamson on the top line. "[Williamson]...hadn't been on the ice in five days so it's a lot to ask when we're playing him big minutes. For whatever reason, things weren't going right so we had to switch something up."

Huebner, who now has 22 points in 20 games this season, was the team's best forward in the game according to coach Heck.

The North Stars will head north this weekend for two games against the La Ronge Ice Wolves.

They play in La Ronge on Friday and then in Pinehouse on Saturday.

"We're in big trouble if we play the way we did tonight because you can't ask your goalies to make that many saves," Heck said. "If nobody wants to go get the puck or screen a goalie so a point shot can go in, we won't score. We've got to play way more unselfish."

 

nathan.kanter@jpbg.ca

On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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