North Stars continue winning ways by topping Bombers

By Nathan Kanter
October 21, 2017 - 11:25pm

There's no other way to say it: the start to the 2017-18 season for the Battlefords North Stars has been spectacular.

On Saturday night, the North Stars defeated the Flin Flon Bombers 5-2 on home ice, outshooting the visitors 48-28 to improve to 8-0-1 this year.

Yes, it's only been nine games, but in those games, a lot of check marks have been checked off, some with authority.

"This group of guys — it's a good group of veterans — so they know how to win," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said after Saturday's win. "We've caught some bounces to be where we're at...[but] I'm pretty excited about it for sure."

Kolby Matthews, the team's backup rookie goaltender had yet another solid start on Saturday, turning aside 26 of 28 shots for the fourth straight win of his young Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League career. He also made 26 saves on 28 shots against the league's best team in Melfort on Friday and now has a 1.98 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage in his four starts.

Of course, starter Taryn Kotchorek, currently out for roughly two weeks with an upper-body injury, is among the league's best goaltenders (if not the best).

The North Stars also have arguably the best top line in the league (Estevan may have something to say about that) in Layne Young, MacGregor Sinclair and Dakota Huebner, although they didn't need to be spectacular on Saturday (however Layne Young did score a shorthanded goal to extend his point streak to 12 games dating back to last year's playoffs, because why not).

The top line came into the weekend having accounted for 55 per cent of the team's goals (16 of 29), but this weekend the secondary scoring showed up. Young and his linemates scored three goals in the two games, but the rest of the team scored five.

Matthias Urbanski played a big part in providing that additional scoring, as his two goal-performance on Saturday, including the game-winner, brought the youngster's point total this season to six points in nine games.

"He had a number of other chances [too]," Heck said. "The good sign [on Saturday] is we had a lot of different players get scoring chances tonight. Not just scoring, but we had four lines getting chances. I really liked our fourth line [of Owen Lamb, Blake Fennig and Ryan Gil]. I thought they were dangerous the whole game."

Gil scored his first career SJHL goal in his first career game. The California native was added to the team roster two weeks and did not play Friday.

Saturday was also the most shots on goal Battlefords has fired all season, as they nearly hit the 50-mark.

"We shot the puck tonight and were able to keep possession in their end," Heck said. "It's one thing we want, is to retrieve pucks...we bought into that. We just need to shoot a little bit smarter for rebounds and get a little more traffic."

The other good sign for the North Stars so far is they've cut down on their low goals-against per game.

Overall, they're allowing just 2.22 goals-against per-game. If you take out the two games against Estevan (the league's highest scoring team), the North Stars have an absurd 1.43 goals-against per-game in seven contests (10 goals against).

The North Stars will try to keep the streak going at home next weekend with back-to-back home games against the Yorkton Terriers. Yorkton defeated Estevan 5-4 on Saturday night to improve to 3-9-2 this season.

"We need to sharpen up some things rather than [take] momentum [from this weekend]," Heck said. "It's a good opportunity for us to practice and execution level, especially special teams, back to where it was before."

The North Stars power play did got 0-for-7 on Saturday against the Bombers.

Next weekend's games are both set for 7:30 at the Civic Centre. Friday's game can be heard live on 93.3 the Rock, while Saturday's game will be on CJNB/CJNS.


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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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