North Stars remain unbeaten in shootout after 4-3 triumph over Estevan

By Nathan Kanter
February 3, 2018 - 12:01am

One goaltender stole the show in the third period, while the other took the spotlight in overtime.

In the end, only one could lead his team to victory, and that man was Joel Grzybowski, as his Battlefords North Stars topped Bo Didur and the Estevan Bruins 4-3 in a shootout on Friday night at the Civic Centre.

Grzybowski finished with 35 saves on 38 shots, including 17 third period saves, many of which kept the game tied 3-3, while Didur made 34 saves, including six in the 3-on-3 overtime, which was dominated by the North Stars.

"Both guys battled really hard. There were a few times when you think they're down and out, and they sprawl across to make the save," North Stars assistant coach Boyd Wakelin said after the games. "[Grzybowski] did a good job of giving us a chance to win, as our goalies do night in and night out.

"When we match up against good teams, there's going to be times where you're going to lean on your goalie and we're lucky we've got two guys back there that we can lean on."

Lean on Grzybowski they did, as the North Stars were outshot for the 13th time this season, edged 38-37. They remain in first place in their division with a 34-8-2 record.

Grzybowski is now 12-1 this season, with a .926 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against-average.

"We weren't really playing the smartest," Wakelin said when asked why Estevan generated so many chances. "Lots of turnovers at the bluelines, which can't happen. It's going to bite you. That's what happened on the third goal, a turnover at the blueline and it ends up at the back of your net.

"Don't really want to get into games like that with Estevan...You don't want to get into the ones when you're exchanging chances like that."

The North Stars scored first, but every time they would score, Bruins captain Jake Fletcher would even things up.

Two minutes into the first period, the North Stars went ahead, and five minutes later Fletcher tied it 1-1.

Layne Young gave the North Stars a 2-1 lead halfway through the first, and Fletcher evened it up halfway through the second.

Garan Magnes gave the North Stars a 3-2 advantage near the end of the second period, and Fletcher tied the game 3-3 four minutes into the third.

It was Fletcher's first hat-trick of the season, and he now has a career-high 21 goals this season.

Overtime solved nothing, although the North Stars outshot the Bruins 6-0, and could have ended it on multiple occasions.

"Young and [Cole] Johnson, if they're getting as many chances as they were getting tonight, you've got to think they'll probably put a few more in," Wakelin said. "They were awesome tonight too. They drove the bus I thought for us [offensively]."

The only player to score in the shootout was Chaseton Braid, who is now 4-for-4 this season in shootouts.

The North Stars as a team are a perfect 6-0 in shootouts, and now 11-2 in extra time.

"When the overtime ends we kind of talk about [who's going to shoot]. We've got our guys we usually go with," Wakelin explained. "I don't know if we ever practice shootouts."

Next up for the North Stars is Melville on Saturday.

The last time the clubs met was on Jan. 20 in Balcarres for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan, when the North Stars won 4-1, thanks to two empty net goals.

Wakelin said after a subpar defensive performance Friday, there is no worry it might continue.

"There's no panic or anything. There's no concern," he said. "It's just tweaks here and there. Just playing a little smarter...[and] communication. Easy thing to fix. Just get the guys talking more for [Saturday] night. Shouldn't be an issue two games in a row."

Saturday's game is once again set for 7:30 p.m. with NorSask North Stars hockey getting underway at 7:15 p.m. with the Ultra Print pre-game show.


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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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