AAA Stars blow lead to Blackhawks, playoff chances nearly impossible

By Nathan Kanter
February 14, 2018 - 12:01pm Updated: February 14, 2018 - 1:39pm

If you take away the first five minutes of the second period of last night's game between the Battlefords AAA Stars and Beardy's Blackhawks, the Stars played extremely well.

Sometimes, however, a short span of strong play can go a long way, as was the case for Beardy's last night at the Civic Centre.

The Stars fell asleep for those five minutes, and saw their 2-0 lead evaporate right before their very eyes as the game went from 2-0 to 2-1, then 2-2 and finally 3-2 for the visitors. The Blackhawks won the game 4-3 in regulation, pushing the Stars playoff hopes from unlikely to nearly impossible.

"I think [the Stars] just came out a little bit unfocused, and before you know it Beardy's had tied it and then they got another one shortly after," Stars fill-in head coach Martin Smith said after the game.

"Even after that, it took us a little bit to get our feet back under us," Smith added. "Their goaltender was sensational tonight, and we couldn't score when we needed to."

The Stars simply couldn't beat Blackhawks goaltender Kobey Clarke when it counted. Beardy's got an insurance goal from Rylan McNinch with 1:52 to go in the third period to make it 4-2, before Adam Beckman cut the visitor's lead to 4-3 with 46 seconds left and the goalie pulled. But that goal came too late, as Clarke made 19 saves on 20 third-period shots, and 43 saves overall.

"[We] were getting frustrated because their goaltender played so well," Smith said. "If some of those goals go in, it's a different hockey game."

The Stars entered the contest five points back of the final playoff spot with four games left on their schedule. Now they are sitting five points back and have only three games left, all of which are on the road. Beardy's also jumped ahead of the Stars in the standings, meaning the Battlefords team needs to get lucky with the final results of both the Blackhawks and the Saskatoon Blazers, who are currently in eighth.

"I didn't think this was a desperate effort, for a team that is trying to make the playoffs," Smith said. "If we had played as desperate as we did the last five minutes of the hockey game, that's how desperate a team needs to play in this situation and that was disappointing. When [this] team wants to play, they can play."

Scoring for the Stars on Tuesday were Beckman, Luke Fennig and Damon McKenzie, while Joseph Young made 26 saves.

The Stars are in Prince Albert Thursday to face the Mintos. If they lose, they will be officially eliminated from playoff contention. If they win, they also need to win their final two games of the year against the Moose Jaw Generals to have a chance at sneaking into the post-season.


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