The Battlefords North Stars wrapped up a busy head-to-head schedule against divisional rival Kindersley on Thursday night, coming out on top 5-2 in their 10th and final meeting of the season.
The win was their seventh in 10 head-to-head meetings, winning all five at home. The North Stars home record in 2017-18 finishes at an impressive 24-3-2 mark.
Despite allowing the first goal, the North Stars were able to rally, using a shorthanded goal and two power play goals to hand the Klippers just their fourth regulation loss in their last 16 games.
"That's a very underrated hockey team over there," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said, about a Kindersley team that finishes the season with a 29-22-4-3 record. "It's a tough team to play. They're big and heavy and they win a lot of battles. They're great on faceoffs.
"[We had] a solid 40 minutes and the second [period] we took our foot off the gas for eight or nine minutes. Overall, pretty good performance."
Battlefords got goals from five different players, with Cole Johnson netting the game-winning in the second period on a shorthanded rush where he kept the puck ona 2-on-1 and beat Zach Johnson with a short-side wrister.
Levi Kleiboer and Garan Magnes had the two power play goals, while Matthias Urbanski and Keith Anderson both scored at even strength, with Anderson's wowing the crowd thanks to a between the legs move that he finished by going strong to the net.
Heck said part of the reason for the power play's improvement (just 2-for-21 in the last four games heading into Thursday's action, but went 2-for-3 in the game), was because they changed things up a bit.
"Just moved some personnel around to different spots," Heck said of the first unit, with Layne Young, MacGregor Sinclair, Anderson, Johnson, and Kleiboer. "Even the one power play we didn't score, I liked the way we moved the puck.
"I liked the way our guys were shooting the puck tonight...We're dangerous when we shoot the puck and we get it back and we can make a quick play."
The North Stars outshot Kindersley 37-27 in the game, with goaltender Taryn Kotchorek picking up win number 19 in 30 games this year, thanks to 25 saves.
The club's power play netting two goals in a game was just the second time that has happened in the last 14 games.
Johnson and Anderson had particularly strong performances, Johnson with a goal and two assists, and Anderson with the highlight reel goal.
"[Johnson] is a gamebreaker any night, when he wants to be," Heck said. "The thing [Anderson] is still realizing is how much skill he has. He went to the Western Hockey League and played in that fourth line, fighting role, but [now] he's got his confidence going. I think the sky is the limit."
Young also hit yet another considerable milestone with his first period assist. It was the captain's 107th point of the season, giving him the most points in a single SJHL season since the 2000-01 season, when Tyler Shantz put up 111 for the Lebret Eagles.
"On the ice he amazes me. He's a threat every time he's out there," Heck said of his captain. "But he's a great leader; a great person. He's fun to be around. I don't think it's a coincidence with how hard he practices and how much he cares, [with] why he's so successful. He's as special a person off the ice as he is on the ice."
With second place already locked up and guaranteed (thanks to a 42-13-2 record), the North Stars plan to sit many regulars in their season finale on Friday against Nipawin, who have locked up first and plan to do the same.
Heck said eight affiliate players will be in the lineup.
"Nipawin is going to dress quite a few of theirs; [Nipawin head coach] Doug [Johnson] and I talked about it," Heck said. "Obviously avoid injury. With the APs, some players will get more roles and hopefully can elevate their confidence. Should be a fun night."
Osler, Sask., native Jake Davidson is slated to get his first career SJHL start in goal for the North Stars, after backing up on a few cases while Grzybowski was away in the WHL and when injuries presented themselves.
"He deserves it," Heck said of Davidson. "He bailed us out with injuries, driving from Moose Jaw to Kindersley and up to Nipawin. He's been a good soldier for us."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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