Leading into Friday's home game against the Melfort Mustangs, it seemed that North Stars captain Layne Young had pretty much done it all this season.
His 18 points in seven games were almost laughable.
Yet somehow, he recorded a first for the year in front of over 1,000 fans at the Civic Centre on retro night, when they witnessed him streak down the left wing and bury a shot five hole to give the North Stars a 3-2 overtime win over the first-place Mustangs. It was the captain's first overtime-winning-goal of the season.
It was also the team's fourth overtime game of the young season, meaning they've gone to extra time in half of their eight games so far.
"I don't think we want to get into the habit of trying to win every game in overtime," North Stars assistant coach Boyd Wakelin joked after the game. "I don't know what the percentages are but I don't think they're very good for teams that are going into overtime night after night. You're going to wear yourself out. The guys are just showing great character and digging in and winning those games so it's been a lot of fun to watch on the bench."
Wakelin refused to single out any particularly strong performances, preferring to maintain that everyone bought in.
"It was an awesome, gutsy effort through and through the lineup," Wakelin said. "It's still early in the season [but] it's obviously a huge win for us. It was a really good test. They're a great team over there and it was good to see the guys come out and answer against an opponent like that.
"This is probably the most exciting game in my young coaching career so far. It was a lot of fun."
Melfort entered the game with a league-best 10-1-1-1 record, but had also dropped three of their last five after starting a perfect 8-0.
They showed why they've been piling up points, as they controlled the play in the offensive zone for much of the game. But Battlefords did a decent job of keeping them to do the outside, and sometimes were able to create odd-man rushes when Melfort's defenceman got over-aggressive.
"They pre-pinch almsot every play so it's hard to go up the wall and get out of your end," Wakelin said. "When they're pinching down like that, you can chip by them and try to get some odd-man rushes. And I thought when we did get into their end, we did a good job of punishing their 'D'. They have some really good mobile guys back there so every little bump is going to wear them down over a 60-minute stetch. I thought it was a great buy-in from all four lines to wear those guys down throughout the game."
On the defensive side of things, rookie goaltender Kolby Matthew shone.
In his third career Saskatchewna Junior Hockey League start, he made 26 saves on 28 shots.
"I thought he did a great job back there tonight," Wakelin said. "The thing I liked the most about him is that he was coming out and playing the puck confidently. I think when you watch any good goaltender play, if they're coming out playing the puck early and often, it's making it a lot easier for your d-men. They don't have to come back and get it and get hit. You come out of the zone a lot easier and it gets him into the game early."
In addition to Young's game-winning-goal, he also added an assist on a third-period MacGregor Sinclair power play goal. Young now has seven goals and 13 assists in just eight games this season, while MacGregor Sinclair now has six goals and five assists in eight games, tied for second in points.
Josh Sielsky scored the first goal of the night for Battlefords, when he whacked home a Matthias Urbanski pass in the middle frame.
The North Stars will now welcome the Flin Flon Bombers to town on Saturday night, who fell 5-2 to La Ronge on the road on Friday. The Bombers are surprisingly just 5-6-0-3 this season so far.
Three Stars from Friday:
3. Levi Kleiboer - D - BAT- 2A (including game-winning pass to Young)
2. Layne Young - LW - BAT - OT GWG, 1A
1. Kolby Matthews - G - BAT - 26/28, now 3-0 this season
2nd. MLFT – 11:05 – Schmidt (4) ASST: Zary (6), Ruschkowski (6)
2nd. BAT – 16:48 – Sielsky (2) ASST: Urbanski (3)
3rd. BAT PPG – 2:13 – Sinclair (6) ASST: Young (13), Kleiboer (4)
3rd. MLFT PPG – 4:28 – Zary (3) ASST: NONE
OT. BAT – 2:21 – Young (7) ASST: Kleiboer (5)
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