What a difference 48 hours made for the Battlefords North Stars.
Wednesday night, the defending Canalta Cup champions came out lethargic following a five-hour bus ride and were drubbed 5-1 at the hands of the Notre Dame Hounds.
This saw the Stars facing the possibility of dropping three in a row for the first time since October of 2015. But Battlefords hit the ice with speed and energy to defeat the Estevan Bruins 5-4 at Affinity Place Arena Friday night.
“On Wednesday night some guys just tried to do a little too much and we didn’t stick to our game plan,” Brandon Heck, Stars head coach and general manager said. “It was a much different story tonight.”
Heck’s game plan also included getting on top of secondary scoring and not relying on the top line of Layne Young, Dakota Huebner and MacGregor Sinclair who have carried the bulk of the scoring for the North Stars this season with 28 of the teams 58 goals (48 per cent) prior to Friday night’s game.
“Some other forwards need to get involved and get in those dirty areas to get to those loose pucks,” Heck added. “We also need our defencemen to play a more offensive roll as well.”
Whatever Heck said to the Stars before the game seemed to work as Stars came out of the gates flying in the first period.
Brad Girard scored his first two goals of the season for the North Stars who are now 13-3-1 this season and have 27 points in the Olympic Buildings Division of the SJHL.
MacGregor Sinclair (10), Chaseton Braid (3) and Matthias Urbanski (6) all chipped in with singles. Defenseman Levi Kleiboer had a pair of assists for the Stars who now trail both the Humboldt Broncos and Notre Dame Hounds by just three points in the division with Battlefords holding seven games in hand over the Broncos and five games in hand over Notre Dame.
“This was a big game for us,” Heck said, who pointed to the fact Estevan had won eight of ten games on home ice this season. “The Bruins are a tough, physical team and this win was a measuring stick for our boys.”
The North Stars lead 2-0 after 20 minutes and 4-3 after two periods of play.
Taryn Kotchorek (W 5-2-1) was strong again for the Stars despite giving up four goals on 35 shots. The 20-year-old Battleford product made many key saves throughout the game as the Bruins pressed hard for the equalizer late in the game. Matt Lukas (L 7-5-2) struggled for the Bruins giving up five goals on 28 North Stars shots. The Stars are now 7-3-0 in the last ten games while Estevan is 4-5-1 in their last ten.
Battlefords continues their southern trip Saturday night as they face the Viterra Division-leading Weyburn Red Wings at Crescent Point Place. The Red Wings handed the Stars their second regulation loss of the season last Saturday 1-0 at the Civic Centre.
Saturday’s game will also feature the return of North Stars forward Troy Gerein and defenseman Connor Manegre both of whom have finished serving their five-game suspensions for their part in the Halloween night brawl in Kindersley.
Game time Saturday night is 7:30 and can be heard on Norsask North Stars hockey on 1050 CJNB with the Ultra Print pre-game show at 7:15 p.m.
On Twitter: @RJWtheReporter
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