The hero for the Battlefords North Stars on Wednesday night at the Civic Centre was a brand new face.
Eighteen-year-old affiliate player Dayden Dvernichuk scored the game-winning-goal in the second period to help the North Stars stay in front of the Kindersley Klippers and come away with a 4-2 win to kick off the new year.
The Lanigan native's goal was the first of his junior A career, and came off a 2-on-1 rush when he decided to go high glove side on Klippers goalie Justen Close.
"Everyone talks about the shot but he blocked a shot to get that puck and create the 2-on-1," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said in the post-game inteview on CJNB/CJNS. "He's just a hard worker and competes well and he's responsible out there."
The North Stars are now 25-5-2 this season and have a six-point cushion for first place in the Global Ag Risk Solutions division.
They are also 13-2-1 in their last 16 games.
"We needed some players to step up and I thought we had quite a few players step up tonight," Heck added. "I thought a guy like Jacob Tibbatts was real hard on pucks tonight. He was physical, took hits to make a play, drew a penalty, went to the net, and had quite a few chances right in front of their net. We need our players that are younger and maybe less experienced to pick it up if we're going to get better and get going."
Heck said overall he was also impressed with his club's play in the defensive zone.
"We got pucks out and we defended our front of the net real well tonight," he said. "They work hard and make you earn it for sure. It's always an intense game. Players don't like each other on both teams so it's a fun game to be a part of."
The North Stars hadn't played a game since Dec. 16, but didn't look it, as they came flying out of the gate and scored 16 seconds in.
It wasn't the prettiest of goals, but captain Layne Young netted his 20th of the year from the goalline to put the North Stars up 1-0 early on.
The Klippers were outshot by the North Stars 12-4 in the first.
"I think guys were excited," Heck said when asked why the team didn't have a slow start after a 17-day layoff. "Guys were ready to go. We had some hard practices and I think the group just loves playing hockey."
Connor Manegre made it 2-0 6:47 into the second period before Eddie May cut the North Stars lead in half on a Kindersley power play not long after.
Following Dvernichuk's snipe, Nic Malenica made it a 3-2 game late in the third on another Kindersley man advantage, this time with the extra attacker out for a 6-on-4.
But a too many men penalty cost the Klippers, as Young notched his second of the game in the final minute to make it a 4-2 final.
Kindersley's power play finished the game 2-for-6, but Heck said his team's league-leading penalty kill wasn't as bad as the stats showed.
"I thought we didn't give up a ton of shots or chances," he said. "We killed a lot of time in the neutral zone and their end."
Battlefords' penalty kill entered Wednesday's action in first at 86.9 per cent, but fell to 86 per cent and second overall after allowing the two power play markers.
Meanwhile the North Stars power play went 1-for-3.
On Friday, Battlefords is set to host the Notre Dame Hounds, who are in second in the division with a 21-9-1-3 record.
"It's a big game," Heck said. "A four-point game; they will draw closer to us or we pull ahead. It'll be a big game for both teams so expecting a good effort from both."
The North Stars are 1-2 this season against Notre Dame, with both losses coming on the road, and their lone win coming at home on Nov. 24.
Friday's game is 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.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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