North Stars give up third period lead in loss to Klippers

By Nathan Kanter
January 24, 2018 - 8:00am Updated: January 24, 2018 - 8:55am

It was a rare ugly loss for the Battlefords North Stars on Tuesday night against the Kindersley Klippers, as they gave up a 2-0 lead in the third period and ultimately lost 4-2.

The Klippers scored three goals in under a minute halfway through the third period to turn the tide, before holding on with an empty net goal.

The loss was just the seventh regulation loss in the North Stars' season, but it also drops their record at the West Central Events Centre against Kindersley this season to 2-2.

"Our power play, terrible," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said after the game, referring to a power play that went 0-for-7 and even had a minute and a half of 5-on-3 time in the third period and could not get the equalizer.

"We tried tacking off broken plays and wouldn't get set up. We did get a few good chances. [Justen Close] made some good saves. It's definitely frustrating because we left it out there. Even when we had the two-goal lead, we get power play chances and we don't bare down," said Heck.

The North Stars 2-0 lead came courtesy of rookie Elijah Loon-Stewardson and Cole Johnson, who scored within a 1:02 span late in the first period.

Neither team scored in the second, and so the North Stars entered the third period with a comfortable lead and a 24-16 edge in shots on goal.

Ahead of Tuesday's game, the North Stars were 15-1-1 this season when leading after two periods of play.

Roughly halfway through the third period, however, Thomas Bollefer notched his first of the season to give the Klippers life, when his wrist shot from just inside the blue line beat Joel Grzybowski short side.

Nine seconds later, Bryson Cecconi scored on a 2-on-1 down low.

Forty-seven seconds after that, Tanner Thompson's point shot snuck through a number of bodies from the point and found the back of the net, giving the Klippers a surprising 3-2 lead.

Nic Malenica would add an empty netter to seal the deal with 39 seconds left.

"I don't think we gave up a scoring chance in the third period," Heck said. "We limited them and we broke out against their trap very well for the most part tonight. We played a lot in their end. We didn't capitalize on our chances or take enough pucks to the net. We were content on perimeter 5-on-5, but we played a good, heavy, speed game in their end."

The North Stars had their chances to tie it late, but ultimately Close was the difference. He made 33 saves on the evening and now has a .930 save percentage in seven head-to-head starts versus the North Stars this season.

The final shots on goal favoured the North Stars 35-27.

Battlefords' power play is now just 1-for-28 in it's last five games, for a measly 3.6 per cent.

"There are probably other games [where special teams were the difference] for sure, but this one stings because of it," Heck said. "Early on when I saw our power play going, I'm like 'Oh it's looking sharp tonight.' We zipped it around that first one. I think the first unit was out there a minute and a half. A lot of good chances and credit to their goalie. But after that, it didn't pick up."

Nic Malenica had a three-point night for the Klippers, who are now one game over .500 with a 17-16-3-2 record.

The North Stars won't have time to dwell on the loss, as they're in Melfort on Wednesday to take on the Mustangs, who are 16-2-1 at home this season.

Puck drop 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 CJNB/CJNS.

 

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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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