A strong goaltending performance from Brandon Wells and a lack of discipline from the Battlefords North Stars led to a 4-3 win for the Melville Millionaires at the Civic Centre on Saturday night.
"We played as selfish as we possibly could. We took way too many penalties," North Stars head coach and general manager Brandon Heck said after the team's ninth regulation loss of the season, but fourth in their last 10 games. "I think the only positive I can take away from [the loss] is it happened now and not later on in March. Discipline was starting to become an issue and now it's a full-time issue and it's got to be addressed."
Three of Melville's four goals came on power plays, as the visitors went 3-for-9 on the man advantage.
Particularly frustrating was the fact the North Stars had a 3-2 lead heading into the third period, thanks to two goals from MacGregor Sinclair and one from Layne Young.
All seemed okay, until Taylor Elmy caught Sinclair with a blindside hit 7:35 into the final period, forcing Sinclair from the game. Elmy was given a five-minute major for interference but the North Stars could not score, not even when they had a 5-on-3 man advantage for nearly a minute.
A Damien Bentz breakaway goal tied the game 3-3 with under four minutes left before a hit from behind from North Stars forward Cole Johnson led to the final dagger: a third power play goal for the Mils, this one from Dayton Heino with 1:53 to go in regulation to put his club up 4-3.
"We were in total control of the game, playing good, and [we get] a powerplay, it's a 5-on-3, and we don't score," Heck recalled. [We] then make an ill-advised pinch and turn the puck over and they go score and then [we] take a dumb penalty.
"It wasn't us tonight. We've got to fix it."
Wells made 37 saves on 40 shots for Melville, including 16 in the third period alone.
But Heck said after the game that there shouldn't be any focus on missed opportunities.
"[Tonight was] completely on a lack of discipline," he said. "On tons of levels. Systematically and selfish penalties, all night."
Taryn Kotchorek had a couple of phenomenal, save-of-the-year candidates in the North Stars crease, and finished the night with 23 saves on 27 shots.
"He couldn't have done more," Heck said of Kotchorek's game. "He made a lot of saves he probably shouldn't have made.
"They got shots with traffic and scored on rebounds."
The North Stars have four home games starting on Tuesday, when they host the La Ronge Ice Wolves.
"I hope to see us play with some discipline and unselfish. Play for the D-partner or your linemates," Heck said. "There were a lot of individual [things tonight]: toe-drags, backhand passes, dumb penalties. We weren't playing the right way at all."
Heck added that there hasn't been a performance this year that was this unselfish.
"No game has even been close to this," he said. "We've lost and we haven't had it on nights and played poorly and didn't work smart, but nothing like this."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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