The Weyburn Red Wings like to block a lot of shots, and that was once again evident at the Civic Centre on Thursday night, as they took on the Battlefords North Stars for just the third time this season.
Though deadlocked 1-1 for most of the game, the North Stars stuck with it, and got a late goal from Chaseton Braid to sneak away with a 2-1 regulation win. It was Braid's second goal of the contest, bringing his season total to 14.
North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said he was most pleased with limiting Weyburn to just 19 shots, as his club outshot the visitors 34-19.
"Solid effort from all 20 guys tonight. We bought in," Heck said. "Any time you give up 19 shots, you've got to be pleased with how you played."
Heck said the main reason the North Stars were able to limit their chances against was because of their play without the puck.
"We were on pucks and they couldn't sustain or didn't have pressure on a forecheck," he said. "We were able to break out clean because we hustled back and forced them to dump or created a turnover and went up ice."
The positivity on the bench was refreshing for Heck as well.
While the team went through a bumpy 6-4 stretch in January and into the beginning of February, Heck said sometimes it was tough for the bench to stay positive.
Not so on Thursday.
"When things weren't going our way — and we were getting so many chances at 1-1 — we didn't panic," Heck said. "Our bench was up beat and 'stick with it' and 'it's going to come'. I think that went a long way.
"Credit to the guys because we've got a lot of emotional players that play right on that line and you ask them to play tough with emotion and if things don't go their way, it's easy to go over [that line]. We had a lot of those guys being the ones positive tonight."
One of the keys before the game was to get traffic to the net to disrupt Arik Weersink, who had a shutout the last time the Red Wings visited the Civic Centre.
But there wasn't quite enough of it throughout the contest, as Weersink was supberb with 32 saves (plus the first goal went off a Red Wing player and into the net).
"I thought the thing we didn't do well was quick release," Heck noted. "We tried to pick a tiny hole instead of getting it on our stick and getting it off quick. If a goalie gets set, and he's a bigger guy, he's going to take up a lot of room. There are way more holes if you can get a quick release off."
In addition to not shooting quick enough, the North Stars defenceman also often shot with their head down, which can't happen against a team like Weyburn.
"We've got to be sharper with hitting the net... [but] more the concern for me is getting shots through," Heck said. "Credit them for working to block those shots. But we took a lot of shots with our head down tonight."
Both of Braid's goals were assisted by Layne Young, while Cole Johnson also had one assist (and a power play goal waived off due to an early whistle). Young is now on a six-game point streak with five goals and 10 assists, while Johnson is on a six-game point streak too, with five goals and five assists in those games.
Taryn Kotchorek made 18 saves to get the win, his 14th of the season in 24 games.
"When you get 19 shots, it's not easy as a goalie," Heck said. "He wasn't tested too much in waves, which is tough. I thought he did a great job playing the puck. He stopped a lot of rims on their dumps and we were able to break out. It's the little things like that [that help]."
The North Stars host the La Ronge Ice Wolves for the final time this season on Friday. The doubled them up 4-2 on Tuesday, so it will be the second meeting in four days.
NorSask North Stars hockey once again gets underway at 7:15 p.m. with the Ultra Print pre-game show on CJNB/CJNS.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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