North Stars take too many trips to box in loss to Klippers

By Nathan Kanter
March 7, 2018 - 1:43am Updated: March 7, 2018 - 1:57pm

For the second time in the last four contests, the Battlefords North Stars allowed three power play goals in a game.

And much like the first time on Feb. 23 against Melfort, the team came away empty handed, this time losing 5-2 to the Kindersley Klippers at the West Central Events Centre on Tuesday night.

"We got some unfortunate calls against us and didn't react well," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said in the post-game interview on CJNB/CJNS. "At the end of the game, the penalties were deserved. We've got to grow up and we need some individuals to grow up. It's getting too late."

The loss is the North Stars' third in their last seven games, and drops their record to 41-13-2 with two games remaining in the regular season.

Not only did the team take too many penalties on Tuesday, but their league-leading penalty kill wasn't up to snuff.

"I didn't like our penalty kill today," Heck said. "I thought a few times the effort was there but we weren't smart or staying within the structure we want."

The penalty kill entered the game in first with an 85.9 per cent efficiency, and dropped to 85.2 after the game, which is now second to Nipawin's 85.7 per cent.

Klippers goaltender Justen Close, who was named co-goaltender of the year over the weekend, made 29 saves on 31 shots for his 21st win of the season in his league-leading 46th game.

"He made some big saves early on to keep it 1-0 or prevent us from taking the lead but we definitely didn't make it very difficult on him," Heck said. "We weren't attacking with speed and were on the perimeter. That's a team that blocked a ton of shots tonight. They played desperate and we didn't match it."

Standing out for the Klippers was Tanner Thompson, who had two power play goals including the game-winner, and Nic Malenica, who had two assists to increase his point-streak to 13 games. Austin Nault, Keillan Olson, and Cameron Shorrock also each had multi-point games.

The North Stars did outshoot Kindersley 31-25, but the Klippers capitalized on their chances.

Even more so, they stymied the North Stars forecheck.

"They were obstructing us pretty good and we didn't find a way to fight through it," Heck said. "A lot of times they chipped it out at the blueline and we weren't able to regroup and come at them with speed, whether it's dumping it or making a pass wide and attacking with speed. We were standing still and making a lot of plays in the neutral zone."

The good news from Tuesday is that Melfort lost to Flin Flon in regulation, meaning the North Stars have guaranteed home ice in the second round of the playoffs over Melfort, if the two advance that far and meet in the semifinal.

Kindersley's win, which improved their record to 29-21-4-3, is huge because it solidifies their spot in sixth place, thus avoiding the survivor series, which sees the seventh-place team face off against the 10th seed, and eighth face ninth. This year those opening series are a best 2-of-3.

Instead, the Klippers will face the Estevan Bruins in a best-of-7 series in the quarterfinals.

Before that happens, the North Stars and Klippers will meet again at the Civic Centre, for the 10th and final meeting of the regular season.

"Their best players were their best players and ours were very average tonight," Heck reiterated. "They played desperate and we played content to get the game over with."


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