With their 5-0 win in game four Monday night over the Notre Dame Hounds, the Kindersley Klippers punched their ticket to the opening round of the playoffs.
Their reward? A date with the first-place Battlefords North Stars.
It's an interesting matchup for a number of reasons.
Perhaps first and foremost, it's a rematch of last years first round when the Klippers dismantled the North Stars in a four-game sweep, outscoring them 22-4 in the process. That Klippers team is much different than this installment however, since gone are the likes of Darcy DeRoose, Owen LaClare, Evan Weninger and Braden Oleksyn.
Secondly, the Klippers are the team the North Stars had the most success against this season as they swept the season series 8-0, outscoring them 32-15.
What does that mean for the playoffs?
Not a whole lot. Last year the Notre Dame Hounds split their season series with the Melfort Mustangs, before getting hammered in the finals in four straight, outscored 18-4.
Lastly, this is one of the biggest rivalries in the SJHL. The North Stars and Klippers don't like each other.
Never have, never will.
North Stars head coach and general manager, Kevin Hasselberg said it best, "Any time you get Kindersley and Battlefords in the same rink, it's a war."
Who could forget the January 2 game at the Civic Centre when Klippers coach Geoff Grimwood went bonkers on the bench, throwing water bottles at the refs, smashing a goalie stick over the boards and throwing his backup goalies mask on the ground?
These two teams have quite an extensive playoff history as well, as this will be the eighth matchup between the two teams. Here's a run down of their previous match ups.
1995: North Stars sweep Kindersley in the first round
2000: North Stars beat Kindersley in the first round 4 games to 1
2002: Klippers beat the North Stars in the first round 4 games to 3
2003: Klippers sweep the North Stars in the first round
2004: Klippers sweep the North Stars in the first round
2005: North Stars sweep the Klippers in the first round
2015: Klippers sweep the North Stars in the first round
It is pretty interesting that the last three match ups have been alternating sweeps. I guess that means the North Stars will sweep this year?
All jokes aside, I don't expect a sweep in this series.
Even though the North Stars beat Kindersley all eight times during the regular season, and even once in the pre-season for good measure, the Klippers are a dangerous team.
In the final game of the regular season, the North Stars experienced that as the Klippers applied the pressure all throughout the game. Goaltender Nathan Hargrave took away two sure goals: one from Dustin Gorgi and one from Rory Davidson, to keep the game within striking distance. Austin Calladine, the Klippers leading scorer, had four breakaways including three of them while shorthanded. Daniel Lange had four goals and three assists in eight games against the North Stars this season, not to mention six points in four games against Notre Dame in their survivor series.
While Hargrave's .909 save percentage against the North Stars this season may not be all that eye-popping, I can personally attest that he is one of the best goalies in the league and could easily steal games for the Klippers.
It's not as though the North Stars don't have weapons of their own, however. Take Igor Leonenko for example. He scored eight goals and chipped in six assists in eight games against Kindersley this year. Coby Downs had 10 points in eight games, Dustin Gorgi had nine points in eight games.
Goaltending-wise the North Stars have options as well. Ryan Rewerts was 6-0 against Kindersley this year, including a shutout in his last game against them. Taryn Kotchorek only played one game against the Klippers, but picked up a 3-2 win and Tyler Fuhr went 3-1 against the Klippers, though just one of those games was with the North Stars.
I don't want to pretend like I can predict what's going to happen in the series, but the one thing I can guarantee is this series will be physical, and Friday can't come soon enough.
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