North Stars' pre-season ends with solid effort vs. Yorkton

By Nathan Kanter
September 11, 2017 - 2:00pm

The referee didn't notice the puck had gone in.

Neither did North Stars head coach Brandon Heck.

Nobody on the ice noticed right away either, and after about 10 seconds of them playing 'where is the puck,' North Stars winger Layne Young pointed to the back of the net and fished it out.

And so the referee signalled it was a good goal.

The North Stars had won their final pre-season game of 2017, 4-3 over the Yorkton Terriers in overtime, thanks to a wrap-around from Conor Jensen that appeared to be stopped but actually wasn't. Jensen had also tied the game late in the third period.

It was strange (and perhaps shouldn't have even happened), but it was the right way to finish off what was arguably their best game of the pre-season.

"There was about five guys on the bench that were like 'That went in! That went in!' [but] I couldn't see anything. I just assumed he maybe pulled it out," Heck said after the game, which was played at Rutherford Arena in Saskatoon; home of the Huskies. "We played well. We managed the puck and we kind of had a gameplan in this building for how we wanted to generate chances and it worked."

"Not good enough if we're not going to finish though. We got a lot of good looks and didn't hit our spots. But we followed a good plan."

The afternoon game on Sunday was the North Stars' seventh game in eight days.

Heck cautioned at the beginning of training camp it would be a marathon, not a sprint, and now that it's over, he said the biggest thing he learned is preparation.

"If we didn't do our preparation, then the team's effort the next day showed," Heck said. "There's a lot of teaching going on and we had to be patient with the mistakes going on. I also learned that players are pretty smart and able to pick things up too."

"I saw the high character, especially tonight, finding a way to get the win when we were banged up. Lots of good signs. But I think it'll be nice to have some practices and clean up some details in our team game."

Sunday was also another special teams battle.

On Saturday, the Kindersley Klippers had nine power play opportunities and the North Stars had seven.

Against Yorkton, it's unclear exactly how many times the two teams played a man (or two) up because there is no official scoresheet online, but the North Stars could easily have been on the man advantage 10 times. They also killed off plenty of penalties, especially early on, which included an extended 5-on-3.

"I know we gave up a 5-on-3 but we also killed probably three and a half minutes of 5-on-3, so that's pretty good in my estimation," Heck said. "We need to be more disciplined in the first period. That's more the concern for me then the penalty kill."

And despite no practice ahead of Sunday's game, the team's power play looked exceptional (other than a lack of finishing).

In Saturday's loss to Kindersley the North Stars scored three power play goals, but anyone in attendance could tell you it wasn't that strong. Two of the power play goals came from Layne Young off the rush and the other came before the team had properly set up, courtesy of Connor Manegre.

"Power play I think we're getting good enough looks," Heck said. "It's just about capitalizing and maybe being able to shoot quicker and expecting to get the puck."

Finding the back of the net in Sunday's win in addition to Jensen were Troy Gerein and Keith Anderson, who also dropped the mitts with Dexter Robinson in a heavy tilt.

Heck said Gerein, Jensen, Spagrud, and Urbanski were the four players who really stood out to him.

"Urbanski...was great on the 5-on3 penalty kill," Heck said. "Did well in the dots. He had some chances that I think he'd like back and maybe that will come with some confidence. I liked Jensen's game. I know [he scored] two goals but he [also] played with a lot more confidence than he has and we need that out of a 20-year-old defenceman."

"And [Spagrud] flies under the radar. He just calms our D-core down. You notice when he plays, our record is pretty good. And he makes his partner better. It's nice to have guys like that. I thought Troy Gerein again was great. Must have had 12 hits, took 12 hits. A ton of shots on net."

With the season starting on Friday evening and the kick-off breakfast on Thursday, Heck can be a little patient announcing the final roster, and he said that's exactly what he'll do.

"We want to watch some film before we overreact after a game and think about it," Heck said. "It'll probably be announced opening night."


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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11


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