Senior hockey in the Battlefords area will officially get underway this weekend, as the Saskatchewan Prairie Hockey League kicks off with one game between the Battleford Beaver Blues and defending champion Edam Three Stars on Friday night.
Although it is the only game on the league schedule this week, due to some teams not having artificial ice at their home rinks, it's still exciting, especially considering the two clubs met in the second round of last year's playoffs.
"[Excited to] just get back on the ice. It's a good group of guys," Beaver Blues forward Mike George said. "We're a pretty close team. That being said, we've got a bunch of young guys that are starting out this year with us. That's good to see, that hockey in the Battlefords is going to be around at the senior level for a long to come."
Many of those new young additions for the the Beaver Blues are on the blueline.
Brothers John and Josh Shynkaruk join the club, as does Brandon Taylor. John played for the Radisson Wheat Kings last season, his first year in the SPHL, while Josh played a bit of Junior B with the West Central Rage.
"[It's] a nice change for us, getting some more youth in the lineup," George said, who played for the Battlefords North Stars in the mid-2000s. "We've also got a handful of young guys up front too. So we're going to be definitely a different looking team this year."
The lethal trio of George, Cody Danberg (a BCHL and NCAA alum) and Brent Salzl (another former North Star) returns this season as well for Battleford.
Last year, the Three Stars eliminated the Beaver Blues in five games in the best three-of-five semifinal.
The Blues had a 2-1 series edge but lost game four 7-3 and game five 5-1. Edam then went on to beat Hafford in the league finals, in four games.
Mitch Wall, winner of back-to-back MVP awards, returns for the Three Stars, as does offensive threat Brody Roach. But last year's second-leading playoff scorer Owen LaClare is not on this year's roster.
George expects this season to once again be very competitive once again.
"The junior rule kind of keeps things fair, junior A or better is only three allowed per team," George said. "So that kind of keeps it at a level playing field for everyone, which is a good thing. Because at the end of the day it's hockey and it's supposed to be a fun thing, and it's not fun getting beat 15-1."
Following a slow opening weekend, there will be three games next weekend in the SPHL. Edam takes on Spiritwood on the road on Friday, Nov. 17, while the Beaver Blues will host Radisson and Glaslyn will host Maymont on Saturday.
Sask West Hockey League underway too
The SWHL kicks off its second weekend tomorrow, and it's another busy one.
The Unity Miners, who went 2-0 last week in their return to the league after a one-year absence, will take on the Macklin Mohawks on Friday and then the Eatonia Huskies on Saturday.
Luseland battles Kerrobert on Friday and then Macklin on Saturday.
Biggar travels to Eatonia on Friday and then hosts Kerrobert on Saturday.
The defending champion Wilkie Outlaws, also out to a 2-0 start, have the weekend off. The Kindersley Red Lions also have the weekend off.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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