Sinclair's natural hat-trick leads North Stars past Hounds

By Nathan Kanter
November 24, 2017 - 11:47pm

MacGregor Sinclair was a machine on Friday night.

Entering the game on a four-game point-streak, he did the one thing he hasn't done yet this year, or in his career for that matter: score a hat-trick.

Sinclair was the only North Star to find the back of the net in his club's 3-2 regulation win over the Notre Dame Hounds.

"He scored three one-timer goals tonight off his stick," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck pointed out after the game. "It's something he's working on and he wants to be known as a shooter.

"It's good for our young guys to see too. He's the first one to come to practice and come to my office and say 'Hey, will you pass me pucks? I need to work on my shot.' "

Sinclair's third goal came when the game was deadlocked at two with just 25.7 seconds left in regulation.

He now leads the entire Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with five game-winning-goals.

"He's got that knack in him and he plays in a lot of big situations," Heck said. "On the first goal he could have easily floated by, which a lot of good players would have done. But instead he stopped and went to the spot and was rewarded. That's why he's clutch: because he plays the right way."

First place in the Olympic Buildings Division was up for grabs as well, with the North Stars entering the game just one point back, although they still have four games in hand.

Now, they are first in the division and just one point back of first place overall in the league.

"I think it was just more important that we got the win. It was a really big game today," Sinclair said after the game when asked how excited he was to get his first career SJHL hat-trick. "I think it was pretty exciting for all the boys that we grinded it out and won."

Also playing a big role in the win was goaltender Taryn Kotchorek, who made 24 saves on 26 shots to improve his record this season to 7-2-1.

It was the first time in four starts that Kotchorek posted a save percentage of above .900.

"A ton of credit goes to him," Heck said. "He got whistles when we were hemmd in for a bit with just good rebound control...Often, if you only make 25 saves, you don't get as noticed but with his rebound control, that's why he only had to make 25 saves tonight. A lot of goalies would have had to make 33 or 34 to get the win.

"Ultimately it came down to [Kotchorek] made some big saves late and we were able to sneak one by. I thought chances were pretty similar."

The Hounds had previously beat the North Stars in Wilcox in the only other head-to-head meeting this season, a 5-1 score on Nov. 15.

Heck added that Friday had a playoff-type atmosphere to it, especially considering how close things were all night long.

"Both teams really went after it," Heck said. "I know our guys on the bench were pretty excited in treating it like a playoff game and that was kind of our mentality going into tonight."

The North Stars power play also converted on Friday, going 1-for-4.

The club's record when scoring at least one power play goal is now 12-0.

"We got a power play goal. They didn't, and we won by one," Heck said. "[But] I liked our penalty kill more than I liked our power play tonight...A lot of guys got in lanes and blocked shots. We talked about when to pressure the puck and [we] did a good job buying into that and I thought we were tough to penetrate, to get into our zone."

The penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5.

Overall, it is now third in the league at 85.7 per cent.

The North Stars will play on the road on Saturday night in Humboldt.

The two divisional rivals have already met twice this season, and both games have gone to overtime. The North Stars won 3-2 in overtime at home on Oct. 3 and then they won 3-2 in a shootout in Humboldt on Nov. 1. The Broncos are currently four points back of the North Stars in the standings.

Heck said that with the schedule now finally picking up, it's fun, but it's not easier.

"I felt early on when we didn't have those games and we were practicing, we were a little bit more fine-tuned," he said. "We've just got to be a little bit more prepared."

NorSask North Stars hockey on Saturday can be heard on CJNB/CJNS, with the Ultra Print pre-game show beginning at 7:15 p.m.


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