Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stars up against all odds.....But how much does that matter?--MR

The Stars shocked the league with the sweep over the hawks, especially seeing that they hadnt beat the hawks in nearly two years up until one of the last games of the year. Then to go into the series and win two in the Cage is extremely impressive.

With a matchup against the Broncos starting on Friday, it reminds me of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs.. The "Mighty" Ducks of Anaheim stunned the Red Wings in the opening round by sweeping them in four. The Ducks would then defeat the #1-seeded Dallas Stars in six games in the Conference Semifinals, which was noted for Game 1 being the fourth longest game in NHL history, with the Ducks winning in the fifth overtime period thanks to Petr Sykora...They later on beat the wild but ended up loosing in the Stanley Cup Finals..

I guess the point I am tryin to make is that with all the odds against the boys, never count them out..We saw what happens when a team may take the stars lightly.

Here's to a great series,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Personal Take on The Sweep - DO

I do not recall a time where I was ever more nervous before a game.

The atmosphere at the Cage last night was outstanding. The fans were loud, the Hawks came out quick and were the better team through the first 30 minutes of the game.

The North Stars trailed 1-0 and 3-1 respectively in the first half of the game, yet the Stars never panicked. They chipped away, and remained resilient.

Mitch Wall's penalty shot goal at the mid-way point of the third period might be the most important goal that the Stars have scored in three years. It was one of those games where I could literally hear and feel the cheers from fans back in the Battlefords when the final second ticked off the click.

I feel such happiness for Tony Oak, Mitch Wall, Colton Graf, Coleman Brodbin, Jesse Leberton, Alex Leclerc and Brody Malek - The remaining seven from last year's five-win team. I am elated for Dale Jackson and Blair Atcheynum for persevering and remaining loyal to the organization.

I feel a ton of personal pride. Being able to speak positively about this team even through times of struggle, and although I may have been silently ridiculed, it feels great to be a part of such a youthful exubberent organization that is only going to get better.

The Humboldt Broncos had 60 more points than the Stars during the regular season. They are the defending national champions, and they are the complete class of the SJHL and Canada.

But why not us???

Game one goes Friday night from Humboldt, and I expect a loyal gathering of Star fans to make the trip. Who knows?? You may end up witnessing the greatest upset in the SJHL in quite some time. You may not.

But either way, the North Stars have exceeded expectations and have forced the community to believe again.

Congrats Boys, I'm proud of all of you.

Stars Sweep the Hawks - DO

The Battlefords North Stars have completed one of the SJHL's biggest upsets in quite some time.
Last night in Nipawin, the Battlefords North Stars completed the sweep - Defeating the Nipawin Hawks 6-4 in Game three of the Itech Conference Survivor Series.

The game was tied at four mid-way through the third period until Mitch Wall intercepted a pass from Torey Dyck, and raced in on a short-handed breakaway. Wall was hauled down by Taylor Thiessen, but earned a Penalty Shot in the process.

Coming into the game, Wall had goals in two straight games. Could he do it again?

Absolutely. Wall deked Hawk's goaltender Mark Currie, and fired a low backhand to the glove side for his third goal in three games. "I was tired. At the end of a shift, and I went to the bench and asked Hildy (Graham Hilldebrand) where to shoot. He said five-hole, but I went glove instead. It worked out," said Wall after the game.

The other North Star goals were scored by Josh Clare, Dane Meunch, Jesse Lebreton and Tom Kleidon.

For Stars coach Ken Pearson, last night's game will always stick out.

"I've won league championships, and a World Championship with Team Canada, but I told the guys that this one was special for me. I'm proud of the guys. They're banged up, but that's a good thing. It means they paid the price," said Pearson afterwards.

It doesn't get any easier for the North Stars though. Their second round opponents are the defending national champs, The Humboldt Broncos.

Game one of that best-of-seven series will kick off Friday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Clean Slate..(Reflections of a 56 game season) - DO

Last night in Flin Flon the Stars worked hard. They blocked shots, played physical and had numerous scoring chances. But when your team is struggling offensively the bounces never seem to go your way.

The Flin Flon Bombers shutout the Battlefords North Stars 3-0 last night, but I can say with the utmost honesty that the Stars deserved better. Blake Peake had three point-black chances to score, so did Ryan Toporowski, Alex Leclerc and Dane Meunch. Yet Ryan Kerpan shut the door when he had to, and the Stars end their season with five straight losses.

Before the game I asked Star's coach Ken Pearson whether he considered this season a success. He replied, "Not really. I would have liked to have seen more wins, but the bottom line is that we got to the playoffs and that was our main goal coming in."

I contemplated that very question to myself yesterday too, and I will agree more-or-less with the coach.

But if you were to tell any coach, GM, or fan that your team would get 10 more wins this season compared to last season, you can't be too dissapointed. Let us not forget that 365 days ago, the Stars were a five-win team. 15 wins doesn't look a ton better in the grand scheme of things. But considering the personel changes both on and off the ice, and the season that felt like a four month training camp; I'm walking away feeling pretty positive about the direction of this team.

From day one I've believed in Ken Pearson and Blair Atcheynum. I believe in the board members and volunteers that help run this organization, and the fact that we're entering the post-season tommorow night should make everybody in the Battlefords breathe a little easier.

Are we going to beat Nipawin in the Survivor Series? Statistically we don't have much of a chance. Historically we're even more screwed. But if the North Stars have shown me anything this year, it's that they will never give up or down without swinging.

I think back to some of the victories this year. The 8-6 win over the Estevan Bruins where they trailed 5-2 after 40 minutes. Or what about the 4-3 win in overtime at La Ronge when they trailed 3-1.

This team has proven to be gutsy, exciting and fun. And even though they are far away from championship material, I firmly believe that the pieces are in place to make this organization successful again for years to come.

And if the Nipawin Hawks are expecting an easy series, they're sadly kidding themselves. The Stars have been an underdog all year. But any fan of hockey knows that the underdog can often surprise everybody.

I'm so thankful for playoff hockey in the Battlefords. Even if it's just one game, I hope the fans can see what's happening here and get behind this team. 15 wins is a whole lot better than five, and if they crash the net hard and play well on the powerplay. We could very well have a Stars/Broncos second round playoff series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One last stop in the Flon...

Last night the North Stars were better.

They still lost.

But they were better.

They fort-checked hard, made smart passes and the power-play did not have that "Cloverfield" feel to it.

The final was 3-1 for Nipawin. Brent Ottman scored the first two goals of the game; the first coming early in the first and the second coming early in the second. Did that make sense?

The Stars had a good first period. They skated well, created chances, but when it came to shooting the puck they had luck. They'd either shoot wide, hit a Nipawin defenceman, or they'd shoot directly into the goaltender's chest.

I don't even want to talk about the second period.

But the third period of last night's game may have been the best 20 minutes i've seen from the North Stars in a week. My heart goes out to forward Blake Peake. The guy has hit more goal post's in the past few weeks than Gordon Bombay (anybody ever watch Disney's Mighty Ducks?).

Today the team is off to Flin Flon at 1:30. I don't care what people around the SJ say - I love going to Flin Flon. The barn is loud, the history is undeniable and I always get color-commentary help from Rob Hart.

As for the matchup itself, this is another one of those games that doesn't matter on the surface, but means everything for the confidence.

A win tonight at the Whitney Forum would give the Stars a ton of confidence heading back to the Cage for Friday night.

A couple of personal thoughts before I go work out:

- I'm currently reading "Too Fat To Fish" by Artie Lange. It's excellent.

- Any Vancouver Canuck win is great, but when they beat Calgary I can't help but get really excited!

I wish I had more to say, but not a ton has changed since yesterday. More blogs equals less daily content perhaps?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Playoffs??? You're Talking about Playoffs???

I admit it. Regular blogging does not come easy to me.

My lack of blogging can be justified with the fact that lately all of the Battlefords North Star hockey games have been a carbon-copy of each other. All have been un-inspired, uneventful and statistically meaningless.

In reality the Stars haven't played a meaningful hockey game in two weeks. For those keeping score, it was a 7-3 victory in Kindersley on the same night that the La Ronge Ice Wolves blew a 5-1 lead to the Nipawin Hawks and lost 6-5.

Since then, the Star's resume not exactly note worthy. They beat Nipawin (finally!) at home 4-3 a week ago, they lost a heart breaker to Flin Flon and have played stinkers against Yorkton, Melville, Humboldt and another against Flin Flon.

But the Stars clinched a playoff spot two weeks ago. These games have had no meaning on the standings whatsoever, so what do you expect? Meaningless games = Meaningless effort.

But that all changes tonight.

The Battlefords North Stars have two regular season games remaining in their season, and tonight they battle the Nipawin Hawks one final time before the post-season.

In case you've been vacationing in Zaire for the past two weeks, the North Stars and Hawks will be going head-to-head in the SJHL Survivor Series starting Friday in Nipawin.

Tonight's game is literally a "playoff preview."

If the Stars can't "get up" for a game of this magnitude then they can't "get up" for anything. I've got the pre-game jitters. I haven't had these since the Kindersley game.

But forgive me if I'm not feeling entirely optomistic. The Stars haven't won in Nipawin in a long time. I think the Hartford Whalers still existed when we last beat Nipawin at "THE CAGE."

I'm obviously kidding. But it has definitely been at least two full years and then some.

The Cage is something of an SJHL anomoly. It's cold, tiny and hostile and it certainly is not the easiest place to call a game from (A corner broadcast booth).

Yet I strongly feel like the Stars have a real shot to win this game tonight, and an even better shot to win the actual Survivor Series.

Don't get me wrong, Nipawin is a good team. They've got two offensive studs, a legitimite number one defenceman and a slough of depth. Yet they've got EVERYTHING to lose over the next two weeks.

Ask anybody outside of the North Stars organization who will win this series, and the answer will be a resounding Nipawin.

But if hockey has shown us anything, it has shown that upsets are a part of life. If Nipawin thinks that they can coast through this series then they are sorrowly kidding themselves. It's not in their nature to coast, but who wouldn't feel confident when facing a team that has 21 fewer points.

If the Stars win game one of this series. They win the series.

The problem:

I still have to wait three more days for the actual Series to start.

Tonight's game will be entertaining, and I'm sure that there will be several hits, fights, and moments during tonight's game that will set the table for an excellent series.

But don't count out the Stars just yet. Once the records are back at 0-0-0-0, you just never know.

Hopefully my next post will occur before March!