Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Post of 2011 - Reviewing 2010.

First off, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year. I apologize for the lack of blogging over the holidays, but between get-togethers, Christmas and other goings on I haven't had enough 'real' time to put together my review of 2010. I wanted to make it good, so here we go.

2010 was certainly a year filled with highs and lows both personally and for the Battlefords North Stars. The year got off to such a promising start when the Stars went 9-2 for the month of January. They kicked off the year with an impressive win in Flin Flon, and carried that momentum forward with big home-ice victories against Nipawin (9-4) and Melfort (7-1). The Stars made a major trade on January 9th sending Ryan Andersen, Justin Waskewitch and (later) Ward Szucki to Estevan in exchange for Chad Filteau and Kyle Hall. Filteau provided the Stars with instant offense, and became a key cog for the team moving forward. Two North Stars (Josh Daley and Mitch Wall) were named to the Bauer Conference All-Star team. All in all a very successful month, and one that officially put the North Stars into championship contention.

Other January highlights included a spirited 4-3 shootout victory against La Ronge at home, coupled with a split in La Ronge a week later.


February was another solid month for the North Stars. They started the month with a southern road-trip which saw them win three games in three nights. The first victory was an ugly 6-5 win in Estevan. Frankly the Stars were lucky to win the game, but Josh Daley scored late to put the game away. The next night, Graham Hildebrand was brilliant and the Stars beat the Weyburn Red Wings 4-2. Sunday night the Stars came back from a 2-0 defecit to beat the Notre Dame Hounds 3-2 in overtime. Brett Miller scored the game-winner, and the bus-ride home was awesome. It was the first time the Stars had won in both Estevan and Notre Dame in three seasons.

The next weekend wasn't as successful. The Stars went up to Flin Flon trailing the Bombers by just two points in the standings. The Bombers beat the Stars twice at the Whitney Forum. The second game of that weekend was a gong-show as the Flin Flon fans were fired up, and made life extremely difficult for the North Stars. With the victories at home, Flin Flon clinched first place in the Bauer Conference while the Stars had to settle for second. The rest of February came and went, with the Stars watching the standings every night to see who out of Melfort or La Ronge would prevail to win the third spot in the division. The Melfort Mustangs clinched third place in the final week of the season.

The Stars held their awards banquet towards the end of the month, and for Blake Peake and Troy Watt it was a special night. Both were multiple award winners. Blake Peake was named the team's MVP and also finished tied with Chad Filteau for the team lead in scoring.


March was a bitter-sweet month for the Battlefords North Stars.

Up first, the Melfort Mustangs. The 'Stangs won game one thanks to a brilliant performance in goal by Chris Ward. He made a last-second save off of Josh Daley and gave Melfort a 1-0 series lead heading home for game two. Graham Hildebrand started game two for the Stars and did not disappoint. Hildebrand was outstanding, and led the Stars to a 4-2 win. Chad Filteau scored a late goal that gave the Stars a 3-2 lead, and then Brett Miller scored into an empty-net to put the game away.

Hildebrand was equally solid in game three at home. The Stars won again 4-2, and were playing some pretty inspired hockey. They were getting offense from all lines, and Blake Tatchell, Ward Szucki and Nathan Tomac in particular were all playing their best hockey.

Game four in Melfort may have been one of the most fun games I've ever called. The game was tied at two after 60 minutes and overtime was needed. Graham Hildebrand stopped Jesse Mireau on a penalty-shot, and Chris Ward was equally solid at the other end. The Star's captain Mitch Wall rose to the occasion in overtime, split the D and buried on a breakaway. The North Star's board of directors hosted a function at the Civic Center lounge that night, and many North Star fans watched the game live on Access 7. The Stars took a 3-1 series back to the Civic Center with hopes of putting the series away.

Game five was a toughie for the Stars. They took a lot of penalties and had a lot of trouble with the Mustangs who showed strong resolve down 3-1. The turning point of the game came early in the third, when the Stars were down five-on-three to Melfort. Chad Filteau won a face-off, slipped by the defence, and then scored on a short-handed breakaway to give the Stars a 4-2 lead. Melfort stuck around, but ultimately lossed 5-4 and the Stars had a date with Bob Beatty and the La Ronge Ice Wolves.

The ultimate key for the Stars against Melfort was their depth and their physical play. Todd Chinova was banged up early in the series and was silenced for most of the series.

The La Ronge Ice Wolves had just beaten the top-seeded Flin Flon Bombers in a six-game series and were rolling. They beat the Stars 5-4 in overtime for a game-one victory. The teams went back-and-forth all game, and a late goal by Brett Miller forced O.T. The game one winner was a wonky one. Dan Conacher tipped home a Colton MacPhearson point-shot 15 seconds into the extra period.

The next night, the Stars bounced back with a 4-0 victory. Kyle Birch got his first start since Game one of the Melfort series, and played very well. The Stars continued to get solid offensive contributions from all throughout their lineup.

The series shifted to La Ronge for games three and four, and unfortunately for the Stars - They're special teams went ice cold. To this day I maintain that the lack of finish on their power-play was their un-doing in both games. The Stars also had a controversial dissalowed goal in Game three which came back to haunt them. La Ronge held on for a two goal victory.

Hours before game four, it was announced that Ice Wolve's defenceman Dustin Stevenson was named the SJHL's Top Player, and in Game four - He prooved it. He threw a bone-crunching body-check on Brett Miller that ended his night early, and then he went end-to-end in overtime to win the game for his team. The Stars had their chances late in the game to win it, but Adam Bartko denied both Blake Tatchell and Ward Szucki from in close.

The Stars returned home with their backs against the wall. A must-win situation for Game Five. Both teams could only score once during regulation, and for a third time in the series overtime was required. Overtime that night was bar-none the most intense hockey I've ever seen the North Stars play. They didn't want their season to end, and it showed Blake Tatchell and Ward Szucki both hit posts in overtime, and Richard Cameron did the same for La Ronge. The game ended on a mad-scrum in front of Adam Bartko. Ward Szucki hit another post, and the puck bounced around in front of Bartko. Nathan Tomac had just come onto the ice from the bench, and bee-lined straight to the goal and wacked home a rebound to end the game. I have never heard the Civic Center so loud. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

The Star's season ended two nights later in La Ronge. The Wolves won the game 4-1. It was the same story for the Stars that night: No finish on the power-play. After game six, Ken Pearson delivered a very emotional post-game message. He thanked the players, the organization, and the fans for all of their loyalty throughout the year. Days later it became public knowledge that Ken Pearson had signed a contract extension to stay in the Battlefords as head-coach and GM.

The La Ronge Ice Wolves would go on to win the SJHL Championship beating Yorkton in a six-game series. They would lose to the Dauphin Kings in the Anavet Cup, and would finish 1-3 at the Royal Bank Cup in Dauphin.


The lockerroom was cleared out, and the players went home. For Chad Filteau, Mitch Wall, Blake Peake, Troy Watt, Jesse Lebreton, Brody Malek, Coleman Brodbin and Grant Fahnhorst, it was the last time they would wear a North Star sweater. Ken Pearson held Spring-Camp on early April, and the weather was tretcherous.

Never the less, the athletes braved the weather and put forth a strong effort at Spring Camp.

It was also in late April when my Mom was officially diagnosed with cancer.


May was a quiet month in North Star Nation. Good news did come in the form of a scholarship for Blake Peake. Peake signed on with AIC, a Division One NCAA program in the Eastern United States.

Also, Ward Szucki was officially traded to Estevan to complete the January 9th trade involving Kyle Hall and Chad Filteau.


Things got a little busier for the North Stars in June of 2010. Tanner Schwab committed to the Stars in the early part of the month, and later on the Stars added Kyle Hall, Tim Rollins, Calder Neufeld and Colin Phaneuf to the fold.

The Stars were also pleased to add Alison Landry to their tea. Alison took over the marketing and office managing duties in the early part of June, and has done a phenomenal job since. A great hire for sure!


July was a quiet month. The Stars released their schedule, and added Shayne Morrissey to the fold.

My Mom passed away from cancer on Sunday, July 11th at 4:45 local time.


Mitch Wall and Brody Malek signed pro contracts in August with the Columbus Cotton Mouths of the SPHL. In the same week, Jesse Lebreeton signed a professional deal with a team based in Paris, France.

The Stars also added some age to their blueline when they signed Jacob Chiblow from Ontario.

Another item of note in August: Dane Muench officially signed with the Regina Pats.


It was not a September to remember for the 2010-2011 Battlefords North Stars. The Stars were considered by many to be a favourite in the SJHL heading into the year and their start certainly did not go hand-in-hand with that consideration.

The Star's preseason did not go well. They won once against Nipawin but dropped pre-season tilts against Humboldt, Kindersley, Yorkton and Dauphin. In addition to the losses, Graham Hildebrand was out with injury, and Kyle Birch was suspended three games after a fight with Dauphin goaltender Brett Willows.

Ken Pearson needed a goaltender, so he acquired Alex Sirard from the Estevan Bruins a few days before the season, and Sirard was thrust into duty on opening night against Kindersley. An entertaining game, but a tough result as the Stars fell by one goal to the Klippers. Andrew Dommett scored the game-winner off a defensive miscue with 28 seconds left.

Two nights later, the Stars let a 3-0 lead slip away to the Humboldt Broncos and lost 7-6 in O.T. They would also drop games with Melfort, Weyburn and Kindersley and finished the month with a record of 0-5-1-1.

Offensively they were clicking, but defensively they struggled. Jacob Chiblow, and Dakota Johnson were not the answers on the blue-line and they were promptly dealt.

On a personal note, I had my appendix removed on September 28th.


October was better for the Battlefords North Stars, but it certainly did not start well. Big losses to both Weyburn and Kindersley forced Ken Pearson to make more moves. He traded Josh Daley to Dauphin in exchange for Keith Grondin, and that move payed immediate dividents for the Stars. Grondin added instant offense and he replaced the injured Brett Miller on a line with Blake Tatchell and Colin Phaneuf, and they found some chemistry and success.

Stars captain Cris Neurauter was also acquired via a trade with Estevan. Travis Cech was acquired from Dauphin, and Sam Fortier and Samuel Houle from Quebec.

The Stars' first victory came at home against the La Ronge Ice Wolves. It was a 3-2 final, with Woody Klassen scoring the game winner. The Stars then beat the Humboldt Broncos in a shootout in Humboldt. Brody Luhning scored the shoot-out winner after Graham Hildebrand made a brillant save off of Justin Buzzeo in the final seconds of overtime.

Later in October, the Stars pulled off an improbable comeback victory in La Ronge. The Stars scored four goals in a 2:42 span to beat the Wolves 5-4 in regulation time. In my five years of callin games, I have never witnessed a comeback like that.

The Stars beat the Yorkton Terriers 8-3 at home, but then fell 11-1 to Humboldt a few nights later.

October was definitely a 'one step forward, two steps backwards' kind of month.


Early in November, Cris Neurauter was named captain of the North Stars. That decision, coupled with more consistency turned November into a good one for the Stars. They went on a four-game winning streak, and were starting to show glimpses of the potential that everybody knew they had.

The November highlight was a home-game with the Estevan Bruins where the Stars trailed 5-4 late. Woody Klassen tied the score with .8 seconds left on the clock to tie it, and Blake Tatchell scored the overtime winner off a great pass from Keith Grondin.

Blake Tatchell, Kyle Hall and Colin Phaneuf were three offensive studs for the Stars in November, and Kyle Birch was able to get toff the snide and earned his first win of the year - An impressive 7-1 win over Nipawin.

Parents weekend was held in November, and the parents were treated to a great performance against Melville. The Stars wore pink jerseys that night in support of breast cancer research.

The Stars definitely had their moments of weakness in November though. They did not look good in an 8-1 loss in Stanley Mission against La Ronge, but looked brilliant against Humboldt and Melville at home.

A great month for Kyle Hall and Brody Luhning as well who were named to the CJHL Top Prospects game in Dauphin.


December was another back-and-forth month for the North Stars. They stumbled against Notre Dame at home, but had a strong showing against Kindersley at the SJHL Showcase. They would have gone 2-0 at the Showcase, but unfortunately for the Stars, they were unable to put away the La Ronge Ice Wolves after leading through 40 minutes.

A quiet December 1st for the Stars who parted ways with Shayne Morrissey. That's it.

The highlight probably came in early December when they went to Humboldt and beat the Broncos 7-2 at the Elgar Petersen Arena. They also beat Nipawin in their final home-game of 2010. A must win for the Stars and they delivered.


Heading into 2011 the Stars are 17-20-1-1 and are fifth in the Bauer Conference. They are in a dog-fight with Nipawin and Flin Flon for positioning. When this team is on, they can play with anybody and beat anybody.

The only team the Stars haven't been able to beat this year is Notre Dame.

You think back to games like the 7-2 win in Humboldt, or the 8-3 win against Yorkton and you can't help but feel like this team can be a threat. You look at games like the 7-1 loss to Weyburn, or the 8-1 loss to La Ronge, and you see glaring problems.

The Stars right now are somewhere in between those two extremes. The mandate for 2011 needs to be centered around consistency and figuring it all out. I think the Stars are definitely a playoff team, and should they get to the post-season I think that they can do a lot of damage.

Even though the record is what it is, I doubt very much that any team wants to face the Stars in the playoffs because they simply don't know what they're going to get, and what team they will face.

With January 10th upcoming, Ken Pearson has to make a choice. Does he deal his 20-year-olds and try to re-stock this team for next season? Does he find a happy medium? Or does he stay the course with the current roster and let the chips fall where they may come playoff time.

The team's greatest strength right now is their offence. This team can come at you in waves. Forwards, defenceman, it doesn't matter. This team can score! But in order to become a championship threat, they need to limit the other team's chances. Far too often this season there have been too many two-on-ones and odd-man rushes that could have been avoided. Defensively this team has the tools, and now they simply need to put it all together.

I hope that the 20-year-olds on this team want to stay here and stay the course. I sincerely believe that this team is better than their record indicates, and if they get to the playoffs they will really surprise some people.

Here's to 2011 and the unknown that awaits us all. For those still reading. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Wow Dan awesome 2010 recap.

I am of the position though that Ken make the 20 year old moves, stock up on some great young talent and look to next season. It is obvious with this "jeckel and hide" problem that the Stars show something is a miss this year for sure. Great game one night poor game the next. My position all along is that Ken may be a good coach but we need more than that out of a GM/Coach. We need to put money into the bank account, give the marekting deapartment some extra funds, get a GM/Coach that is community oriented business man and a strong coach and motivator of youth> Let's see our average attendance hitting 9-1000. That comes from a winning team both on and off the ice. It is a community team thus lets focus on marketing and getting new corporate sponsorship. Estavan is a good model, terrible team on the ice last year but made $15,000. Wow, this year they are working on the hockey side for sure as refelctive in the standings. Yes a winning team put seast in the stands but it takes morte than a winning percentage to make money. Just ask Yorkton who lost substanial money last year in a winning season. But as you say they gave Ken an extension so I am sure the club can't afford to do a "Kindersley". So we will just go to the games cheer on our team,"smile and wave" hope for the best going forward. I really beleive though we should look to next season time to move out those 20 year old's and focus on the business side as well.

Anonymous said...

Ken is the best in the business.. Junior hockey is all about development. Last year every single 20 year continued there career. The stars were the only team in the SJ to have 2 players to the prospects team... The stars are on a re-building year.. I think Ken has done wonders for this team....