Friday, August 12, 2011

North Star Reflections - Part 3 (2009-2010)

Looking back at the blog, I found a very accurate summary of the 2009-2010 season that I think is appropriate to re-post as PART 3 of my North Star Reflections.


Expectations were high for the Battlefords North Stars when they started training-camp in late August 2009. Five months prior, the Stars had experienced some playoff success and made a statement to the rest of the league suggesting, "Our rebuild is over."


Some of the main questions heading into training camp were as follows:

- Who was going to score goals for this team?

- Would last year's MVP Dane Muench be back, or would he start the season in the WHL?

- What about Kyle Birch, Dominic Perrault, Woody Klassen, Jordan Lane, and Brett Miller who were also attending WHL camps?

The answers to those questions would begin to reveal themselves almost from the get-go of camp.

Newcomers Josh Daley, Ward Szucki and Blake Tatchell showed early on that they would provide offensive depth to the club. Good thing too, because Dane Muench signed with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos on September 1.

The Stars enjoyed a solid exhibition season, finishing with a record of 6-1.

Pre-season highlights included:

- The departure of Alex Leclerc (Nipawin), Colton Graf (Dauphin), Dusty Iron (Nipawin), and Skyler Dunser (Nipawin) out and in return the Stars acquired defenceman Cody Folstad (Nipawin), forward Shay Neufeld (From Camrose) and the rights to defenceman Koltyn Miller (Dauphin).

- Solid offensive contributions from the likes of: Blake Peake, Josh Daley, Ward Szucki, Blake Tatchell.

- Back-to-back preseason shutouts from Graham Hildebrand against Nipawin and Humboldt.

Right as the preseason was winding down, the Stars found out that Kyle Birch would be returning from Medicine Hat and a 6'7 bruising forward named Jordan Lane would be joining their team after failing to make the Prince George Cougars of the WHL.

The Stars had shown in the preseason that they could score goals, and goaltending was not going to be an issue with both Hildebrand and Birch back in the fold. Defensively the Stars were 'thin' when the regular season started, but that would soon change when Coleman Brodbin and Brody Malek finished their suspensions.


After a promising pre-season, the Stars got off to a rather mediocre start to the regular season. They fell in Kindersley 5-3 before beating them the next night 9-5 at home.

The Stars would beat La Ronge at home before falling to both Yorkton and Melville down south. The Stars climbed back to .500 with an impressive 5-4 victory in Humboldt on September 30th. It was the first time the Stars had won a regular season game at the Elgar Petersen arena since 2006-2007.

The Humboldt game also marked the return of defencemen Woody Klassen (Saskatoon Blades) and Dominic Perrault (Regina Pats) and forward Brett Miller (Everett Silvertips) had returned two games earlier in Melville.

September Play of the Month: Ryan Andersen.


The Battlefords North Stars made an early season statement in October. They had a record of 8-2-1-0 and went the entire month without losing at home.

The line of Blake Peake, Josh Daley and Shay Neufeld seemed to be scoring at will, while Brett Miller, Mitch Wall and Ryan Andersen were prooving to be just as reliable offensively.

Early in October, the Melville Millionaires came back to the Civic Center for a re-match with the Stars, and after building up a 4-0 lead, the Stars found themselves tied 5-5.

A year ago, the Stars would have folded and found a way to lose. But not this season. The Stars weathered the storm, and earned a 9-5 victory.

Other October highlights included:

- Three consecutive shootout victories at home (Oct. 16, 23, and 24) with Brett Miller scoring the winner in all three.

- A win in Weyburn on October 8th on a night where the first five inductees were enshrined into the SJHL Hall of Fame. The Stars scored three times in the first 6:57 of that game, and Kyle Birch was rock-solid.

- Brett Miller establishing himself as one of the premier power-forwards in the league.

- The Star's acquiring Kory Kimpinski and Kyle Hamm from Nipawin, only to ship them off to the MJHL days later for future considerations.

- Dane Muench returns to the Battlefords on October 30th after a stint with the Swift Current Broncos.

October Player of the Month: Brett Miller


November started with two close road losses (La Ronge and Nipawin), a home-win against Kindersley and a 5-2 home-ice loss to the Melfort Mustangs. The loss to Melfort haulted a lengthy nine-game winning streak at home for the Stars.

Attitudes got worse after another road loss in Nipawin. Trips to Tim Horton's in the morning would often feel like a post-game press conference for yours truely.


Fan: Dan, is everything okay with the Stars?

Dan: Yes. They're just fine.

Fan: But, (insert criticism of power-play, defenceman, forward, coaching decision here....)

Dan: Trust me, They'll be just fine.


How did the Star's respond? How about an O-T victory against Bob Beatty's La Ronge Ice Wolves on November 13th. Tony Oak's first goal of the season was the Overtime winner, and in the process, the Star's got some of their hunger back.

The next night, the Stars looked outsanding in a 5-2 victory in Melfort.

The real highlight of November though was the Strike Energy SJHL Showcase tournament which took place November 26 - 28th in North Battleford.

After a frustrating 2-1 loss to Humboldt on the 27th, the Stars and Klippers provided fans with a 'classic' on the 28th.

After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Klippers came back and made it 3-3. Blake Peake and Andrew Dommett trade goals, and it's 4-4. Neufeld makes it 5-4 for the Stars, then Kevin Clark ties it short-handed. Brett Miller makes it 6-5 in a brilliant give-and-go with Blake Peake, but Andrew Dommett scores his fourth of the game to tie the game at six. Taylor Duzan hits the goal-post in the final minute, otherwise Kindersley wins the game in regulation.

Earlier in the game, Ryan Andersen was benched by Ken Pearson. It wasn't out of angst, but more for tutorial purposes. How does 'Andy' respond? He scores the overtime winner by following up a Mitch Wall breakaway and knocks home the rebound.

November Player of the Month: Blake Peake


December 1st yielded some changes.

Leading scorer Brett Miller signed with the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL and the Stars subsequently went out and acquired forward David Lawrence from the Dauphin Kings for future considerations.

December 5th in Melville the Stars won 7-3, but the win came with a steep price, as forward Mitch Wall left the game with a broken jaw after a fight with Tyler Howe.

Two nights later, the Stars beat Humboldt 5-4 in a shootout, and were bracing themselves for two games against Flin Flon at the Civic Center.

Heading into the December 8th matchup, the Stars trailed the Bombers by just two points for first in the Bauer Conference. The Bombers beat the Stars 1-0 in a shootout.

Four days later the Stars lost in another shootout. This time it was a 3-2 setback courtesy of the Weyburn Red Wings.

The Stars split their final two games of the season and ended the month of December eight points back of first-place Flin Flon in the Bauer Conference.

December Highlights:

- A come from behind 'shootout' victory on December 6th in Humboldt.

- Dane Muench scoring the OT winner against Nipawin on December 13th.

- Graham Hildebrand was named Goaltender of the Month after posting super-human numbers. Unfortunately he didn't any offensive help.

- Stars acquire Grant Fahnhorst on December 17th.

December Player of the Month: Graham Hildebrand.


January was turn-around month of sorts for the Stars. Some of their most impressive victories came in January, and in my opinion it was during this month that the Stars officially became a contender for a league championship.

2010 started with a 3-1 loss in Kindersley, and things weren't neccessarily looking too bright as the Stars headed North for their first match-up with the Flin Flon Bombers. However once the puck dropped, the Stars had full control. Blake Peake had a three-point night, and the Stars won 4-2 at the Whitney Forum.

That win became the first of six straight victories for the Stars. They handled Estevan, Yorkton, Melfort and La Ronge at home, and then went on the road and beat the Ice Wolves again 5-4. The winning streak came to an end on January 24th in Air Ronge, but the Stars regrouped and won their next three games at home.

The Stars went 9-2 in January and drew themselves back to within striking distance of the Flin Flon Bombers.

January 9th saw the North Star's land one of the biggest available names at the trade-deadline in Chad Filteau.

Two days later, forward David Lawrence announced that he was leaving the team for personal reasons.

January Highlights Included:

- Acquiring Chad Filteau from the Estevan Bruins in exchange for Justin Waskewitch, Ryan Andersen, The rights to Koltyn Miller and future considerations.

- A dramatic come from behind victory at home against La Ronge on January 16th. Shay Neufeld scores the winner in the sixth round of the shootout.

- Mitch Wall returns from injury.

- A 7-1 win at home against the Melfort Mustangs. Blake Peake had three goals, and an assist.

- Jesse Lebreton named SJHL Defenceman of the Month for January after achieving 12 points in 11 games.

January Player of the Month: Jesse Lebreton


It was in early February that the Stars achieved their greatest feat during the regular season - Three wins, in three nights down south.

In the past three years, the Stars had only won once in Weyburn (Oct. 8 2009) and no times in either Estevan or Wilcox. Friday the 5th, the Stars clumsily defeated Estevan 7-5. In all honesty, they probably should have lost the game, but somehow they snuck out a win.

The next night, the Stars came back from a 2-0 defecit to defeat Weyburn 4-2 and then wrapped up their road trip with another comeback victory against the Notre Dame Hounds.

The bus-ride home that night was unforgettable. Watching Dale Jackson singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was the icing on the cake!

The Stars stumbled three days later when they dropped an 8-7 shootout decision to the Melfort Mustangs. Though they lost, the Stars did climb their way back from a 6-1 defecit to earn a single point.

The next weekend was a humbling one, as the Stars dropped two consecutive decisions to the Flin Flon Bombers at the Whitney Forum. The Friday game on Feb. 12th was close, but the game on the 13th was a little more one-sided.

However it's strange how the most awkward circumstances can help unite a team together. After the game on the 13th, the Star players got into an altercation with Flin Flon Bomber fans. The ensuing altercation would prompt a five-game suspension for Tony Oak, yet I feel as if the entire team left Flin Flon a little more inspired and a lot more united.

The Stars clinched second place in the Bauer Conference on February 17th after a 3-1 victory over the Melville Millionaires. That same night, the Melfort Mustangs fell to the Notre Dame Hounds allowing the Stars to clinch home ice advantage in round one of the playoffs.

The Stars won two of their three remaining games, and finished the regular season with a great record of 35-19-1-3.

February Highlights Included:

- Brett Miller's OT winner in Wilcox on February 7th.

- Aubrey. The best bussy we've had all season.

No comments: