Tuesday, the flash in the sky from a meteor was right on cue. It was like a firework going off to celebrate the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season.
Many of the 1,803 fans left the Civic Centre happy, as the Battlefords North Stars won and completed one of the best seasons in franchise history.
The North Stars finished with a 41-11-0-2 record for 84 points this season. The fewest losses in franchise history before this season was 12 – not anymore – the 2011-12 Battlefords North Stars will now be in the record books. A 5-2 win over Kindersley ended the season Tuesday and the North Stars have many accomplishments to look back on.
“It was a great season and great way to end this in front of a packed house,” said coach Kevin Hasselberg in a post-game interview.
This is just the second time in franchise history that the team has won 41 or more games and this is the third highest point total ever for the North Stars. The only two other seasons the North Stars finished with more points was when the team played a 64-game schedule.
Hasselberg added that the team is taking pride in the fact they had the fewest losses in franchise history as well as the lowest goals against.
Tuesday, the North Stars jumped out to a 3-0 lead with goals by Tanner Quinn, Jordan Ethier and Brett Miller. The North Stars scored twice on two of the first three shots and eventually forced Kindersley to take a timeout.
The Klippers responded after the 30 second break, as Troy Gendy scored on the power play and Colby Daniels netted a shorthanded goal.
In the second period it was all North Stars, as they outshot the Klippers 19-2 in the period and kept Kindersley out of their zone for nearly eight minutes straight.
The North Stars were able to capitalize once in the second period, as Boyd Wakelin scored for the home team in his final regular season game as a North Star.
Later in the second period, there was a hit on Roger Tagoona that led to all the players on the ice grabbing a partner and two fights broke out. Matt Sherran was given a game misconduct because his fight was ruled the second fight on the same stoppage while Jordan Ethier had to sit for five minutes for fighting.
Once the gloves and sticks were cleared up, play resumed, but there was no more scoring in the second period.
Wakelin added a goal in the third period to conclude the scoring. The North Stars outshot the SJHL’s last place team by a 43-16 mark.
The end of the regular season means playoffs are just around the corner for the North Stars, as they prepare for Nipawin.
“It has been a fun ride,” said Hildebrand of the season. “The guys are getting along, that has been the most important thing and it is just fun to come to the rink every day.”
Tuesday’s game also marked the final SJHL game for nine graduating players.
Blake Tatchell will be one of those players leaving the program after the playoffs. He played 169 games, recording 78 goals and 112 points with 90 penalty minutes. Tatchell was the team’s top scorer the last two seasons and was named the North Stars MVP last year. He is in line for that honour again this season. He tied for second in the league in points this season, as well. Tatchell was named the team rookie of the year after the 2009-10 season.
Miller, another local graduating player, was just one of two players to play all 58 games this season. Miller played with the North Stars during five seasons finishing with 161 games played, 46 goals, 73 assists and 185 penalty minutes.
Wakelin, another forward, played his final regular season game for his home town team. He finished his SJHL career with 21 goals,16 assists and 70 penalty minutes in 133 games. Wakelin battled through his share of injuries through his junior career, but was a valuable part of each team he played for. Wakelin was the North Stars’ Mr. Hustle Award winner last season and this year had a career high in games played, goals and points with the North Stars.
Ethier was a mid-season acquisition for the North Stars and provided an offensive spark since joining the team. In 21 games with the North Stars, Ethier has 10 goals and nine assists along with 15 penalty minutes. Ethier has played junior hockey in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan during his career that began in 2008. He has a combined 91 games, 23 goals, 35 assists and 68 penalty minutes in junior hockey.
As for graduating defenceman, Woody Klassen played his final game of the regular season, but is focused on the playoffs at this point. He was nominated by the North Stars as the league’s top defenceman this season. Because Klassen attempted to play in the East Coast Hockey League at the beginning of the season he played only 36 games this season. But he was nearly a point-a-game player once returning to the North Stars. He played a total of 191 games for the North Stars recording 34 goals, 82 assists and 275 penalty minutes while in the Battlefords.
The North Stars will also say goodbye to captain Travis Sparrow at the end of the playoffs. Sparrow played 91 games in two seasons with the North Stars and had one goal, 12 assists and 225 penalty minutes. Sparrow has been a leader both on and off the ice for the team this season and was truly thrilled to captain a team with such a special season.
Mitch Berg played four seasons in the SJHL, and was a trade deadline acquisition for the North Stars in January. He played 16 games for the North Stars recording one goal, seven assists and 12 penalty minutes in his short time with the team. Berg is excited to end his junior career in the Battlefords with a team that truly feels they have a shot a making a long playoff run. Berg had 176 career SJHL games, 17 goals, 54 assists and 114 penalty minutes.
Berg’s defence partner, Klay Kachur was also a trade deadline deal. His experience was an asset the North Stars wanted and since wearing a North Stars’ jersey Kachur has two goals and 12 penalty minutes in 17 games. Kachur also played 135 games in the BCHL and has had playoff success that he is hoping will carry over with the North Stars.
Last, but not least is Hildebrand. The goaltender has put in his time for four seasons and this is finally his team in his last season. Hildebrand played in 116 games with the North Stars and is the team nominee for goaltender of the year this season. He has 50 career wins with the North Stars and five career shutouts, four this season alone.
“I feel like I have certainly paid my dues over the four years,” said Hildebrand. “To have it (the success) in your last year, when you’re 20-years-old – I just keep thinking to myself every night before I go to bed that ‘this is your last year and you have to play every game like it is your last.’”