The Battlefords North Stars winning streak ended at 13 games Saturday night at the Civic Centre.
Reigning SJHL player of the month Austin Daae scored in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Estevan Bruins a wild 7-6 win over the North Stars. Daae had a goal and four assists in regulation.
It appeared the North Stars were going to run away with the game in the first period. They opened the scoring four minutes into the game on the power play. Bruins goaltender Brett Lewchuk stopped Latrell Charleson’s shot. Jake McMillen picked up the rebound at the side of the net and roofed it over Lewchuk’s left shoulder.
The Bruins tied the game less than 30 seconds later. On a two-on-one for Estevan, Tanner Froese passed to Cory Kosloski, who beat Battlefords goaltender Michael Gudmandson. Both Gudmandson and North Stars captain Kyle Schmidt argued with the referee that Kosloski kicked the puck in, but the goal was counted.
That was the only offence the Bruins mustered in the period. The North Stars regained the lead with 12:26 remaining in the first. Igor Leonenko showed his skill as he knocked the puck out of the air with his glove down his stick. He dragged it through the legs of a Bruins defenceman and beat Lewchuk with a backhand over the goaltender’s shoulder.
The North Stars extended the lead to two on the power play two minutes later. After Lewchuk stopped Battlefords defenceman Dillon Forbes’ shot with his blocker, the puck was circled back to Forbes at the point. This time, Forbes’ slapper beat Lewchuk with 10:27 left in the period. The goal ended Lewchuk’s night. He gave up three goals on 13 shots.
The change in goaltending did not help the Bruins in the period. Leonenko scored his second goal on his birthday with 7:19 remaining. New Estevan goaltender Matt Gibney gave up a rebound on Charleson’s shot. The now 19-year-old Leonenko knocked the puck out of the air and past Gibney to put the North Stars up 4-1.
Battlefords added a fifth shortly before the end of the period. With 1:10 to go, Nick Fountain chose to hang on to the puck on an odd-man rush. He stopped and picked his spot, snapping it short side to beat Gibney. It gave Battlefords a 5-1 lead heading into the second.
It was a different Estevan team that came out in the second period. The Bruins began the period with a good chance as Froese centred for Wyatt Garagan, but Gudmandson made the save.
The Bruins scored their first of the frame five minutes into the second. Daae passed the puck to Froese, who snapped the puck through Gudmandson to cut into the North Stars’ lead.
Estevan used two power play goals to bring the North Stars’ lead down to one. Kosloski beat Gudmandson with 14:06 remaining in the period. Four minutes later, Daae deflected Nick Egan’s point shot past Gudmandson to cut Battlefords’ lead to 5-4.
The Bruins completed the comeback to the tie the game with 2:45 remaining in the second. Keegan Allison took Daae’s pass and snapped it over Gudmandson’s glove to even the game at five. The 781 fans in attendance were in stunned silence after Estevan’s four-goal outburst in the period.
The North Stars regained the lead with 1:28 to play in the period to take some momentum away from the Bruins. North Stars forward Cameron Blair knocked home a rebound from Fountain’s shot, giving Battlefords a 6-5 lead heading into the third.
Battlefords had chances to put the game away early in the period. Tanner Quinn made a nice move around the net, but his backhand attempt was sent just wide of Gibney. Later in the period, Leonenko’s pass floated into the crease. Taylor Reich knocked the puck down, but was unable to get his stick on it.
The Bruins tied the game on a shorthanded rush with 5:49 left in the third. Michael Sagen was sprung on a breakaway, but Gudmandson made the save. However, the rebound bounced right to a trailing Ben Johnstone, who shot the puck over Gudmandson’s glove to tie the game at six.
Overtime would solve nothing and the teams headed to a shootout.
Sagen beat Gudmandson in the second round for the shootout’s first goal. Cameron Blair tied it in the third round with a snap shot past Gibney’s blocker. Johnstone was stopped by Gudmandson to force extra rounds. In the fourth round, Gibney stopped McMillen. Daae had the game on his stick and he slid the puck through Gudmandson’s pads to give the Bruins the win.
Gudmandson made 29 saves for his third loss of the season. Gibney stopped 31 of 34 shots in relief to earn his 17th win of the year for the Bruins.
While the win streak ended at 13 games, the North Stars (30-16-0-3) have earned at least a point in 14 straight. They are two points behind Kindersley for first in the division, but the Klippers have played two fewer games.
The North Stars continue their march to the playoffs Tuesday night. Battlefords host the Flin Flon Bombers for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at the Civic Centre.