In a sure sign summer is fast coming to an end, hockey is back in action at the Civic Centre.
“Crazy, hey, it just feels like yesterday that we were back in the rink,” said Brayden Klimosko, head coach of the Battlefords North Stars, following their first pre-season contest against the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey on Labour Day Monday.
However, a win was not in the cards. Bonnyville took the game 7-5, outshooting the North Stars 49-31.
Despite the defeat, it was a good test for the North Stars against a team who had already gotten a head start by opening their camp a week before the North Stars had.
For Bonnyville, it was their third pre-season game. As for the North Stars, their previous contest had been the night before, against each other in the annual Black-vs.-White intrasquad game.
The North Stars had just gone through four days on training camp, in which 75 players took part.
“We have probably about 30 guys left in camp, and we’ll probably going to keep around that number for training camp and going into regular season,” said Klimosko. The plan is to get the roster number down to 25 for the regular season, about a third of them veterans from last year’s team.
“We’ve got a lot of good, young fresh faces out front and quite a few veterans on the back end,” Klimosko said of the roster so far.
Returning veterans listed in the lineup sheet for Monday night’s game included Matthias Urbanski, Matthew Fletcher, Noah Form, Austin Becker, Ryan Granville, Kaden Boser and both Quinton and Elijah Loon-Stewardson.
A big question mark for fans is what is happening in goal, with the departure of veterans Joel Grzybowski and Chad Duran in the offseason. Grzybowski, who was MVP of the playoffs during their cup run, opted to enroll at the University of Saskatchewan.
Coach Klimosko said returning veteran Adam Dmyterko is in the mix and two newcomers, Parker Rey and Dylan Barton, are competing for the number two spot. Both Rey and Barton saw plenty of action during the first pre-season game Monday.
The big announcement for the club will happen the morning of Sept. 11 at the North Stars kickoff breakfast, when the players and the team’s leadership group for 2019-20 will be announced at the Civic Centre.
Bonnyville 7 North Stars 5
In the first period the Pontiacs took a big early shots advantage but ran into penalty trouble midway through the period. With a two-man advantage, the North Stars capitalized as Caelan Fitzpatrick scored at the 10:15 mark to make it 1-0, Colten Aiken and Matthias Urbanski assisting.
That would be all the scoring through one. Shots favoured the Pontiacs 14-7.
In the second period, the Pontiacs tied the game at the 2:29 mark as Kash Rasmussen scored on Rey, the assist going to Tyson Gayfer.
But just like that, the North Stars regained the lead shortly before the five-minute mark, with Logan Macdonald scoring from Carson Reagan.
At the 8:24 mark, the Pontiacs tied it again as Jaden York put it upstairs, Cam Newton assisting. Then with 6:22 remaining the Pontiacs took the lead on a goal from Devin Pimm from Jaden York.
The North Stars would promptly tie it up 3-3 with 3:54 left in the period, Noah Form scoring from Austin Becker. That was all the scoring through two periods, with the shot count still favouring the Pontiacs 31-18.
It was a brisk third period, with Bonnyville still leading the shot count. They seemed to get a golden opportunity with the North Star’s Dayce Prymak in the box for tripping. Instead, it was the Stars’ Urbanski who scored shorthanded, Matthew Fletcher assisting.
But with Primak still in the box, the Pontiacs got a power play goal from Matthew McKim to tie it up 4-4 with 6:44 left.
With 5:35 left and with the Pontiacs’ A.J. MacAulay in the box for charging, it was Austin Becker who scored on the power play to put the North Stars in front again 5-4. But Bonnyville’s Chayce Schmidt answered back with just 4:17 left to tie the game at 5-5.
With 2:19 left, a late breakaway goal by Rasmussen, unassisted, put Bonnyville back in the lead to stay. The Pontiacs then sealed it up with an empty net goal from McKim with 39 seconds left for the 7-5 final score.
Final goaltending stats saw Rey stop 26 of 28 shots while Barton stopped 17 of 21 in net for the North Stars.
The next pre-season contest for the North Stars is Friday night at home to another Alberta league opponent, the Lloydminster Bobcats.