It took until mid-January, but as of Saturday the Battlefords North Stars had found themselves back in a familiar spot: first place in the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division.
After Tuesday night, they were back where they were before: staring up at the Kindersley Klippers.
Such has been the rollercoaster that has been the 2018-19 SJHL season, with every game a crucial one.
Road wins over the Klippers 3-1 on Friday and then against the Notre Dame Hounds 3-2 in overtime in Gull Lake allowed the North Stars to leap over the Klippers into first place by one point, 56 points to 55.
They had a chance to extend that lead with their first home game in weeks at the Civic Centre. Instead, the Klippers ran away with the game 6-0, a contest shown province-wide on SaskTel Max TV, to reclaim the division lead by a point.
The North Stars have no time to wallow in misery, as they go to the Whitney Forum for two games this weekend versus the Flin Flon Bombers. Those games pose another opportunity for the North Stars to reclaim the division lead as the stretch run approaches.
North Stars 3 Klippers 1
The North Stars got on the board first as Matthias Urbanski got his 17th of the season from Seth Summers and Quintin Loon-Stewardson at the 16:43 mark, for a 1-0 lead after one.
Kindersley tied it in the second with Noah Bankowski's seventh of the season. But Quintin Loon-Stewardson gave the North Stars the lead at the 8:27 mark of period 3, with Dylan Esau and Brett Gammer assisting. Then Braydon Buziak scored with 20 seconds remaining from Macgregor Sinclair and Matthew Fletcher for a 3-1 final score.
Netminder Joel Grzybowski got the win, stopping 30 of 31. His Kindersley counterpart Justen Close had the far busier night, however, stopping 40 out of 43 North Stars shots fired his way.
North Stars 3 Notre Dame 2 (OT)
The game against Notre Dame was played in Gull Lake on Hockey Day in Saskatchewan, one of three SJHL games played there that day.
The North Stars took the lead with a first-period power play goal by Sinclair, his 19th of the season, Brett Gammer and Owen Lamb assisting.
In the second, Lamb got his 19th from Sinclair and Spagrud. But two third period goals by Notre Dame tied it: Jarrett Penner and Jakob Breaults goals sent the game into overtime.
It was Braydon Buziak’s unassisted goal at the 1:32 mark of overtime that gave the North Stars the win. Chad Duran got the win, stopping 20 of 22 shots. Riley Kohonick took the loss, stopping 32 of 35.
Kindersley 6 North Stars 0
The North Stars rematch with Kindersley on Tuesday proved a far different result than the Friday night contest. While the final score pointed to a blowout, in fact the North Stars had spent most of the game outshooting the Klippers.
They led in shots 36-26, but it was the Klippers Justen Close who slammed the door with an outstanding night. In one particular save in the second period, Close literally stood on his head as his acrobatics robbed Macgregor Sinclair of a goal.
Things went downhill for the North Stars early, as Garrett Johnson went to the box for kneeing at 6:17 of the first period. Kyle Bosch then scored right from the faceoff just one second into that power play opportunity, putting the Klippers in front.
In the second Cameron Sherrock and Noah Bankowski added to the Klippers lead, and then things completely unravelled in a rough, penalty-filled third period as the North Stars lost their composure and the game.
The North Stars took eight penalties to the Klippers four in that frame, with Kaden Boser taking two roughing penalties, Braydon Buziak and the Klippers Josh Fletcher taking roughing penalties and Ryan Gil getting penalized for a blow/hit to the head.
Ty Enns scored midway into the third period with the North Stars having pulled their goaltender Joel Gryzbowski for an extra attacker unusually early. Then Austin Nault scored on the power play at 12:21 and finally Will Van der Sloot finished the scoring at 13:54.
In all, it was a night to forget. The North Stars now must regroup and get back to work Friday night at 7:30, on the road in Flin Flon.