Some home cooking on Friday for both the Nipawin Hawks and Melfort Mustangs in SJHL action.
At the ‘Cage in Nipawin, they’re in action against the Humboldt Broncos who sit one spot behind the Hawks for fourth in the SJHL.
Despite winning 7-3 in Flin Flon on Tuesday night, Hawks Head Coach and GM Doug Johnson says work still needs to be done defensively.
“You get back on your heels a little bit and then all of the sudden the pressure comes on you,” Johnson says. “You have trouble reacting, getting back to playing the game that made you successful to start with. So, if we just break pucks out, play clean defensive hockey and just stick to the structure, we’ll be fine.”
Nipawin has pulled within two points of the Bombers for first place in the Sherwood Division, and will be facing Flin Flon on Saturday night for another decisive matchup.
It was great news this week for goalie Kristian Stead as well, as he earned an NCAA Division I commitment to the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
Johnson says Stead has the potential to be a great professional goaltender for years to come.
“He’s going to have a very bright future, he’s a little bit of a late-bloomer in my mind,” he says. “You look at his numbers month to month, and they just keep getting better, and keep getting better. I think we’re going to see ‘Steader’ making a career as a hockey player in the future.”
The Mustangs also welcome a tough opponent Friday evening, as they hit the ice against the league-leading Battlefords North Stars.
Mustangs Head Coach and GM Trevor Blevins says it’s nice to have ended their eight-game losing streak last weekend in Kindersley.
“We did a great job defensively really, and it was an effort that we got rewarded with,” Blevins says. “You could see we were squeezing the sticks a little bit in the third period and wanting to break the skid I guess, but we found a way to get it done and that was important. It was good to get the first ‘W’ in a long time.”
Melfort remains in 10th place in the SJHL, but has the opportunity to move ahead in the standings with a log-jam between the teams currently occupying survivor series spots.
Blevins says a 3-0 loss to the North Stars last week remains fresh in their minds.
“I thought at times in Battleford, even though we lost 3-0, we had a lot of pressure,” he says. “We generated some offensive zone time because we did turn pucks over forcing their defence. So, we need to be on the forecheck for sure, that’s a huge key for us.”
Puck drop between the Hawks/Broncos and Mustangs/North Stars is set for 7:30 pm on Friday.
Other games around the league feature Estevan hosting La Ronge, Notre Dame facing off against Melville, and Yorkton dueling with Kindersley.