Melfort Mustangs v. Nipawin Hawks – Round Two: Electric Boogaloo
It felt like it was just yesterday that the Melfort Mustangs and Nipawin Hawks had a dramatic home and home series.
Hits and penalties were there for the picking like ripe fruit, goals were hard to come by, and Tulsen Fawcett and Andrew Smiley had the best fight I’ve seen this season.
It was glorious, but it wasn’t yesterday. It was a month ago and so much has changed since then.
For the Nipawin Hawks, the home and home series arguably marked the team’s low point of the season where they were at the end of a 1-4 stretch which saw them fall from the top of the CJHL Top 20 Rankings, to third in the Sherwood Division.
All this capped off to two losses against the arch rival Mustangs, scoring one goal and going 0/15 on the power play. Dang.
But as the old saying goes: once you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up, and boy have the Hawks been going up.
A Hawks squad that was struggling to score (averaging 2.27 goals-per-game in their first 11 games) and was unable to win, could suddenly do both.
As of their last win against the Melville Millionaires, the Hawks are 7-1-1 since the first home and home series with the Mustangs, averaging 3.78 goals-per-game in that stretch, and getting back into the CJHL Top 20 at number 19.
To show for their offensive surge, the Hawks now have a top 20 scorer in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) with Austen Flaman sitting at 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 20 games.
That may be the most notable difference between this home and home and the first. The Hawks came into Melfort scoring six goals in their last four games and not winning in regulation for three straight games.
For the Mustangs, they sit where they have been sitting for a large stretch of this season, a few points behind the Hawks and Flin Flon Bombers with games in hand.
Since the first home and home series, the Mustangs have won four of their last seven, which is good and above a 50 per cent winning percentage, but have had problems keeping the puck out of their net.
The Mustangs have surrendered five goals or more three times during that seven-game stretch, although in the last two they have given up five goals altogether, topped off with a 37 save performance by Hunter Arps on Nov. 7 against the Kindersley Klippers.
Have the Mustangs tightened up defensively in time for this weekend? Have the Hawks’ offence been able to figure out how to score on the Mustangs? Will this home and home series be different than the last?
We have two more games of storylines to find out.
The first game is in Nipawin at the Centennial Arena on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m., with the next game in Melfort the following evening at Northern Lights Palace at 7:30 p.m. as well.
Tisdale Trojan – Deeper Defence
The Tisdale Trojans did what they haven’t had many chances to do this season.
With their last game being a week and a half ago on Oct. 31 in Prince Albert, head coach Darrell Mann decided to give his players last weekend off.
The rest came at a perfect time. As Mann told northeastNOW, the Trojans have been battling injuries all season long.
“It was kind of nice,” Mann said. “This week we’ve actually had a full group of players on the ice practicing. We got a couple of guys that have had the flu bug and missed a few days.”
“All in all, it’s been really good.”
Who benefits the most from this rest? The Trojans defence. Mann said Dylan Ashe and team captain Luke Arndt would be back in the line-up this weekend in Notre Dame.
Saturday, Nov. 10 will be Ashe’s first game this season, and Mann couldn’t be more excited to have him in.
“To be able to bring back a guy who slots as maybe your number two defenceman is huge, and obviously Luke Arndt being our captain and leader on the backend there; having him back and vocal, keeping our guys ready to play,” Mann said.
In terms of how deep the Trojan defence has been without Arndt and Ashe, it isn’t like the shallow end of the kiddie pool, but it hasn’t been the deep end of the wave pool.
With Arndt and Ashe back to eat up some minutes, Landon Kosior will also benefit from additional rest.
Mann said Kosior has been playing 35, sometimes 40 minutes a night with Arndt and Ashe’s absence. With less defensive zone coverage to worry about, Mann said he looks forward to giving Kosior more opportunities to be creative offensively.
The Trojans travel to Notre Dame this weekend to play the Hounds on Saturday, Nov. 10 and the Argos the following day.
The Hounds are the reigning Telus Cup champions as the top midget team in the nation but have played the fewest games in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL) with nine. Although, they’re 7-2 this season with the second-best point percentage (.78) and coming off a 12-1 blow out of Moose Jaw.
On Sunday, it’s the Argos who have the third fewest points in the SMAAAHL.
One extreme to the other in back-to-back days.
On Twitter: @SchulzePANow
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