Nipawin Hawks – Melfort Monkey off the back
The Hawks entered the end of 2018 24-5-1-1 against the rest of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) but were 0-4 against the Melfort Mustangs.
Both teams split the home-and-home series to end 2018, with the Hawks winning a low scoring 2-1 game in Melfort and the Mustangs exacting revenge in Nipawin 4-2.
The Hawks got their first win against the Mustangs, although the season series sat at 5-1 Melfort and it wasn’t a juggernaut offensive performance for the Hawks.
Everything changed to begin 2019.
The Hawks capitalized on their chances the first game in Nipawin, with Jordan Simoneau scoring a hat trick as the Hawks shut down the Mustangs in a 5-2 win.
Next evening, the Hawks withstood a 2-1 deficit after the first period, before matching a season high seven goals in a 7-2 blow out in Melfort.
“Every game we try to improve and eliminate mistakes we made in the prior game,” Hawks Head Coach Dough Johnson told northeastNOW. “We seem to have done that against Melfort where we didn’t beat ourselves, which was nice to see.”
Last weekend didn’t just breakthrough the Hawks' winning struggles against the Mustangs, but there were goal scoring issues. In the previous six games before the latest home-and-home, the Hawks scored seven goals in six games. Their production over six games was matched by their latest win in Melfort.
A key factor was the line shuffling done last weekend. The first line of Simoneau-Tremblay-Flaman was broken up with bottom-six winger Eric Sorensen moving up to the first line, and Simoneau joining Jeremy Bisson and fellow big winger Logan Moon.
“We weren’t scoring before so might as well change something and see if we can score another way,” Johnson said. “We caught lightning in a bottle there and it might be something we look at going forward. We’ll just keep moving lines around until we find some consistency with the scoring.
The line shuffle did face a set back when the Hawks fell 4-1 to the Flin Flon Bombers on Tuesday, Jan. 8, but a good performance during this weekend’s home-and-home series against the Humboldt Broncos could give the new lines a bit more of a leash. Game one is in Nipawin on Friday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 pm, and it’ll be a chance to see some new faces perform.
Melfort Mustangs – Back on the saddle
For the Melfort Mustangs, there’s no shame in losing three of four against the Nipawin Hawks, and they’re still in a comfortable position sitting third overall in the SJHL.
Although it could be a missed opportunity.
Before the four straight Hawks games, the Mustangs were coming off what was arguably their most impressive weekend, two wins against the Humboldt Broncos, outscoring them 13-4 in the process.
If the Mustangs momentum were to carry and they were the ones to take three of four against the Hawks, they would lead the Sherwood Division and overall SJHL standings with 56 points. Four ahead of the Hawks while still having two games in hand.
But for now, the Mustangs have 52 points trailing the Hawks by four points with two games in hand. By winning the next two the Mustangs would be on the same pace as the Hawks through 40 games.
Coming up this weekend, a revamped Mustangs squad will play a home-and-home with the Flin Flon Bombers, which will be their first trip up to Manitoba this season.
The Bombers are coming off a 4-1 win in Nipawin, which still puts them behind the Mustangs six points, although they have a game in hand. This series for the Mustangs could very well be as crucial one against the Hawks.
Tisdale Trojans – Stacked Schedule
2019 was a welcomed start for the Tisdale Trojans.
With only one game in the first 11 days of the new year, a 5-0 shutout over the Saskatoon Contacts, the Trojans were able to ease their way into the second half of the season.
However, relaxation is about to end in the most abrupt way possible.
Three games in five nights is a difficult stretch on its own for a midget hockey team, but I’m sure head coach Darrell Mann would say the same thing he told me during an intense four-game road trip in December.
“I don’t know what I was doing when I was doing the scheduling this year but yeah, are we ever in a tough stretch with teams right now,” he said
Yes, they are. Although the schedule doesn’t appear to be too bleak for the Trojans.
The Swift Current Legionnaires, Prince Albert Mintos, and Saskatoon Blazers are all top teams no question, but the Trojans have appeared to play up to elite competition on most nights.
Prince Albert: 3-0 with 13 goals for and six against.
Saskatoon: 2-0 with 10 goals for and four against.
Only Swift Current has been able to get a win against the Trojans, a 2-1 shootout in October. The other game near the start of the season was a 6-0 Trojans shut out.
Instead of viewing the next three games as a rough stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as a chance for the Trojans to further their distance from Swift Current and Prince Albert while overtaking Saskatoon for the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League lead again with games in hand.
A gut checking three-game homestand begins Saturday, Jan. 11 against Swift Current.
On Twitter: @SchulzePANow
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