Tuesday, February 14, 2017
STACKHOUSE'S SOAPBOX: THE SJHL STORY, AND MORE
They’ve got company at the top of the elite pyramid, though.
Flin Flon has gone 19-4-1 since December 1st. Nipawin is 20-5 over that same time span, including a 13-game win streak that finally ended on Saturday at the hands of the Stars.
The SJHL is a league that is well known for parity; but the reality is that if two of these three teams aren’t in the Canalta Cup final it would be a stunner.
The league has made a conscious effort to go younger in recent years with the hopes of attracting more NCAA interest. Notre Dame’s 1999 born rookie forward Adam Dawe is the best pro prospect the league has seen since Jaden Schwartz. He is a shoo-in for SJHL Rookie Of The Year and is 7th in the league in points. Personally, I still enjoy seeing the major junior players that come back as older, more mature players. Ben Duperreault leads the league in scoring after stints in Moose Jaw and Lethbridge. Oddly, he plays for the Hounds too. Notre Dame isn’t normally known as a spot for ex-major junior players to land. Despite having these two players, the Hounds haven’t had a great year and are in the bottom half of the standings.
The Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League is another ‘under the radar’ source of entertainment for the local hockey fan. Sunday afternoon, the Regina Rebels completed a weekend sweep of the Melville Prairie Fire, by beating them 4-3 at Co-operators Center. It was a 2-1 game for the Rebels after two, but the Fire scored twice in the third to take the lead, with Hannah Pennell scoring the go ahead goal at 17:58. But, Kennedy Bobyck tied it just ten seconds later with an incredible wrap around goal, using her impressive speed (wonder where she got that); and then Ally Kosteniuk won it with just 15 seconds to go as she snapped a shot from the right face-off circle.
These young ladies are playing for scholarships, much the same way Junior ‘A’ young men do. Some are even on the National team.
In the case of Mackenna Parker and Willow Slobodzian, both of Clavet, and Brooke Hobson of Prince Albert; three players in this league were on the National U-18 team that won a silver medal in the Czech Republic in January. In the case of Bobyck, she’s already in her third year and she only turns 16 this month (February 14th). She leads the league in goals and points and she has one of those rare qualities that only superstars possess: you notice them whenever they are on the ice even if nothing significant happens. The Rebels aren’t afraid to use younger girls and put them in a position to succeed. Brooklyn Stevely and Elise Morphy are 2002 born players who saw a lot of ice time on Sunday. Kosteniuk and Lauren Focht play key roles up front. Lauren is Carson Focht’s younger sister. Sami Jo Henry, Megan LeBlanc, and Ali Hayhurst are the three players that have stood out for me with the Fire. I’ve seen them play three or four times this season and have really come to appreciate the Female Midget AAA game.
Sunday’s win by the Rebels should mean a third place finish and a first round playoff match-up with Notre Dame, which is perfect for travel. Melville would be fourth and, likely, play Swift Current. Saskatoon would be the favorite to win it all.
For those who may not be aware, I don’t live in Saskatoon or Regina so I don’t have a dog in that little spat between the citizens of the two cities. I didn’t mean to stoke the flames with my Rush comments a couple weeks back. I was, merely, going off some of the social media posts I’ve read on Rod’s blog from Regina people who seemed to enjoy taking pot shots at the Rush.
Mark Matthews had another big game on Saturday and the Rush have won four straight after opening with two losses. They are now first in the West Division and as I pay more attention to the NLL, I’d say they’ve still got room for improvement. NLL TV is well worth the $40 subscription fee.
I’m not sure what to think of this Johnny Manziel workout. I am going to say it never happened. I’d like to think Chris Jones has a more sure plan in place than a guy with that kind of baggage who has no professional track record of success to lead the Roughriders back to Grey Cup contention.
To the anonymous guy who commented on my last column who says Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t play in the CFL: turn in your sports card.
*Mike Stackhouse is a Yorkton-based sports reporter and contributor to RodPedersen.com.