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Thursday, March 15, 2018

SJHL QUARTERFINALS PREVIEW

By: Mike Stackhouse

1-NIPAWIN HAWKS vs. 9-FLIN FLON BOMBERS

It’s not like we need evidence, but Donovan Houle is an example as to how the playoffs are a totally new season.  After contributing 7-goals in 58-games, Houle exploded for 6 in the 3-games against Notre Dame to lead the Bombers to the Survivor Series upset after they dropped game one at home.  The Bombers will need Houle to continue his breakout and they’ll also need goalie Brenden Newton to be the best player on either team if they hope to continue their cinderella run.  The odds are, greatly, against them.  The Hawks just have too many weapons, led by Defenseman Of The Year Josh McDougall, who fired 74-points from the blueline.  Brandan Arnold scored 31-goals in 43-games and would have been the league’s top goal getter had he played the full year.  He also battled injury in the second half.  There are just too many weapons for Flin Flon to keep in check.  From Michael Grant to Brett Harasymuk to Logan Casavant to Grant Baetsen to Chad McCartney to Austin Mikesch.  Then there’s Tyler Adams, who has an unspeakable 150 pims in just 15 games played.  We haven’t even mentioned Declan Hobbs and Jake Anthony in net.  It’s overwhelming.  Hawks should win this and should win it quick.

2-BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS vs 7-WEYBURN RED WINGS

The defending Canalta Cup champions aren’t as deep as they were a season ago, but Layne Young is the most dominating player this league has seen in a long time so it wouldn’t be shocking if the Wings, simply, don’t have an answer as far as shutting him down.  Young has elevated linemates at different points in the year.  Dakota Huebner, MacGregor Sinclair, and Keith Anderson can be included in that mix.  Cole Johnson can too, but he’s been a tremendous source of secondary scoring with 35-points in just 23-games.  Taryn Kotchorek has the SJHL career record for shutouts (14) and the blueline is led by Levi Kleiboer, who’s NCAA bound next year.  While the depth may not be the same as last year, the star power could be greater.  The Red Wings stumbled down the stretch of the regular season but Arik Weersink stepped up in the Survivor Series against Melville, posting a 1.55-GAA and .962-SPCT in the three games.  In fact, he went 101:15 without allowing a goal.  The Wings won’t score a lot, partly because of Kotchorek and the defensive sound system the Stars employ, but also because they don’t have the horses.  Cade ‘Thriller’ Kowalski scored two in the clincher against the Mils, but the SJHL Rookie Of The Year is being asked to do a lot in a series where the Wings are big underdogs. 

3-ESTEVAN BRUINS vs 6-KINDERSLEY KLIPPERS

The Bruins, traditionally, have fallen short in the playoffs so to expect them to emerge this year may be asking for more disappointment but the pieces are in place for a run.  Zach Goberis, Michael McChesney, Jake Fletcher, Kaelan Holt, Arthur Miller, and Hayden Guilderson are as good a top six forwards as any team in the league. The blueline, with Jake Heerspink, Jake Tesarowski, Johnny Witzke, and Mark Edmands is as solid as any team could want.  Fifth year veteran Bo Didur stabilized the goaltending by, quietly, putting up a .920 SPCT.  There’s very little to nitpick here.  They also finished strong and ended up in front of Humboldt in the overall points parade, which could end up being a significant factor if the Bruins and Broncos both advance to the semis.  The Klippers will rely on goalie Justen Close to steal this series and that’s not a bad strategy.  Close had a 2.71-GAA and .923-SPCT during the regular season and is regarded by many as the one goalie in the league who can carry a team.  The Klippers don’t scare you when you look at the stat sheet, but it’s worth noting they dealt with a lot of injuries and got a lot players back down the stretch.  Also, Keillan Olson finished with a hot hand (16-7-17-24), as did Nikolas Malenica (16-8-14-22), and Tanner Thompson (10 goals in his last 16 games).  Defenseman Brody Ryberg had 10-points in his last 16-games and figures to be prominent on their powerplay.  Close finished 8-2-and-1 with a 2.35-GAA after February 1st.  The Klippers won’t be easy prey.  Underrated series to follow.


4-MELFORT MUSTANGS vs 5-HUMBOLDT BRONCOS

These two clubs may go toe to toe to the point that the winner may not have much left for the semi-finals.  The Broncos added Nick Shumlanski (it should be noted Melfort was after him too) from Flin Flon at the deadline for this time of year.  Shumlanski finished strong with 18-points in 12-games and he brings a plethora of experience to the Humboldt line-up as the Bombers made it to back to back league finals when he was a member of their club.  Connor Lukan has 25-games playoff experience under his belt as well from his days in the AJHL, so the Broncos aren’t an inexperienced team despite having a team that hasn’t gone deep in the postseason over the last few years.  Logan Schatz put up 85-points to finish second in the league to Layne Young in scoring and then you have Parker Tobin (7-2, 2.44 run to end the season) in net and the Broncos have a lot of confidence, not only in him, but also in Jacob Wassermann, his back up.  Opposing coaches will tell you Melfort has the best group of defensemen in the league.  Loch Morrison led the team in scoring with 67-points and Tyler Heidt came back from a shoulder injury to put up 9-points in 9-games.  Throw in the likes of Kayle Tosh, Adam Hergott, Boedy Donald, and Ashton Oakes and you can see why other teams are envious.  The forwards lack game breaking name brand, but Reed Gunville, Ben Allen, Justin Ball, and Tristen Elder can all get the job done and there’s plenty to like behind them as well.  Evan Plotnik may carry the title of most underrated goalie in the league.  He’s been nothing but solid and reliable over his three year career.  In a lot of respects, despite the number 4 seeding, Melfort may be the favorite to win it all.