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Friday, March 30, 2018

SJHL SEMIFINALS PREVIEW

By: Mike Stackhouse

3-ESTEVAN BRUINS vs 2-BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS

This series may be a lot closer than many think. Going back to the regular season, the Bruins are 12-and-2 in their last fourteen games overall.  They’ve also been very tough on home ice, so if they can find a way to wrestle away home ice advantage from the Stars, who were 24-3-and-2 at home themselves during the regular season, it would be interesting to see how the Stars handle being at a disadvantage.  The two teams split their regular season series at three wins apiece.  Each of the top six forwards on the Bruins averaged a point per game against Kindersley in the four game series sweep, and they may be the best group of forwards the North Stars have faced in the SJHL playoffs over the last two years.  The Stars, by the way, have won 16 straight playoff games dating back to last year.  Joel Grzybowski appears to have the number one goalie position over Taryn Kotchorek, who has the SJHL career shutout record.  Kotchorek was sidelined during the first round.  For the Bruins, Bo Didur put up a 1.25-GAA and .955-SPCT against Kindersley.  He’ll face a much tougher test in round two.  The best player on either team is Layne Young.  The regular season scoring champ had 8-points in 4-games in the first round against Weyburn.  It’s worth noting the Bruins didn’t mail in their last few games of the regular season because they wanted more points than Humboldt so that they could avoid playing the top seed in the semi-finals should they and the Bruins both advance.  And, that’s exactly what happened.

1-NIPAWIN HAWKS vs 5-HUMBOLDT BRONCOS

Unchartered waters for Humboldt as they, mildly, surprised in the first round by defeating the Melfort Mustangs in five games.  Humboldt lost all six games against Nipawin and, while they played the North Stars to three regulation time draws, they were also 0-and-6 against Battlefords during the regular season.  So, their semi-final opponent really doesn’t matter.  Humboldt had average special teams during the regular season, while Nipawin’s powerplay and penalty kill ranked atop the league.  The Hawks seldom lose anywhere, but their 24-2-1-and-2 home record is, particularly, intimidating.  The Broncos do have the benefit of two excellent goaltenders with Parker Tobin finishing the series against Melfort with a 3-0 record, 0.99-GAA, and .968-SPCT.  Not to be outdone, Declan Hobbs beat Flin Flon 1-0 in 80 minutes of work in the series clincher and comes into this series with a 4-1, 1.32-GAA and .958-SPCT statistical line.  The Hawks are deeper up front and on the blueline, led by Josh McDougall (8-points and the series winning goal against Flin Flon) and Brandan Arnold (10-points against the Bombers).  They were the top ranked team in the league all season for a reason.  The Broncos, while improved over the second half and a legitimate top team, will need something special to occur in order to post an upset and advance to the Canalta Cup finals. 

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