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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

NEUGSIE'S AROUND THE SJHL

By: Jamie Neugebauer
Voice of the Notre Dame Hounds

Here are my 10 things for Week 7 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

1. Punch-Up in Weyburn – If you haven’t seen the video, or heard of the big brawl in Weyburn Saturday night, that culminated in a no-holds-barred tilt between veteran Red Wings goaltender Riley Lamb and his Flin Flon counterpart Pierce Diamond, well consider yourself living under a rock. I hold the (probably) unpopular opinion that a big brawl like that has no place in the game (don’t @ me), and all Lamb and Diamond accomplished by their actions was to hurt their team by getting themselves suspended for three games. I am not saying all fighting in hockey is bad (see previous columns), but if you’re reading this, you likely already have your opinion set in stone.

2. Nipawin In Free Fall? – If you’re following along with my column here, you’ll know I am a big, big fan of the way Nipawin head coach Doug Johnson gets his team to play on a regular basis. So, while the Hawks have fallen out of the National Top 20 rankings altogether, and have dropped four of five in October, it still is nowhere near time to panic for the defending champs. I also have to venture into the dangerous realm of saying that a rut like this is not altogether surprising. I have said this Hawks team was not as loaded or veteran as they were last year, Declan Hobbs in net notwithstanding, but I still think Nipawin will be a real force when the dust settles. As I said last week, there is so much parity in this league, so this run balances it all out.

3. The Arps Show – I’m sure Melfort goaltender Hunter Arps would be the first to admit he did not have a great start to his tenure as the undisputed No. 1 in the Mustang net with the departure of Evan Plotnik to the NCAA in the off-season. That being said, he showed up in a big way this past week, allowing only a goal on 58 shots in two straight wins over a home-and-home over Melfort’s blood-rival Nipawin. The former Brandon Wheat Kings’ draft pick is just another very talented goaltender in this league of riches at the position.

4. Gallagher is back! – I raved pre-season about the Estevan Bruins 17-year-old rookie Eddie Gallagher, and then was disappointed when the St. Albert, AB native got hurt. Well folks, he’s back with a vengeance. Three points in his three games back, runner-up SJHL Rookie of the Week honours, and he is well worth the price of admission. Electric speed, awesome composure on the puck…we’re going to be hearing a lot from this guy. College scouts, get your tickets to Sasky now!

5. Humboldt and Kindersley Into The Rankings! – Love to see Clayton Jardine’s Kindersley Klippers getting some recognition, slipping into the No. 20 spot in the national Junior A rankings. The Klips haven’t lost in regulation in the month of October, Justen Close continues to dominate, and while goals still don’t come overly easy for them, they are tough anywhere, on any night. Nathan Oystrick’s Broncos got shelled at home by a surging Notre Dame Hounds club last Friday, and have to head to Kindersley on Wednesday, so while they’ve been good, they have to buckle down a little bit as it has not been a great October for the nation’s No. 19 team.

6. Kindersley v Humboldt – That being said, it’s cool that the Klippers and Broncos are nationally ranked, and then play each other right away on Oct. 17 in Kindersley. Wonder if Jardine’s men will take the ranking below Humboldt personally, despite what has likely been a better month so far…

7. How about them Hounds? – Captain and top centreman Jared Hamm is back from suspension, the top pairing of Charles Martin and Tim Gould is as solid as any in the league, and head coach Phil Roy’s men have scored 21 goals over their last five games (four of them wins – the outlier being a half-awake performance at home against Flin Flon last Thursday). After a 1-6 start, in which the team did not actually play that poorly, it is kind of the opposite case to what I wrote earlier about Nipawin – there is so much parity in the league, that these bounces all eventually even out. Can’t speak highly enough of the way Andrew Henderson and Riley Kohonick have conducted themselves in the ND net either.

8. Shout0Out Newfoundland – And speaking of those Hounds, I am extremely high on the potential of 2000-born Newfoundland-bred defenceman Kyle Robinson. He is No. 1 in points among rookie blue liners in the SJHL, No. 3 overall among rookies regardless of position, and does his job in such an intelligent, unassuming way. He escapes forechecking pressure as well as any defenceman I’ve seen in the league, and even though he is not huge at 5’11, 175, he so rarely gets beat in his own end as well. Really excited to see how good he will get under the tutelage of a former pro defenceman like Phil Roy in Wilcox. I am also not just saying this because he always seems to sit behind me on the bus.

9. Told You So… – Call me what you want, but I have to say I was right that the Yorkton Terriers would turn things around. Four wins in a row in October, including the rare sweep of the northwest trip to Battlefords and Kindersley, have Matt Hehr’s men atop the Viterra Division, and Jared Legein showing, as many might have guessed, that he would not find piling up points in the SJHL difficult. Let’s be real: with all the weapons at Yorkton’s disposal, they don’t need Ben Laidlaw to be a world-beater in net, they just need the 19-year-old Calgarian to not be a Terrier beater. No disrespect intended to him!

10. The Rams Ain’t Done? (bonus) So the University of Regina Rams, with Seb Britton at quarterback in relief of the injured Noah Picton, took care of business at home last Friday against Alberta, winning 32-17. What exactly needs to happen for the now 1-5 Rams to make the playoffs is extremely complicated, and ultimately rests on Regina winning out, and taking the points-differential tiebreaker with whomever holds the last spot (that tie being with Alberta is the most preferential, if somewhat unlikely, though if Regina can crush the last two, and get some help, maybe a tie with Manitoba isn’t impossible to go in the Rams favour either?). None of it matters if the Rams don’t beat the already-clinched No. 1 Calgary Dinos in Calgary on Friday, and then at home against Saskatchewan on Oct. 26! Stay tuned! In the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) in Dumb and Dumber: “SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE!”

(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)

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