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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NEUGSIE'S AROUND THE SJHL

By: Jamie Neugebauer
Voice of the Notre Dame Hounds

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

1. RIP Elgar Petersen – The city of Humboldt had another reason to mourn over the weekend as Humboldt and Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Famer Elgar Petersen passed away. Petersen, who passed at the age of 82, was beloved by the Broncos organization, and junior hockey in the province at large, as a volunteer, manager, and trainer. The arena in Humboldt is named after the man who was originally from California, but moved to the city in 1962. Condolences to everyone in Humboldt.

2. Weyburn Wakes From Their Nightmare – Kudos to the Weyburn Red Wings for snapping their 10-game skid last Friday, getting a 34-stop, dominating shutout performance from Riley Lamb in a 2-0 win over the Kindersley Klippers. Head coach Wes Rudy’s Wings followed that up with a hard-fought 3-2 defeat at home at the hands of the Battlefords North Stars, but beating the then-nationally ranked Klippers had to have been encouraging.

3. Power Stangs at Home – How about Melfort’s home power play? They sit at a whopping 40 per-cent through eight home tilts, and are 27.2 per-cent overall – both clips are good enough for tops in the SJHL. The Mustangs have arguably the league’s top power-play quarterback in Kayle Tosh (he of 11 powerplay assists through 16 games), and his ability to find Justin Ball with the left-shot one-timer from the right half-wall in the 1-3-1 setup has been deadly.

4. Is Declan Hobbs Human? – Nipawin’s Hobbs has nine wins so far through 14 appearances, and four of those are shutouts. His 1.95 goals-against-average and .939 save percentage are also both tops in the league, and the Hawks are back to just finding ways to win games. Gotta hand it to Hobbs backup Patrick Pugliese though – the California-born tender has been great when Hobbs has needed rest (last Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Melville Millionaires perhaps accepted).

5. A Kindersley Slump? – After a monster 9-0-1 October that saw the Klippers receive tons of deserved credit, and a No. 16 national ranking, November has been a clear cool-off for Coach Clayton Jardine’s men. Not to take anything away from the group, that has clearly bought in to what their new bench boss is preaching, and are playing for each other, but the Nov. 1 trip to Wilcox to take on the Notre Dame Hounds was only the club’s fifth road game of the year, and the Klippers have lost three in a row to begin the month – all on the road. Three goals over the three games obviously is not enough, nomatter how good Justen Close is in net (and if you read my blog, you know what I think of Close). It’s still a great year so far for the Klipshow!

6. Kudos to Zambon – Saw a stat online (@SJStatsGuy on twitter) that no La Ronge Ice Wolves player has finished in the Top 5 in league scoring since 2013-14, so Mitch Zambon’s ability to consistently put the puck in the back of the net is even more impressive. Playing with former WHLer Kolby Johnson and Zach Bannister has clearly helped the big former Canmore Eagle (AJHL), and coach Evan Vossen has a regularly dangerous unit to call on. Here’s to a continued surge of respectability for the fine fans of La Ronge, with Zambon in the lead!

7. Millionaires Coming Around? – Speaking of respectability, Devin Windle’s Millionaires certainly earned that after beating Humboldt and Notre Dame on consecutive nights, and then simply running out of gas in a great effort at the defending champ Hawks for their third game in three nights last Sunday. He clearly has guys that want to be there, and want to play for each other now, and if they can get consistency from either Colby Entz or Berk Berkeliev in net, then I expect the Millionaires to not be an easy out for anyone. If you have not seen Melville play, watch out for relatively new Millionaire Josh Borynec – guy can flat out fly.

8. Global Ag Risk Solutions Division a Warzone – Call me biased if you want, but the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division has been absolutely insane this year; intensely tough from top to bottom. None of the other divisions are above .500, as a whole, against the group that includes Battlefords, Kindersley, Humboldt, and Notre Dame. Admittedly, the parity in the league overall is intense, and I’m sure Sherwood Division folks are especially yelling at their computer screens…but for me it’s an absolute war every night. Fun times in the SJHL folks!

9. Veteran goalies at the showcase? – So many good veteran goaltenders in the SJHL this year,so I don’t envy the person that has to pick the four for the two veteran league all-star teams that will take on the Manitoba leaguers in Regina in mid-January. You have to think Flin Flon’s Pierce Diamond, Kindersley’s Justen Close, and Humboldt’s Dane Dow have the inside track on three of those spots (they have consistently excluded guys with extensive Major Junior experience), but who will be the fourth? I’d obviously love to see Notre Dame’s Andrew Henderson there, but I’m sure the likes of Estevan’s Jake Anthony, Melfort’s Hunter Arps, and Melville’s Colby Entz will get hard looks too. Should be fascinating to see! Maybe they make a Major Junior exception for Declan Hobbs?

10. A perfect October for the Men’s Hockey Huskies (bonus) – Stick taps go to head coach Dave Adolph and his University of Saskatchewan men’s hockey team after they went a perfect 6-0 through October. The Huskies have only a lone loss on the campaign, and that came in Edmonton to the always tough Alberta Golden Bears, and look a very real threat to take the Canadian University throne this year. Former Nipawin Hawk TaranKozun is an absolute brick wall in net for them, and the club is as deep as any in Canada West…so if you’re in the Saskatoon area, go check them out!

(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)

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