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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

NEUGSIE'S AROUND THE SJHL

By: Jamie Neugebauer
Voice of the N.D.Hounds

Here are my 10 things as we head into the second week of 2019.

1. Showcase Rosters Declared – At the time of this writing, the SJHL rosters for the SJHL/MJHL Showcase event in Regina set for next week are out there in the universe, but they have not yet been announced in an official capacity. That being said, I have seen the list and to be honest, it is pretty much what you'd expect. My biggest surprise was to see Estevan forward Will Koop selected, not because he isn’t good enough (he definitely is), but because he has played only seven games so far this year for the Bruins due to injury. The goalies for the 2000s and under team, Notre Dame’s Riley Kohonick and Estevan’s Grant Boldt, will face each other on Saturday in Estevan, then be teammates on Monday! Fun stuff. Of course, I’m biased in this respect, but nice to see seven Hounds get the call. The SJHL squads are going to show very, very well folks, so stay tuned for the official announcements from the league. There have been some recent injuries among veteran goaltenders around the league, so we’ll see where fill-ins come from in that respect as well.

2. Showcase Snubs – I did not see a ton of surprises, as I said, but there are always going to be a few ‘they COULD have made its’. As many Hounds as are there, I thought Jakob Breault has been fantastic for Notre Dame this year, while Humboldt’s Owen Guenter is maybe the league’s most underrated player. Neither of those guys are on the first cut, though who knows who will need an injury replacement. Yorkton fans might have wanted to see speedster Colby Brandt there too, but the SJHL can’t make EVERYONE happy!

3. Trade Deadline Coming Up! – Trade deadlines are always exciting as a neutral, but are often underwhelming too. Ours (and everyone in Canadian Junior hockey) is coming up on Jan. 10, so it will be interesting to see who adds, subtracts, or stays put. We’ve seen lots of pretty significant moves already this year, with the recent Riley Lamb move to Yorkton, Mitch Zambon to Humboldt, Cade Kowalski, etc., so we’ll see. I have to think Yorkton and Flin Flon, two of many teams certainly going for a championship, are still in the markets for defencemen, and Doug Johnson in Nipawin for goals. To be a buzzkill, I don’t see too many more big moves between SJHL teams coming up, but one never knows!

4. Flin Flon Lands The Big Fish! – The biggest fish the last two weeks was of course Weyburn’s star Cade Kowalski, the talented Ferris State University committed left-winger. The Bombers twitter account has confirmed that the Morden, Manitoba native will be heading to the Flin Flon Bombers, with the package back to Weyburn being forward Dawson McKenzie, and ‘future considerations’, which probably means promises of players for next year. Either way, I am very surprised that it’s a team in the SJHL given all the interest from the USHL and BCHL. If Flin Flon – the league’s top goal scorers - did not have enough weapons already, they are extremely loaded offensively now!

5. Hot Wings – That all being said, you have to give interim Red Wings head coach Kyle Haines and his group a ton of credit! Since the Riley Lamb and Cade Kowalski trade demands went down, Weyburn has strung off three impressive wins in a row, including a blow-out 6-1 win over their hated rivals of Estevan on New Years Day, and another divisional victory at the home of the Yorkton Terriers on Jan.5. Veteran goaltender Ben Laidlaw, whom the Wings got in the Lamb deal, has been very good since arriving, and forms a nice one-two punch with high-potential rookie Cody Levesque. Rumours of Weyburn’s impending demise have been greatly exaggerated, it seems!

6. Humboldt Rebounds – After losing nine of 11, and firing their coach, there were a lot of national whispers wondering what was going on with the Humboldt Broncos. I am not, of course, privy to the internal workings of the Broncos’ locker room, but two straight come-from-behind victories over the Battlefords North Stars later and I am sure they are all feeling a lot better about themselves. I really believe Troy Smith, who has been hired to assist interim head coach Scott Barney, is going to be a fantastic addition, and as I’ve said a thousand times, there is a real glut of talent here. Long way to go, and Humboldt is only four points behind division-leaders Kindersley – so the Broncos roller coaster season continues!

7. ND Sitting Around – I am going a little mad waiting for another Notre Dame game! The club has a really bizarre schedule these days, as once they drop the puck in Wilcox against the Estevan Bruins on Jan. 11, they will have played only one game in 27 days since hammering the Red Wings in Weyburn on Dec. 14. Fortunately for Phil Roy and his men, they did win that one contest, beating Humboldt 3-1 at the Elgar Petersen Arena, and Coach Roy is happy to have all this practice time. That being said, you have to feel like the Hounds guys are going to just be itching to shake off that rust, and go back into the line of fire. More good news is that all this time off has led to scenes of super-rookie Nolan Renwick back on the ice and skating – so he should be back soon!

8. Nipawin Did WHAT To Melfort?? – I’ll answer my own question there…they smashed them! The big-time Sherwood Division rivals opened 2019 with a home-and-home, and maybe the talk of Nipawin being goal-starved struck a nerve. Doug Johnson’s Hawks outscored the Mustangs a whopping 13-4 on Jan. 4 and 5, with the balanced attack led by the five points of the hulking Jordan Simoneau. It’s only two games, so don’t panic Mustangs fans - impressive either way from the defending champs!

9. Round Of Applause Justin Ball/The Streak Is Over – Justin Ball, take a bow! His incredible goal and point-scoring streaks are over, lasting 13 and 33 games, respectively! Over that span, the Saskatoon-native and Mustangs sniper put up 20 goals and 62 points, leaving many to wonder if he’d ever go another game without scoring. For those wondering, the fateful game was that Jan. 4, 5-2 loss in Nipawin, but he did score a goal the next night, despite the fact that the Hawks unloaded on the Mustangs 7-2 in Melfort.

10. Huskies Find A Rough Patch .. Sort Of (bonus) – The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team has already clinched a playoff spot with 10 games left in the Canada West regular season, and with a record of 15-3, there is no need to be worried. That being said, their magical start to the season was dealt a mini-blow to end 2018 and to start 2019! The Huskies ran into their old nemesis of the University of Alberta on Dec. 1, falling for only the second time all year 4-2 in Saskatoon, and then on Jan. 5, were shutout for the first time of the year, getting beaten 3-0 in Calgary. They have a great chance to get back on track this weekend at the expense of the lowly Regina Cougars.

(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)

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