The Nipawin Hawks went into their week facing a gauntlet but they came out of it unscathed as they wrapped up a perfect 4-0 week.
“You always hope to go undefeated but the big thing was make sure we compete, make sure we give ourselves a chance, do the little things right and don’t give away points,” said Doug Johnson, the Hawks’ head coach.
“If we’re going to get beat, let’s get beat – let’s not beat ourselves. The guys responded to every challenge they faced and had a great week.”
The week started off in Weyburn on Jan. 24, where the Hawks put forth their worst performance of the week, said Johnson, but they still skated away with a 4-1 win thanks to goals from Tanner Thompson, Eric Bolden, Brandan Arnold and Brett Harasymuk, and a 41 save effort from Kristian Stead.
“[Stead] was outstanding that night and I think our skill shone through. We were able to put some pucks in the back of the net where Weyburn wasn’t.”
Out of all four games that week, Johnson said that first game was the one that concerns him the most when it comes to his team’s effort.
“You come off a long bus trip and give Weyburn a lot of credit. They battled hard the whole game.”
It was a quick turnaround for the Hawks as they continued on their southeastern tour to take on the Estevan Bruins.
The Hawks caught the Bruins on an off night, said Johnson, and they were able to take advantage getting goals from Arnold, Harasymuk, Keegan Kjargaard and a pair from Bolden and a 30 save shutout performance from Stead en route to a 5-0 victory.
“We executed a game plan that the guys embraced so it was nice to see. We did a lot of the little things right and didn’t generate offense for Estevan which we talked about.”
Battling such a dynamic team, “you need to eliminate their offense,” said Johnson, “keep pucks to the wall, make it a battle and we did that.”
Against the Hounds
The grueling week continued as the Hawks traveled back up Highway 39, this time stopping in Wilcox the following night for the final game of a three-in-three against Notre Dame.
Looking to just put forth a good effort despite being tired, the Hawks did just that as they matched the Hounds stride for stride ultimately winning the game 4-3 in overtime.
Johnson said that even with some guys out of the lineup, the rest of the team stepped up.
“We had a few chances to win it in regulation but for whatever reason we couldn’t find the back of the net. Again it’s one of those you’re happy with the effort because I was tired and I wasn’t on the ice for three games,” said Johnson.
Wrapping up the week, the Hawks returned home for a Jan. 29 showdown against the red-hot league-leading Battlefords North Stars.
The Hawks continued to play solid defense limiting the North Stars chances and were spectacular on the penalty kill as they kept the North Stars 0/5 on the power play en route to a 2-0 win.
Johnson was really pleased with how the team played on the penalty kill, crediting the defensemen and forwards for blocking shots and clearing the sight lines for Stead.
It was one of the best games he has seen Stead play as a Hawk, said Johnson.
“Kristian made sure that every shot was smothered. There were no second opportunities, there were no second chances and it’s just demoralizing when you don’t get those second chances.”
For his effort, Stead was named the Player of the Week after finishing with two shutouts and one goal against in three games, while turning aside 112/113 shots.
Johnson was really impressed with his week noting that it might have been the best week he has seen from a goalie in his seven years in the SJHL.
After a grueling week, the Hawks play three more times this week with games in La Ronge on Jan. 31, in Melfort on Feb. 3 and then back home against the Mustangs Feb. 4.
After such a busy week and with the team riding such a high, it will be a challenge for the Hawks to keep themselves focused heading into La Ronge to take on an Ice Wolves team that has lost 16 games in a row but Johnson said the team has been given goals to focus on during the game.
“It’s not necessarily winning the game. It’s making sure the individual efforts are there because when we have individual efforts, usually the team game is very strong.”