NORTH BATTLEFORD - Two longtime fierce rivals in the Global Ag Risk Solutions division faced off Friday night as the Battlefords North Stars hosted the Humboldt Broncos at Access Communications Centre.
In the end, the game lived up to the billing as the North Stars pulled away in the third period to prevail 6-3.
It was a much anticipated contest between the two teams widely predicted to contend for the division title. For the North Stars, they went in hoping the game would mark a bounce back to contending form just one day after an 8-3 humiliation on the road in La Ronge.
Meanwhile, the Broncos were on the first game of a western road trip. They were well rested after lighting up Notre Dame for nine goals on Saturday night, and also after a scheduled home game versus Melville on Wednesday was postponed due to the Millionaires’ COVID-19 issues. But it was the North Stars who were the ones looking sharp on Friday, getting three goals in the third period.
The game was perhaps most notable as the first one held under the new “proof of vaccination” rules put in place by the provincial government.
North Stars volunteers were set up outside the arena doors to check for peoples’ proof of vaccination, or alternatively, proof of their negative COVID-19 test before entering the Access Communications Centre.
The new rules were perhaps one reason why attendance was down at the ACC compared to last weekend, with a reported crowd of 413. Also not a help was competition for fans from the football North Battleford Comp. Vikings, who were playing Bishop James Mahoney right next door.
The first period saw tight defences and few scoring chances. Despite being outshot early on by the Broncos, it was the North Stars who capitalized at the 14:13 mark of the first on a power play goal from Dylan Esau to make it 1-0. K.T. Walters and the recently-reacquired Dace Prymak (from Weyburn) notched the assists.
But with 3:54 left in the period the Broncos struck back as Alec Saretzky got his third of the season from Matthew Perkins and Rhett Gibson. That would be all the scoring for period one. Humboldt had the edge in shots 11-8.
The two clubs then traded goals very early in the second. Logan Kurki gave the Broncos the lead at the 1:10 mark, with Connor McGrath and Nicksha Eric the assists.
But 11 seconds later Holden Doell scored unassisted to knot the game again at 2-2.
The Broncos then pounced on a North Stars shorthanded situation. With Walters off for interference, Samuel Marburg scored to give the Broncos a 3-2 lead at the 4:09 mark, Kurki getting the assist.
The North Stars were down a man again midway through the frame with Ryland McNinch in the box for hooking. But at the 9:05 mark Jake Southgate got a shot up high on Rayce Ramsay and into the net, tying the game at 3-3 with a shorthanded goal. Tanner Klimpke had the assist.
That would be it for scoring in the second period. Shots were even at 20-20 through two.
The third period started with a fight: the Broncos’ Connor Casparie and North Stars’ Matthew Henry dropped the gloves near the North Stars bench for an entertaining scrap.
The North Stars had the better of the opportunities in that third frame. They took the lead at the 2:22 mark as Walters scored from Steven Kesslering and Esau.
They had several opportunities to extend the margin to two goals. Jake Southgate had a brilliant opportunity on the breakaway near the 4 minute mark of the period, only to be frustrated in the end. The North Stars later had a two-on-one chance, to no avail.
But the North Stars’ Bradley Blake made no mistake at the 5:12 mark for his first goal in the SJHL, putting the North Stars in control at 5-3. McNinch and Esau had the assists.
Esau finished the scoring with 1:54 remaining by firing the puck into the empty net for a 6-3 final.
Final shots favoured the North Stars 34-28. Ulrik Roussel got the win in net for the North Stars stopping 25 shots.
Humboldt has to shake the loss off quickly, as they return to action Saturday night in Kindersley against the Klippers.
The North Stars now head to the Showcase in Warman. Their next home game will be next Friday, Oct. 8, once again versus the Humboldt Broncos.