NORTH BATTLEFORD - For the first time in 573 days, the Battlefords North Stars have finally hosted a meaningful Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game.
They played their 2021-22 home opener Friday night versus the Kindersley Klippers to kick off the return of junior hockey at the Access Communications Centre. At the end of the night, the North Stars prevailed
In fact, the arena was still known as Civic Centre the last time the North Stars played there in March, 2020.
Unlike their opponents the Klippers, and for that matter the rest of the teams in the SJHL, the North Stars had not even been able to get a home game in during the extremely truncated and pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, playing all three of their regular season games on the road.
It was largely an untested and unfamiliar lineup of players for fans to follow since the last time either of the teams played on Civic Centre ice. Getting the North Stars start in net was one of those unfamiliar players: Cameron Beson, who was acquired by the North Stars just five days earlier from the Weyburn Red Wings. Matthew Pesenti got the start for the Klippers.
But while fans might have been needed a program, both the North Stars and Klippers were familiar with each other after three preseason games, all North Stars wins. Perhaps that explained why the contest was a chippy affair with lots of rough play.
It was the Klippers who got the jump early on the home team due to North Stars penalties.With Sam Witt in the box for interference, the Klippers scored a power play goal from Mark Snarr to make it 1-0 at the 14:56 mark in the first period. Jaxon Georget and Ethan King got the assists. That would be the only goal scored in period one. Shots favoured the Klippers 15-8.
The North Stars were back in the box to begin period two with Wilson Steele getting two minutes for a blow-to-the head penalty. The North Stars survived the penalty, and midway through the period tied the game on a goal by Steven Kesslering unassisted at 10:14. That was the only goal of the period; shots favoured the Klippers after two periods 25-18.
It was a rough and chippy third period, with the North Stars almost getting a goal off the stick of Zane Florence. But his shot hit the post. Some big saves late in the period by Pesenti kept the game scoreless.
Finally with 2:17 remaining, Emmett Wurst managed to beat Pesenti for his first SJHL goal. Kesslering and Kevin-Thomas Walters had the assists.
Walters ended up getting an empty net goal with 11.6 seconds remaining for his own first-ever SJHL goal, to seal at 3-1 North Stars win.
Final shots favoured Kindersley 31-28, and his 30-save performance earned Beson the Star of the Game honours.
The North Stars and Klippers were due to resume their opening weekend rivalry Saturday night at the West Central Events Centre in Kindersley.
NEW OFFICE MANAGER: In addition to being the first opening night for many of the SJHL players on the ice, it was also the first game night for the new North Stars game day/office assistant.
The North Stars announced they had hired Kennedy Schmidt, who was introduced to the fans prior to Friday night’s game. Schmidt has been active with the North Stars since 2017 selling 50/50s and more recently working behind the merchandise booth. Her first day on her new job was Wednesday.
“I am so excited to be taking on a much larger role in this organization and looking forward to the season,” said Schmidt in a statement.
MELVILLE COVID-19 WOES: While it was a busy opening night throughout the league, it wasn’t for one SJHL squad and their opponents.
It was announced by the league that the Melville Millionaires games had been postponed until “further notice” due to a positive COVID-19 case of one member of the organization.
The Mils had been scheduled to play the Weyburn Red Wings in a home and home, which was postponed.