THE BATTLEFORDS - It will be the Battlefords North Stars versus the Flin Flon Bombers in the SJHL playoffs first round.
The matchup was ensured after the North Stars dropped a 4-3 decision to the Notre Dame Hounds in their final regular season game Monday night, March 14.
A win or a regulation tie would have meant third overall and a playoff matchup with the Yorkton Terriers. Instead, it is the Melfort Mustangs who finish third and face Yorkton, while the North Stars and Bombers will renew their rivalry in the first round starting this Friday night at Access Communications Centre.
The other playoff matchups in the SJHL first round see Humboldt facing La Ronge while Estevan faces Notre Dame.
The North Stars were on their heels for most of the game in Wilcox. Notre Dame opened the scoring with the 29th of the season for Kevin Anderson from Connor Nolan and Will Dawson at 5:08 of period one.
Ryland McNinch tied it at 1-1 at the 15:02 mark from Sam Witt and Tanner Gold.
But Anderson responded with his 30th of the season from Dawson and Evan Vanden Heuvel with just 32 seconds remaining to restore the lead.
Second period goals by Elliot Dutil and Jake Sacratini extended Notre Dame's lead before Jordan Grill responded at the 13:31 mark from McNinch and Holden Doell.
A third period shorthanded goal from Witt with McNinch and Matthew Henry assisting finished the scoring at 16:39.
The North Stars had outshot the Hounds 46-37, including a 16-6 run in the third period, but in the end, it was Ryley Osland getting the win in net with a 43-save night for the Hounds. Austin Schwab took the loss.
With the last game in the books, final stats show Dylan Esau as the North Stars' leading scorer with 23 goals and 35 assists. Jake Southgate followed with 23 goals and 29 assists, while Steven Kesslering had 23 goals and 23 assists.
Ryland McNinch was next with 17 goals and 25 assists, while Zane Florence, Holden Doell and Tynan Ewart all finished with 32 points. Florence had 16 goals and 16 assists, Doell 10 goals and 22 assists, and Ewart six goals and 26 assists.
Now, attention turns to the Canalta Cup playoffs. The North Stats have announced tickets are now on sale online at www.northstars.ca starting at 12:30 p.m. today. As well, the office is open to pick up tickets in person from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. today. The North Stars add that they have a "huge weekend" planned with more details to be released on Wednesday, March 16.