BATTLEFORDS — Jake Southgate is living his dream this season with the Battlefords North Stars.
The 20-year-old North Battleford product is honoured to captain the team he grew up rooting for. While enjoying a personally productive season, Southgate has helped lead the North Stars to an unprecedented start to the campaign. As of Tuesday, the team had only lost once in regulation. The North Stars paced the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with a 34-1-2-1 record. The North Stars are 22 points in the standings ahead of second-place Flin Flon (71-49).
For Southgate, getting to suit up for the North Stars for parts of four seasons – including time as an affiliated player and in a COVID-19 shortened campaign - has fulfilled a youthful wish. “I’ve enjoyed being able to live out my childhood dream of playing for the Stars,” he said. “I also enjoyed being able to look out into the stands while I’m playing and seeing a lot of people I recognize and am friends with. The community support our team gets is unreal and being from the community, it makes every game mean that much more.”
Southgate is a key member of the North Stars in many ways. His leadership has been important this season.
“Jake is the heartbeat in the room,” Battlefords head coach Brayden Klimosko said. “Jake is our leader on and off the ice. He’s the voice and also leads by example.”
A 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward, Southgate has already accumulated a career-best 54 points through 38 games. As of Tuesday, he was third on the team in points. His previous career high was 52 points over 55 contests in 2021-2022. With 40 assists, he has zoomed past the 29 he had a season ago. Southgate has 14 goals this season. What has allowed him to put up points this season?
“I think the biggest thing for me has been focusing on consistency and showing up as prepared and mentally checked in every time I’m on the ice, game or practice,” Southgate said. “Also, the chemistry with my linemates is something I’ve never experienced before and makes it so much fun to be on the ice with them.”
As of Tuesday, the North Stars’ top line was the SJHL’s top three scorers. Holden Doell led the league with 66 points. Kian Bell was second with 63 points, including an SJHL-high 33 goals. Southgate was third in points.
Southgate is also making an impact off the ice. He was chosen as the North Stars’ SJHL-RBC Community Ambassador. One player from each team is selected for displaying “exemplary commitment to their community and demonstrated exemplary leadership both on and off the ice,” as stated on the SJHL website. Fans will vote online to determine which of the 12 ambassadors will receive the RBC Community Award at the end of the regular season.
“To be chosen for the RBC Ambassador means more than any on ice award I could get,” Southgate said. “Our whole team does a great job of getting out in the community and to be selected as a representative for our team comes with great pride.
“Some of the activities I have done include reading at local schools, handing out COVID tests during COVID, running the North Stars kids camp, and playing road hockey with kids from the community.”
While Southgate is enjoying his time with the North Stars, he already knows where he is headed next season. He has committed to play for the fledgling NCAA Division men’s hockey program at Lindenwood University. The school is located in the St. Louis, Mo. suburb of St. Charles. The university’s men’s hockey team is in its debut season playing at the NCAA DI level.
“I choose Lindenwood because I really liked their coaching staff and mentality,” said Southgate, who is leaning toward studying business. “They are only in their first year of NCAA Division 1 this year and already have had some really good games against the elite teams in Division 1. So, to join a team that is already close to taking a big step in competing against those big schools was an exciting opportunity for me.”