BATTLEFORDS — From the Centennial Cup, the Battlefords North Stars brought home a national award, a tournament honour, and a runner-up finish.
On Sunday, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion North Stars fell 4-0 to the Brooks Bandits in the national Junior A title tilt in Portage, Man. It was Brooks’ third straight championship with wins in 2019 and 2022 and the tournament being cancelled in 2020 and 2021. The Alberta Junior Hockey League Bandits were ranked No. 1 in the final Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings before the tournament while the Battlefords was No. 2.
Coach of the Year
During the Centennial Cup, it was announced that North Stars bench boss Brayden Klimosko was named the CJHL Coach of the Year and with it received the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award. Head coach Haugan and assistant coach Cross were among the 16 lives claimed in the April 6, 2018 Broncos bus crash. It obviously is a special honour for Klimosko, a Humboldt product, as he was an assistant coach for Haugan on his hometown Broncos and knew Cross some as he rented Klimosko’s home.
This past season Klimosko led his team to a 48-5-2-1. The squad was ranked No. 1 in the country for 15 weeks. They did not lose a contest in regulation in the 2022-portion of the SJHL schedule. The North Stars lost the first game of the playoffs and then reeled off 12 consecutive victories. Klimosko, who led Battlefords to a 2019 league title, was named the SJH Coach of the year in 2020, 2022 and 2023. The CJHL Coach of the Year award will be officially presented in person at the 2023 National Hockey League Coaches’ Association’s Global Coaches’ Clinic on June 28.
As the CJHL Coach of the Year, the bench boss and the North Stars will receive:
- $5,000 contribution to the team on behalf of the NHLCA.
- $5,000 worth of Bauer Hockey equipment.
- Klimosko and an assistant coach are invited to attend the 2023 NHLCA Global Coaches’ Clinic in Nashville, Tenn., prior to the NHL Draft as guests NHLCA.
North Stats netminder Josh Kotai was named the Centennial Cup Top Goaltender. The award is given out after the round robin portion of play. In the North Stars’ four pool play games, Kotai had a 1.75 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. Kotai was the SJHL’s Top Goaltender after recording 32 wins, a 2.39 GAA, and a .935 save percentage. During the SJHL postseason, the veteran goalie was 12-1 with a 1.72 GAA and a .945 save percentage.
North Stars Stats
At the Centennial Cup, Doell paced the North Stars with eight points. Steven Kesslering tied with Brooks’ Aidan Fink for the tournament lead in goals with six. Holden Doelll and Kian Bell led the North Stars with six assists each. Kotai had a 2.02 GAA and a .939 save percentage.
The national championship game was scoreless after the first period. In the second frame, the Bandits got rolling. They scored four straight goals. The first three came within a two-minute
span between 10:08 and 11:45 with Hunter Wallace, Heath Armstrong, and Hudson Malinoski scoring. With 15 seconds left in the frame, Malinoski scored again to make the score 4-0. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third.
Kotai stopped 37 of the 41 shots he faced. For Brooks, Ethan Barwick had 30 saves for the shutout.
The North Stas made it to the Centennial Cup finals by romping past the host Portage Terriers, 7-1, in a semifinal contest on May 20. Battlefords lit the lamp four times in the first – including twice on the power play. Scoring for the North Stars are Alex Izyk, Kesslering, and Doell, who had two goals.
In the second session, captain Jake Southgate and Bradley Blake scored to make it 6-0 for Battlefords. Both goals came with the man advantage. At 18:56 of the period, Portage got on the board with a Matt Wisener marker. Riley Girod made it 7-1 for the North Stars and wrapped up the game’s scoring at the 10;22 mark.
Kotai only allowed only one goal on 31 shots. Justen Maric played just over two minutes at the end of the game for Battlefords but did not face any shots. For Portage, Bailey Monteith started and stopped 16 of the 22 shots that came his way. At 14:12 in the second, Jayden Catellier came on in relief. He had 15 saves on 16 shots.
As reported last week, the North Stars opened pool play by beating the Kam River Fighting Walleye, 4-1, and falling to the Collingwood Blues, 3-1.
The squad rebounded with two straight victories to qualify for the playoffs by grabbing the top spot in their pool and earning an automatic berth into the semifinal round.
On May 15, Battlefords led 1-0 and 3-1 at the intermissions, respectively, on the way to a 3-2 win over Portage. Kesslering opened the scoring in the first period. Wiesner tied things up at 1-1 in the second. Blake and Southgate responded with powerplay markers to make it 3-1 for the North Stars. Tayem Gislason brought the Terriers within one, 3-2, with a goal at 10:04 in the third.
Kotai stopped 35 shots. Monteith made 34 saves.
The North Stars posted a 3-1 victory over the Steinbach Pistons on May 16. Kesslering scored for the North Stars in the first. At 4:40 in the third, Steinbach’s Noah Szabo’s goal tied the contest at 1-1. Bell put Battlefords back on top with a goal with a second more than three minutes remaining. Kesslering added an empty net marker.
Kotai and Pistons goalie Dominik Wasik each had 30 saves.