BATTLEFORDS — The Battlefords North Stars split their first two games at the Centennial Cup.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League title winners are representing the SJHL at the national Junior A hockey championship in Portage la Prairie, Man. The North Stars opened the competition with a 4-1 victory over the Kam River Fighting Walleyes. The Battlefords crew fell in its second contest, 3-1, to the Collingwood Blues.
Next up for the North Stars at the 10-game tournament is a May 15 prime time game against the host Portage Terriers. The perennially strong Terriers won nine Manitoba Junior Hockey League championships between 2005 and 2019. They claimed a national championship in 2015 at home. This season the Terriers made it to game seven of MJHL semifinals after a 43-11-1-3 regular season.
The North Stars wrap up pool play on May 16 against the MJHL champion Steinbach Pistons. The Pistons were 42-15-0-1 in the regular season.
Quarterfinals will be played on May 19. The semifinal contests will take place on May 20 with the championship tilt on May 21.
North Stars 4, Fighting Walleye 1
Two first period goals helped the North Stars go on to win 4-1.
“We started like a team that has been off for three weeks, but I feel like once we got our legs under us, we started to get going,” Battlefords head coach Brayden Klimosko said on the Centennial Cup website. “Kam River pushed us hard early on but to me that big goal at the end of the second tilted the game in our favour. Early start time, new environment, I thought we adjusted well, and it was a good win, a good start.”
Steven Kesslering got the North Stars started at the Centennial Cup with a shorthanded goal at the 9:54 mark. In the final minute of the first period, Jackson Allan lit the lamp to make it 2-0.
The Superior International Junior Hockey League champion Fighting Walleye scored at the 6:59 of the second period to make it a one-goal game, 2-1. North Star Tanner Gold scored at 18:40 to give his team a two-goal cushion, 3-1. In the third, Colby Bear made it 4-1 for Battlefords.
North Stars netminder Josh Kotai stopped all but one of the 24 shots he faced. Kesslering recorded a goal and an assist.
Jeremy Dumore had Kam River’s goal. Fighting Walleye goalie Eric Vanska had 36 saves.
Blues 3, North Stars 1
The Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Collingwood Blues got on the scoreboard first with a Cam Garvey marker in the first period. Neither team scored in the second. At 4:34 in the third, Ayden Dooley’s goal made it 2-0 for the Blues. Kesslering’s second goal of the tournament pulled the North Stars to within one, 2-1. Battlefords was unable to tie the game and the Blues added another goal with Spencer Young scoring at 17:26.
Kotai stopped 31 shots. Noah Park made 36 saves for the Blues.