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Klimosko using experience to help North Stars win Centennial Cup

15 years after winning the Junior A national hockey championship as a player, Brayden Klimosko is hoping to do the same again as the Battlefords North Stars head coach.
Using his experience as a player at the Junior A national hockey championship, Battlefords North Stars head coach Brayden Klimosko is helping his team prepare for the 2023 Centennial Cup.

BATTLEFORDS — After winning a Junior A national hockey championship in 2008 as a player, Battlefords North Stars head coach Brayden Klimosko is hoping his experience can help his team capture the 2023 Centennial Cup title.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion North Stars’ Centennial Cup experience will take place in Portage, Man. May 11-21. In 2008, Klimosko helped his hometown Humboldt Broncos win the then-named Royal Bank Cup. In Cornwall, Ont., the Broncos went 2-2 in round robin play. They beat the hosts from Cornwall, 6-1 in the semifinals before getting past Camrose, 1-0, in the finals.

“I’m using that trying to help them through this process too. … Trying to help them through the grind of all this,” Klimosko said.

He said what he enjoyed most about the 2008 event, of course, was winning. As well, Klimosko said “playing different teams is fun. We always thought we were good and then you go to a tournament like that, and you really see where you are at.”

Back in 2008, Klimosko helped the Broncos win their second straight SJHL title and defeat the Manitoba champion Portage Terriers in the ANAVET Cup to earn a berth into the national championship tournament. Starting in 2022, the champions from each of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s league, including the SJHL, earn a spot for the Centennial Cup.

The North Stars did so by going 48-5-2-1 in the regular season and 12-1 in the playoffs. They swept the Flin Flon Bombers to win the Canterra Seeds Cup.

“We want to play a fast and physical style,” Klimosko said. “I thought we’ve been able to maintain that most the year. Obviously, that’s why we’ve had so much success.”

Steven Kesslering was named the SJHL Playoff MVP after scoring 14 goals in 13 games. He recently committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y.

North Stars teammate Kian Bell is a finalist for the CJHL MVP and Top Forward awards. He racked up 50 goals this season before hitting the 50-game mark. He had 54 goals and 102 points in 51 regular season contests. Klimosko is a finalist for the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, which is presented to the CJHL Coach of the Year. Josh Kotai is up for CJH Top Goaltender. He had a 32-4-2-1 record during the season. Kotai led the SJHL in save percentage (.935) and goals against average (2.39).

At the Centennial Cup, the North Stars’ competition will include the Brooks Bandits (Alberta Junior Hockey League), Yarmouth Mariners (Maritime Hockey League), Collingwood Blues (Ontario Junior Hockey League), Timmins Rock (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League), Terrebonne Cobras (Quebec Junior Hockey League), Kam River Fighting Walleye (Superior International Hockey League) and the Ottawa Jr. Senators (Central Canada Hockey League).

“You got to respect every team that is there,” Klimosko said. “If you think that we’re really good and someone isn’t, you got another thing coming. Everyone else has won their league as well. You got to respect the teams there.”

Being a tournament as compared to a playoff series, the Centennial Cup will be a bit different.

“If it is different,” Klimosko said. “You can’t have any games off and everything like that. Different opponents. It can work in your favour, but you have to understand you don’t have time to make many adjustments. You got to be ready for each game.”

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