BATTLEFORDS — The Battlefords North Stars are preparing to compete against the country’s best.
The North Stars will play in the Centennial Cup May 11-21 in Portage la Prairie, Man. The Junior A national championship features the host Terriers and nine champions from the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
“I’m looking forward to competing at nationals because it's a great chance to represent Saskatchewan and SJHL hockey and to be able to show that our league and team can not only compete but have a chance to win against the nation’s best,” North Stars goaltender Josh Kotai said. “I'm looking forward to the challenge of facing the best teams and players in the country and hope to bring another championship back to the Battlefords.”
After a historic 48-5-2-1 regular season, the North Stars went 12-1 in the postseason. They lost their first playoff game and then won 12 straight.
In the playoffs, Kian Bell paced the North Stars with a league-best 16 goals and 25 points in 13 games. The Battlefords team also had the next three top scorers in the postseason this year: second, Jake Southgate, 22 points; third, Holden Doell, 20; and fourth, Steven Kesslering, 18. Kesslering was second in goals with 14. Tynan Ewart paced SJHL defencemen in playoff scoring with 14 points.
Kotai backstopped the North Stars to all 12 of their playoff wins. He led the SJHL playoffs on goals against average (1.72 goals) and save percentage (.945).
The field for nationals is still being finalized. The Steinbach Pistons will play in their home province after winning the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship. Other teams who have already earned their berths are the defending national champion Brooks Bandits (Alberta Junior Hockey League), Yarmouth Mariners (Maritime Hockey League), Collingwood Blues (Ontario Junior Hockey League), Timmins Rock (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League) and Terrebonne Cobras (Quebec Junior Hockey League). The finals are still being played for the Superior International Hockey League and the Central Canada Hockey League.
La Ronge Ice Wolves assistant coach Kyle Schneider has signed a three-year contract extension with the club. He is a former Ice Wolves and Melfort Mustangs player.
Melfort Mustangs forward Dawson Leroux announced he’ll play for Red Deer College in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference next season. Sam Marburg of the Humboldt Broncos has committed to Queen’s University, which plays in U Sports and is located in Kingston. Teammate Jacob Boucher will play for the University of Windsor.