The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings will be hosting the Battlefords North Stars at Crescent Point Place tonight, and there will be a lot more happening than just an SJHL game. Tonight is the Red Wings’ Goals for KidSport game.
Each season, SaskEnergy donates $20 to KidSport for every home goal scored in the SJHL, including goals scored by the Red Wings at Crescent Point Place. As well, each year, each team has a Goal for KidSport game with a number of activities on and off the ice.
“They’re going to have a shooter tutor game that they’re going to have with some of the kids during the first intermission,” explained Nick Nielsen with the Red Wings. He added there will also be a Chuck-A-Puck in support of KidSport during the second intermission.
There will also be plenty happening before the game.
“We’re going to be talking about how much the Red Wings have raised through the Goals for KidSport program over the last nine years, as well as honouring our Volunteer Champion for the year,” Nielsen said.
The Volunteer Champion is a key part of the pre-game festivities. Nielsen noted the person who will be receiving the award has been volunteering with the team for a number of years and has recently taken a bigger role in volunteering.
“Volunteers are always something that we need in this community to make things happen, so for us to have someone that we have that we can honour here is a pretty good thing to start the game off with,” Nielsen continued.
As for the game itself, this will be the first visit to Crescent Point Place by the Battlefords North Stars since the playoffs last season. It is also the first time the two teams have met since the North Stars took the quarterfinal series in five games.
There have been a number of big changes for both of the lineups since last season. The Red Wings had a number of players move on to the post-secondary ranks, while the North Stars lost a large part of their offence. However, one of those players is returning, with Kian Bell, last season’s SJHL MVP, coming back to the lineup after a stint with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
Weyburn is coming into the game on a two-game winning streak, but it has been the play of one player in particular that has been generating a lot of the conversation. Captain Max Monette was named the SJHL’s MVP of the Week after picking up five goals and two assists in the span of three games. The highlight of that stretch was a hat trick when the Red Wings beat the Nipawin Hawks 6-2 Friday night.
At the other end, the North Stars split a pair of games against the Humboldt Broncos last weekend, winning one in a shootout, and losing one in a shootout. The North Stars do have two regulation wins in their past five games, but those came against the La Ronge Ice Wolves, who have struggled defensively in recent weeks.
Special Teams will be a key part of the game, and the Red Wings do carry a bit of an edge in that category. Weyburn has a 17.5 percent power play percentage, ahead of the North Stars who are 11.5 percent with the man advantage, last in the league. Weyburn has also been stellar at keeping the opposition’s power play at bay on home ice, allowing just 3 power-play goals in 33 chances. The penalty kill for the North Stars, on the other hand, has given up 10 goals in 45 chances when on the road.
The game will also be a matchup of two of the top goaltenders in the league. Justen Maric, back in the lineup for the North Stars, has been stingy between the pipes. In five games, he has posted two shutouts, and allowed just five goals, with a GAA of 0.97 and a save percentage of .971. In the Weyburn crease, Dazza Mitchell has played 10 games, allowing 22 goals and picking up one shutout, with just one loss in regulation. His GAA is 2.34 so far this season, and he has a .933 save percentage.
When the puck drops at 7:00 p.m., it will be a test for both teams who are looking for the two points early in the season to help open the gap in the league and division standings.
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