Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

2017-18 Quarterfinals vs Battlefords


courtesy of Steven Wilson,

Game 1

The Weyburn Red Wings found themselves down early against the Battlefords North Stars Friday night, and the North Stars made the most of it, skating to a 5-1 win over the Wings in the first game of their best-of-seven quarterfinal series.

The North Stars opened the scoring just before the nine minutes mark of the first period. Chaseton Braid fired the puck in from a sharp angle, somehow sneaking it past the short side of Red Wings goaltender Arik Weersink.

Just two and a half minutes later, the Stars added to their lead thanks to a quirky bounce. Weersink attempted to clear the puck out of the zone while the Wings were on the power play along the boards. It clipped the skate of the referee, and jumped out, onto the stick of Cole Johnson. Johnson wasted little time getting the puck into the net, making it a 2-0 game.

Layne Young would finish up the scoring in the period with his first of the postseason. The goal, with 7:06 left on the clock, also ended the night for Weersink, who was replaced by Liam McCloskey.

The WIngs would get on the board in the second period. 2:13 into the middle frame, the Wings found themselves on a power play. Red Wings captain Mike Eskra ripped a shot on net from the point, and it beat Joel Grzybowski. Jordan Kazymyra picked up his third assist of the playoffs, and Landon Walters picked up the other helper.

The North Stars regained their lead on a power play of their own just a few moments later. MacGregor Sinclair’s point shot was tipped by Keith Anderson, restoring the three-goal lead for the North Stars. It was followed up by a goal from Owen Lamb less than two minutes later, making it a 5-1 game.


Game 2

The Weyburn Red Wings kept pace with the Battlefords North Stars throughout game two of their best-of-seven quarterfinal series. They weren’t able to get the equalizer late in the game though, running out of time with a one-goal deficit, as the Stars picked up a 6-5 win. With the victory, the North Stars now lead the series 2-0.

The antics of the North Stars on the ice, though, drew the ire of the Red Wings coaching staff. Wes Rudy pointed out after the game at least two incidents, which escaped the attention of the referees, which he said he would be forwarding to the league. They include a spear to Red Wings captain Mike Eskra near the end of the second period, and a kick to the chest of Wings rookie Jordan Kazymyra early in the third period, neither of which resulted in a penalty to the North Stars.

The North Stars did jump out to an early lead, with Garan Magnes scoring his first of the playoffs. The Wings were quick to respond, though, as Ty Brown notched his second of the postseason, assisted by Sean Olson. Before the first period could wrap up, though, MacGregor Sinclair restored the lead for the Red Wings.

Weyburn would come out firing in the second period, as the North Stars took two penalties back to back to start the middle frame. On the resulting 5-on-3 power play, Cade Kowalski made good with his third of the playoffs, assisted by Cole Woodliffe and Ben Hiltz. The Wings added another just 90 seconds later, as Woodliffe scored his first of the playoffs, assisted by Dexter Robinson and Landon Walters. The goal gave Weyburn it’s first lead of the series.

The North Stars rallied back, with Brad Girard tying the game back up at 3-3 less than two minutes after the Woodliffe goal. Layne Young would then notch a shorthanded goal, the second in as many games for the Battlefords, before the eight-minute mark of the second period.

The North Stars would add to the lead with two goals in 30 seconds to start off the third period, making it 6-3, and forcing the Wings to rally back. Jordan Kazymyra started the rally just 15 seconds after Chaseton Braid made it 6-3. Kazymyra’s goal, his first of the playoffs, made it 6-4. Walters and Jeremy Velazquez assisted.

Mike Eskra would then pull the Wings within one with 2:01 on the clock in the third with his second goal of the playoffs. Brown and Hiltz assisted on the power play marker. The Wings, though, would run out of time, as they pressured for the last two minutes with Arik Weersink on the bench in favour of the extra attacker.

Game 3

The Weyburn Red Wings are on the ropes, after falling 4-1 Tuesday night to the visiting Battlefords North Stars. The North Stars now lead the best of seven SJHL quarterfinal series 3-0.

The North Stars jumped out to an early lead when Cole Johnson beat Arik Weersink with a wrist shot. Johnson took advantage of a screen to be able to get the puck past the Weyburn goaltender. The Stars then made it a 2-0 game when Johnson scored again, just over a minute into the second period.

The game a had an edge to it, which boiled over just seconds into the middle period. Red Wings forward Dexter Robinson dropped the gloves with Battlefords centre Troy Gerein. Although there was a size mismatch which favoured Gerein, Robinson held his own in the tussle. Both received a five minute major for fighting and a game misconduct.

The Red Wings got on the board in the third period, just past the halfway mark, thanks to a heads up play by Jordan Kazymyra. He sent a long pass up to Jeremy Velazquez who came in all alone from the blue line in, and he beat Joel Grzybowski with a wrist shot over the goalie’s left shoulder.

The Red Wings threw everything they had at Grzybowski throughout the evening but were stymied by bounces, posts, and spectacular saves. Grzybowski had perhaps the save of the season in the first period while the Wings were on the power play.

Landon Walters took a feed across the slot from Cole Woodliffe. The goaltender was well out of position, and it appeared to be a guaranteed goal for the 20-year-old from Regina. Grzybowski, though, leapt across the crease, and right in the nick of time, got his trapper out to make the save.

“There’s not a lot to be said, I mean, we’re fighting for our lives,” said Red Wings netminder Arik Weersink after the game. “We’re going to lay it on the line tomorrow, I know we will.”

“It was a really gutsy effort. I felt we were the better team tonight,” explained Red Wings head coach Wes Rudy. “Their goalie made a few good saves there early in the game; we hit a few posts; that’s the difference.”

Game 4

The season is over for the Weyburn Red Wings. They fell 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night to the Battlefords North Stars, losing the best-of-seven SJHL quarterfinal series 4-0.

“There’s a lot of heart and soul in that locker room,” said Red Wings head coach Wes Rudy after the game. “I feel for those kids.”

For seven members of the Red Wings, the game Wednesday would be their last in junior A hockey. Captain Mike Eskra, who played four seasons with the team, forwards Cole Woodliffe, Landon Walters, Dexter Robinson, and Dryden Wust, defenseman Erik Olson, and netminder Arik Weersink are off to post-secondary or other options, as they have reached the age limit for the SJHL.

“I told some of the guys, it’s a celebration. Four years is a long time, and it’s got to be a celebration of what’s been accomplished,” Eskra said after the game.

The Red Wings, who had scored four power-play goals in the first two games of the series, were stymied by the Stars over the last two games. Weyburn went 0-for-12 with the man advantage at home against the Battlefords. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, either. Weyburn threw everything they had at the North Stars net, but the play of Joel Grzybowski was a key factor in the series win.

The penultimate game of the series was a goaltenders’ battle, through and through. Both Grzybowski, and Wings netminder Arik Weersink, was lights out in goal. Weersink was by far the busier of the two, turning away 52 of the 55 shots he faced in the game. Despite the Stars putting up 14 shots in the first period, it would be the Wings who were the first to get on the board.

In the first period, Cade Kowalski made a move at the blue line to get past the defenseman and brought the puck into the Battlefords zone. He had Cole Woodliffe and Ben Hiltz crossing with him, and Kowalski passed through to Hiltz, who was slightly trailing. Battlefords goaltender Joel Grzybowski didn’t pick up which player the pass was going to in time, and the puck was wired in by Hiltz over his left shoulder.

The Stars would respond with a goal from Brad Girard just before the period’s halfway mark. The score would remain tied through the rest of the first, and then the second.

In the third, the Wings would again take the lead. With 10:40 remaining in the period, Cade Kowalski tipped a shot by Cole Woodliffe in past Grzybowski for his fourth of the playoffs. The lead wouldn’t last too long, though. Layne Young was credited with the goal after a scramble sent the puck floating up and over Arik Weersink. With the game tied, the two teams were off to overtime.

In the extra period, the North Stars would be the ones to find the back of the net. Elijah Loon-Stewardson tipped a shot from Cole Johnson in past Weersink, giving the Battlefords the 3-2 victory, and a berth in the SJHL semi-finals