The Melfort Mustangs will look to kick off 2019 with a bang as they meet the Nipawin Hawks for some post-holiday celebration. The Mustangs and Hawks meet in a home and home tonight in Nipawin before returning to Melfort tomorrow. Both games start at 7:30pm and can be heard on CK750.
The Mustangs head into 2019 as 4th in the SJHL Standings thanks to the way the SJHL formats for playoffs. But they currently sit with the highest point percentage (.714), and sit just 2 points back of Nipawin with 2 games in hand. With a pair of wins this weekend they can leapfrog the Hawks into first place in the Sher-Wood division and consequently into first place in the SJHL as well. With the Sher-Wood division being very strong once again this year the two clubs that sit behind the division leader will have a much harder playoff picture in front of them!
The Mustangs are 6-3-1 in their last 10 contests and had won their last game before the holiday break 4-2 over Nipawin at the cage. Justin Ball scored twice in the game to lead the way. Shawn Parkinson got the win in net, he’s now 11-2-1 with the Mustangs with a 1.83 GAA and a .930 Save Percentage. The Mustang top line has totaled 151 points on the season with Justin Ball accounting for 65 of those. He has a 9 point lead in the SJHL scoring race over line mate Carson Albrecht. The last time the Mustangs had production like this you’d have to go back to the 2015-16 season when Travis Mayan, Justin Boyer and Tristan Frie combined for 237 points that season. To get really into it, the Mayan, Boyer and Frie line averaged 4.08 points per team game, as a line. This year’s Zentner, Ball and Albrecht line has an average of 4.31 points per team game, and are on pace to break the 237 point mark. With depth scoring up front from players like Zach Anderson, Colin Schmidt and Kenzie Arnold to name only a few, and young players like Zack Smith and Parker Fofonoff the Mustangs have scored the second most goals in the league behind only the Flin Flon Bombers.
The Nipawin Hawks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have shown once again they can be a top team in the SJHL. Despite losing to the Mustangs right before the holidays the Hawks had made a solid push thanks to the goaltending tandem of Declan Hobbs and Patrick Pugliese as well as a great back end in front of them. The Hawks 71 goals against are the best in the league and the save percentages of Hobbs (.942) and Pugliese (.935) reflect that. The Hawks have gotten their scoring up front from Austen Flaman, Jordan Simoneau and Arik Breton. Those three have combined for 76 points.
The biggest thing to note in the SJHL right now is the impending trade deadline set for January 10th. All teams have until Jan 10th to make trades, additions and subtractions to their 23 man active rosters as they will be set for the remainder of the season. Both the Mustangs and Hawks would be expected to make moves, but nothing is guaranteed. With Nipawin and Melfort just two points apart at the top of the division you can assume both teams will be looking at a win at all costs mentality as we head towards the playoffs!
Both games tonight and tomorrow can be heard on CK750 with Mat Barrett. Pre-Game show starts at 7:15pm with puck drop at 7:30pm.
Photo Credit: Broad Leaf Media