The Yorkton Terriers came out on top in a trio of games in the past week, and sit atop the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Sherwood Conference as a result of it.
The Terriers sport a record of 9-1-0-1 for 19 points, tied with Melville, but the Millionaires have played one more game.
Notre Dame sits third at 12 points, Kindersley follows with 11 points, Estevan with eight and Weyburn six.
The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting announced its Weekly Top 20 rankings for the week of October 22nd Monday and the Terriers are rated sixth, the best among SJHL franchises. Melville was rated seventh and Flin Flon 10th.
Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League is the top-rated team for the week.
The latest action saw LaRonge roll into the Farrell Agencies Arena Saturday.
Brenden Poncelet, Nathan Murray and Patrick Martens scored to give Yorkton a 3-0 lead after 20-minutes of play.
In the second, Rhyse Dieno for the Icewolves and Murray for the Terriers got their teams on the scoreboard goals.
In the third, LaRonge battled back to make it close on goals by Spencer Brennan and Graham Smerek, but couldn’t tie it up as Yorkton won by a score of 4-3.
Kale Thomson had the win in the Yorkton nets facing 24-shots.
Murray said the team has been playing well to start the season, but admitted Saturday they let up a bit in the third period and it almost cost them the win.
“In the third we kind of let it go a little bit,” he said, adding sometimes with a lead in hand a team can be a little complacent. “That’s what we did there.”
Once a team lets their foot off the gas it isn’t always easy to kick back into high gear.
“We kind of stopped skating,” said Murray.
“It’s hard to get going again.” He noted the other team is pumped up by climbing back into a game and the other team is deflated by letting them back into it.
Holding on for the win was big, said Murray.
“You hate to lose at home,” he said, adding that is especially true in front of a big crowd.
Murray said the late push by LaRonge is something they need to learn from.
“We haven’t been that consistent lately. That’s what we’ve got to bring back to our game,” he said.
That said Murray said they should have expected to be tested by the Icewolves.
“LaRonge never quits in a game,” he said, adding their coach Bob Beatty always has a competitive team that plays the Terriers tough.
Terrier head coach Trent Cassan said in spite of letting LaRonge back into the game, it was the end of three games in five days, and they were all “wins in the end.
“You’ve still got to take the positives out of that.”
So what has made the Terriers get off to the hot start?
“I don’t know if there is one particular thing, or not,” offered Cassan.
The Terrier coach said it has helped having a rather veteran team which has allowed forward lines and defensive pairings to jell early.
That ‘jelling’ has also allowed the Terriers to roll their four lines in most any situation.
“I think that’s a really big key,” said Cassan. “We do have four lines we have the confidence to play.”
He added over the course of the season that will become more important in the sense the top players will not be as fatigued as they might be playing additional shifts every night.
As for the comeback by the Icewolves, Cassan said having the instinct to put teams away will come.
“I don’t know if that’s something that can be taught (in terms through practices),” he said, adding players will realize the need to bare down and finish games by experiences like the game Saturday.
Last Thursday (Oct. 18) the Terriers were in Melfort where they jumped out to a 3-1 lead over the host Mustangs in the first period. Tayler Thompson, Tyler Giebel and Derek Falloon scored for the visitors.
Landon Belchamber responded for Melfort.
Regan Wilton and Brandon Sloan scored the only goals of the second frame for Melfort to knot the score.
It would be Giebel who scored the only marker of the third period to give Yorkton a 4-3 win.
Austin Buzzell in his first start in the Terrier nets faced 26-shots in the win.
Meeting of top teams
Last Tuesday (Oct. 16) the Terriers, tops in the Sherwood Conference hosted Flin Flon tops in the Itech Conference.
Dylan McCombie of the Bombers struck first, but Zak Majkowski scored a short-handed effort in the last minute of the frame to knot the score 1-1.
Kailum Gervais, Daylan Gatzke and Majkowski scored in the second frame to give Yorkton a 4-1 lead.
Brett Penner would add one for the Bombers in the third to complete the scoring in the 4-2 Terrier win.
Thomson faced 30-shots in the Terrier nets.
The Terrier goaltending department is once again a crowded place.
Thomson has clearly been deemed number one based on playing time, but the Terriers still have Buzzell and Conor Barrie, who had two wins in two starts, still in camp, although injured.
And now 18-year-old Dawson MacAuley is back after being assigned to the Terriers by the Western Hockey League Medicine Hat Tigers.
Cassan said the move came as a surprise noting “we had confidence in him to stay there.”
Now the Terrier coach faces a decision as to where to go in terms of goaltending.
“We need two strong goaltenders to contend and compete every night,” he said, adding all four have talent.
“There’s going to one, or two good goalies that are not going to be with the hockey club at some point.”
The Terriers were scheduled to play in Kindersley last night (Tuesday), but results were not available at press time.
Tonight (Wednesday) the Terriers are in Battlefords.
Saturday Nipawin visits the Farrell Agencies Arena in Yorkton.