Regina, Sask. -- The first day of action at the 2019 SJHL/MJHL Showcase proved flush with storylines as the top college-eligible players from the two provinces started to duke it out at Co-operators Centre.
In the opening game of the Showcase, the MJHL’s Team Garbutt defeated the SJHL’s Team Schwartz 4-3 in the shootout to swing the upper hand for bragging rights the way of Manitoba’s Junior league.
Despite the ability of Team Schwartz to net goals from both Melville’s Luke Spadafora to open the scoring, and later, Nipawin Hawks defenseman, Jack Lenchyshyn, to re-up the team’s lead, the Manitobans stormed back, thanks to bang-bang scoring plays following a scoreless middle period.
The first goal came under a minute into the third, before another just minutes later, each off the stick of Winkler Flyers’ defenseman Drake Burgin The lead on the night suddenly belong to Team Garbutt.
However, much to the excitement of fans in attendance, with less than five minutes remaining in the third, Jake Tremblay was awarded a penalty shot after getting tripped up on a breakaway.
Turning the excitement to hysteria, Tremblay scored on the free-shot opportunity, pulling the game even, and leading to a shootout to decide the outcome.
In the shootout, Reilly Funk of the Portage Terriers scored twice, with his goaltender Zach Bennett of the Selkirk Steelers stopping five of six shots in addition to his 22 saves in regulation to cement the victory.
Despite the loss, the SJHL found some retribution in the form of a big 8-5 win for Team Mitchell over Team Zajac in the second game Monday.
Justin Ball opened the scoring just over four minutes into the first, snapping a shot 14-inches far side over the goalie’s pad and in. I was a shot his teammates have seen him execute countless times during the regular season, with Ball sitting atop the SJHL scoring leaders, putting up 42 goals through 40 games.
Asked about the key to his scoring prowess in taking his game to the next step offensively this season, Ball said he hasn’t tried to change too much about his game. However, the growth can likely be attributed to just continued experience and his linemates.
“I think I just go out there and play,” Ball said. “I have two great linemates which is pretty huge. I love playing with those guys and I just do what I can and try not to think about [the stats] too much.”
Following Ball’s lead before the end of the period, his teammate from the Mustangs, Antonio Di Paolo, wasted no time picking up his first goal of the Showcase.
On the afternoon, it was the Melfort Mustangs contingent making the difference for their team and dominating the scoresheet.
All three of Ball, Carson Albrecht and Antonio Di Paolo had multi-point performances in the win, combining for five goals and 10 points.
Mustangs’ goaltender Shawn Parkinson also had a tremendous showing between the pipes, turning aside 36 of the 41 shots he faced to backstop the win.
Three other players also had multi-point games in the victory. Kindersley’s Blake Kleiner scored a goal and added a helper, while Yorkton captain, Brendan Mark and Estevan’s Will Koop had two assists each.
After a-win-apiece for each of the two leagues earlier in the day, the final game of the night saw Team Kunitz of the SJHL down the MJHL’s Team Belfour 2-1 in the proverbial tie-breaker on the night.
Scoreless after the first, Team Kunitz rectified that late in the second, thanks to their largely potent power play.
After Bombers defenseman Calvon Boots made it 1-0 on the power play, Humboldt forward Michael Clarke extended his team’s lead to two, scoring another with the man-advantage and earning an insurance marker.
Playing on a line with Stars’ teammate, MacGregor Sinclair and Clarke, Urbanski collected the lone assist on Clarke’s goal, which proved to be the game winner.
When asked how he felt celebrating a game-winner scored by the division-rival Broncos’ leading scorer, Urbanski let out a laugh.
“I wouldn’t say it was weird,” Urbanski said with a smirk. “Obviously, wherever you go, you kind of make good friendships and you just kind of set aside the rivalries you have. Being on a line with Clarke, he’s an amazing player and I can’t really say anything bad about him. He’s a great guy and a great player.”
There are three games scheduled for Tuesday. Team Schwartz will play Team Garbutt at 10 a.m., followed by Team Mitchell and Team Belfour at 1 p.m. Team Kunitz and Team Zajac will take the ice at 4 p.m. to close things out.
On Twitter: MartyMartyPxP1
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