Written by: Rory McGouran
Photo by: Marla Possberg
We may be getting a sneak peek of what’s to come in just over a month’s time when the Humboldt Broncos take on the Battlefords North Stars tonight.
The Broncos travel into the Battlefords for the front half of a home and home set agasint the SJHL’s best, with the first test taking place at the Civic Centre on January 31st.
The defending champion North Stars have proven once again to be the supremacy of the SJHL. Having already clinched a playoff spot, along with a division title, the team sits comfortably in 1st place with a 17 point lead over 2nd place, meaning they’re all but guaranteed to take on the league’s 8th seed in the first round of the playoffs.
The Humboldt Broncos are currently manning the 7th place spot. Although they sit seven points above the playoff line, the Broncos are only four points up on 8th place Estevan, who hold two games in hand. Therefore, it’s not farfetched to envision a matchup between the North Stars and Broncos to open up the first round of the playoffs.
With the potential playoff clash just one month away, importance now lies on the Broncos securing a win over the league’s best during the regular season, thus assuring and building the confidence needed when entering a possible best-of-7 series in March.
“I think we realize that they are the best in the league right now, but that’s how you judge yourself. You judge yourself against the best. When you can beat the best, then you can be happy and satisfied. Until you beat them, you have to work harder, fight harder, and do what you need to do to make our team better,” said Broncos’ Head Coach, Scott Barney.
Although the Broncos have proven that they can skate and compete with the Battlefords, the Broncos are still are winless in three games against the North Stars this year. Three more games remain between the division rivals, and pulling away with a win or two would instill the confidence, and confirm the parity shown in the SJHL over the last couple of years.
“It would be huge. I think we’ve played them very well so far this season, but sometimes bounces happen that don’t go your way. They’re a good team, they know how to win, they defend the house, and they have 12 returning players from the championship team last year, so at any time they know they can win the game. It will be key for us to play the same way. It will be a tough test, but you always want to play the best.”
The North Stars are 9-1-0-0 in their last 10 games and are the 4th best team in the country according to the CJHL rankings. The Broncos hope is to knock them down a peg, and in turn, spur some much-needed assurance that no team is unbeatable, especially one that you might meet in the playoffs.