FORT ST JOHN, B.C. – The Huskies remain in the power position of the NWJHL after the opening weekend of 2022, winning games against Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek at home.
The Huskies did it with a fairly modified lineup; two top point-producing defensemen were out in Brandon Modde and Nathan Brownlee, but the Huskies got production from some familiar faces as well as new ones.
On Friday, the Grande Prairie Kings arrived late, delaying the start of the game. But the Huskies started late, giving up the first two goals of the matchup in the first period.
In the second period, Jared Winkel got his first of two goals to cut the Kings’ lead in half, going into the final intermission down 2-1.
In the third, the Huskies finally looked like their dynamic selves, and three straight goals — including a goal of the year candidate between Burgess, Lee and Winkel— and were able to hold off the Kings’ late charge.
Alex Nimmo and Conrad Wiebe scored to go up 4-2. Other than a funny bounce in front of the Huskies net that resulted in a lucky Kings goal, goalie Tyler McArthur made the saves needed to win.
On Saturday, the Huskies faced off against a completely different looking Dawson Creek Kodiaks team than the one that took the ice in September. The Kodiaks have been stringing wins together, including a four-game win streak in November.
The Kodiaks opened the scoring in the first period, but a laser beam of a shot by Nick Loewen from the blueline boards evened things up at 1-1. Then, on the power play, Chase London buried his 12th goal of the season with help from Nick Loewen and rookie Devin Menard.
“Last night, we had to find ourselves, but once we did, things started to click again,” said Menard after Saturday’s win. “Coming off of Christmas, we were all a little slow and a little rusty, but we definitely found our way in the game, and hopefully we keep getting better going forward.”
The rookie has two assists so far in his first two games, but he says he wasn’t immune to the post-holiday rustiness.
“I think my legs were going off the start, but my hands might have been my rusty area. I haven’t played a game in a while either, so it was good to be back on the ice with all my friends.”
Neither team scored in the second period, despite great end-to-end hockey from both sides.
In the third period, Alex Nimmo scored less than a minute into the game with help from Coby Jones.
Trailing 3-1, the Kodiaks pressed their forecheck and managed to capitalize on a rare loose rebound in the slot, but Daniel Sturgeon refused to allow another. Final score: 3-2 Huskies.
Sturgeon was noticeably loud on the ice all game, barking out orders and who to cover in the defensive zone.
“I always have to stay involved, these are the fun games to be in. I’m always talking to my guys, it helps me stay sharp and it helps them a lot too,” said Sturgeon. He says the defense bailed him out as many times as he bailed them out of sticky situations and scrambles in front of the net.
“It’s a long year, so if they bail me out a couple times, I’ll be there to bail them out too.”
Kurtis Lee continues to lead the NWJHL in scoring with an impressive 49 points in 27 games. Jared Winkel sits third with 43 points, and Alex Nimmo is in fifth spot with 36 points.
Tyler McArthur leads goalies with 14 wins while Daniel Sturgeon is tied for third with seven wins.
On Sunday, the Huskies hosted the public at the Pomeroy Sports Centre for the annual Skate With the Huskies.
The Huskies are on the road for both games this week, a Wednesday night matchup with the second place Sexsmith Vipers and a Saturday rematch against the Grande Prairie Kings.
The next home game is on Friday, January 21st, Northern Health appreciation night. All Northern Health staff are invited to enjoy the game free of charge.