The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings came into Friday night’s game in a must-win situation. Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven quarterfinal series with the Battlefords North Stars, they would need to pick up the win to force game six, and possibly game seven.
The Wings would also be at a disadvantage in the game, as head coach Cody Mapes wasn’t behind the bench, serving a one-game suspension after a game misconduct in game four.
Weyburn put up a valiant effort, and after 40 minutes, were down 4-3 heading into the third period. The North Stars, who scored nearly half their goals in the regular season in the third period, would continue the trend in game five, skating to a 7-4 victory, and ending the postseason of the Red Wings in five games.
The North Stars would take the lead in the 1st period and didn’t look back, as Jake Southgate scored his second of the postseason with 1:08 to play in the opening frame. Holden Doell and Zane Florence assisted on the goal. Then, just 47 seconds into the second period, the North Stars extended the lead to 2-0 as Steven Kesslering notched his third of the playoffs, with Jackson Allan assisting.
The Red Wings would get on the board at the 3:19 mark of the second when Nick Kovacs put a shot from the point past Battlefords netminder Josh Kotai. His goal, his first of the series, was assisted by Carter Briltz and Matteo Turrin.
The two-goal lead would be restored 7:08 into the middle frame when Doell scored his second of the playoffs, with Southgate and Tynan Ewart assisting. Then, Bradley Blake made it 4-1 Battlefords with 6:40 to go in the second, assisted by Jordan Gibbs.
The Red Wings would then get a bit of a spark and took the momentum in the period away from the North Stats as Ryley Morgan netted his second of the playoffs with 4:47 remaining in the period. Blake Norris and Ty Mason assisted on the goal. Then, Morgan would pull the Red Wings within one with his second of the game with 1:54 on the clock. Max Monette has the lone assist on the goal.
In the third period, the Battlefords pulled away from the Red Wings, as they would score three goals to open up the lead to four. It started with Allan scoring just 36 seconds into the period, with Kesslering assisting. Then Kesslering scored his second of the game at the 8:08 mark, with Florence and Allan getting credited with the helpers. The scoring for the North Stars was rounded out by Tanner Gold with 7:39 remaining in the game, with Jordan Grill and Blake getting credited with the assists.
The Red Wings would score one more goal as Jakob Kalin got the puck past Kotai with 1:05 to play. Despite a number of chances in the final minute, the Red Wings were unable to get any closer, and the game ended 7-4.
With the win, the North Stars will be advancing to the SJHL semi-finals, but who their opponent will be will depend on how the other series in the league finish up. That will be determined in the coming days.
For the Red Wings, despite the loss in the series, the players will have plenty of reason to hold their heads up high, as they put up a valiant effort against the North Stars who entered the postseason as the number two ranked team in the country. The goaltending was the key difference for the North Stars, with Kotai managing to somehow pull a number of miraculous saves out of thin air, as the Red Wings, despite being outshot by the North Stars, out-chanced them in all five games.
The close of the season also means the Red Wings will be saying goodbye to the 20-year-old players in the lineup. Captain Matt Reidy, alternate captain Jakob Kalin, Ryley Morgan, Matteo Turrin, Jackson Hassman, alternate captain Ian Maier, and Jordan Edwards will be moving on from Junior A hockey. However, there will be plenty of talent that can return to the lineup for the Red Wings for the 2023-24 season, and there is a lot of positive buzz around the team which was one of the top teams in the league in the second half of the season.