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2nd round matchups set for SJHL, underway Friday night

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Now that the dust has settled on the first round of the 2023 Canterra Seeds Cup Playoffs, the league semi-finals are set for puck drop Friday night.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) top four teams in the regular season make up the four semi-finalists.

In round two, we’ll see the Humboldt Broncos have home ice in its best of seven series with the Flin Flon Bombers, along with a rematch of the 2019 Canalta Cup finals in the Battlefords and Melfort.

For the Broncos and Bombers, it’s a matchup both clubs are familiar with. This is the third straight postseason the two teams will meet, and they battled six times in league play this season.

“They always have a hard, competitive team,” said Broncos Head Coach and GM Scott Barney.

“The Whitney Forum, it’s a tough building to play in, but players want to play in front of a bunch of fans, so it’s great for everybody.”

The Broncos will head into the matchup missing their “1A” goaltender in Jared Picklyk. He was suspended by the league after he was charged following a collision with a pickup truck and a house on Sunday morning. RCMP said he was charged with refusal to comply with a breath screening following the incident.

For Barney, he said he, the team, and the organization are backing the new undisputed number one goaltender in Benjamin Motew, who went 17-6-1 in 27 regular season games. The rookie was sixth in the league in goals against average (2.73) in 2022-23.

“He’s going to get more opportunity as well … we’re looking forward to get him going,” Barney said.

Flin Flon, meanwhile, is looking to return to its fourth league final in the last six years in 2023. The team was locked in a battle in round one, and got the revenge it was looking for in a seven-game series win against the Estevan Bruins.

The overtime winner in game seven, scored by Cole Duperreault from center ice at the Whitney Forum.

When asked about the team’s playoff success, Flin Flon Head Coach and GM Mike Reagan said all teams still in could win it, and they’re trying to take it one game at a time.

“We feel that we're on the cusp of getting over that hump, but there's a lot of work to be done,” he said.

“We’re focused on right now and we believe we’ve got a good team.”

Going back to the aforementioned familiarity, that can be considered the same with the other semi-final matchup.

The North Stars and Mustangs last saw each other in playoff action in 2019, two full playoff seasons ago following pandemic-related cancellations.

Then, it was for the league championship, the Canalta Cup at the time, with the North Stars taking the series four games to one and winning the league.

That’s still in the minds of the Mustangs.

“The 2019 playoff series was so much fun, both buildings were rocking and it’s still kind of fresh in a few people’s heads,” said Mat Barrett, Mustangs Marketing, Business Director and play by play voice.

“I don’t think you can ask for much more in a playoff series.”

Barrett said the mental toughness of the Mustangs is “outrageous right now.”

“They were able to fight through the adversity … keep with the program [and it] managed to work for them,” he said.

“The Mustangs can beat anybody in this league, on any given night. They beat Battlefords once, gave [the North Stars] the first loss of the year. Outside of that, all of them were one goal games.”

North Stars Head Coach and GM Brayden Klimosko was complimentary of the defence and the goaltending of the Mustangs.

Klimosko said in his first round, after a near perfect regular season, a loss to number eight Weyburn in game one left him with a few worries.

“I thought Weyburn took it to us the first game. I thought they dominated us physically … probably didn’t sleep much Friday night,” he said.

“I felt a lot more comfortable coming into our dressing room before the [second] game. Seeing how determined and the look in our guys' faces … they felt pretty confident in our ability.”

And they played that way.

The North Stars won four straight games on its way to the second round.

Klimosko said he’s ready for “one heck of a series.”

“All season we had really good games,” he said.

“I think the matchup for both sides, they got to feel pretty happy with it to be honest. Guys are looking forward to it this time of year.”

Both series get underway from Humboldt and North Battleford Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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