The Norman Northstars welcome the Central Plains Capitals to the C.A. Nesbitt arena this weekend for a pair of games.
Audio preview can be found here.
To help get you ready, here’s what you need to know going into the weekend.
Game one will go tomorrow at 7:30pm, with the second coming Sunday at 1:30pm.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on 102.9 CHTM.
The Norman Northstars are coming off their best weekend of the season so far, picking up three of four points against the Parkland Rangers.
Mikey Baron, Keistin Saunders and Jamie Valentino each had a pair of points on January 5th, as the Northstars beat the Rangers 4-1. Captain Hunter Rambow and goaltender Braedin Melsted were presented with watches for reaching the 100 game mark with the midget “AAA” club, and Melsted went on to stop 34 of 35 shots and pick up his fifth win of the season. The only negative for the team in the game was when Baron went down and left the game due to injury.
Sunday was a wild game that saw a Nor-Man comeback fall just short as Parkland won 6-5 in the shootout. The Northstars offence was powered by Kadin Ross, who scored twice and added a helper. Ryan Monias, Henry Muchikekwanape, Jordan Pfoh and Saunders also had multi-point games.
The Nor-Man side has already improved on last years’ points total, though they still sit in the Manitoba Midget “AAA” Hockey League basement with a record 5-25-1-1.
Muchikekwanape continues to lead the team in goals (17), assists (19) and points (36). Sophomore forward Valentino continues to push him, however, with 29 points (14g, 15a) in five less games played this season.
You can expect the Capitals to come into both games hungry for points as they currently sit two points out of eighth place and the final playoff spot, currently held by the Winnipeg Bruins.
Central Plains comes to Thompson having split their last two games; falling 4-2 to the league-leading Winnipeg Wild before beating the Southwest Cougars.
The game against the Cougars was a good one for Ryan Botterill, Riley Borody and Stephen Grahn, who each put up two points.
The squad from Portage doesn’t boast the same firepower as last year, as they lost Reilly Funk, Jaxon Blight and Tyler Van Deynze to the ranks of junior hockey. The three combined for 170 of the teams’ 532 points last season, which works out to around 32% of their total offence.
The team is led this season by Alex Cattani, who currently leads the team with 32 points. Botterill has scored a team-best 15 goals, while Kian Calder has added 23 helpers.
The two teams have played twice this season, with each team taking two of the possible four points.
The first game was played October 19th, when the Northstars picked up their first win of the season. Richard Ducharme scored a hat trick, while Rambow added three helpers and Valentino picked up two points (1g, 1a) in the 5-2 victory.
The November 2nd game was a very different story, as Central Plains dismantled the Nor-Man side in a 7-1 game. Cody Blight and Grahn each had four points for the Capitals, while Borody added three.
Players to watch
The Northstars have been picking up steam lately. Henry Muchikekwanape, Jamie Valentino, Hunter Rambow and Keistin Saunders are four players that could contribute this weekend in a big way.
Muchikekwanape has been a key player for the Northstars this season, currently sits at number 13 on the list of the league’s top scorers. The 2001-born forward from Norway House comes into the weekend with eight points (2g, 6a) in his last five games.
Valentino is another player for the Nor-Man side coming into the game on a hot streak. The 2002-born forward, who attended camps for the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders, has 17 points (8g, 9a) in his last nine games. The last time Valentino did not record a point in a game he played was November 25th against the Wild.
Rambow is always a threat, whether the team is at even strength, on the powerplay or short-handed. The OCN Blizzard prospect is currently tied for second in the league with four short-handed goals, which account for 40% of his total goal total to date. Rambow has three points (3a) in two games this season against Central Plains coming into the weekend, and posted four points (1g, 3a) last season against the Capitals in four games.
You can add Keistin Saunders to the list of players who have been firing on all cylinders recently for the Northstars. Saunders has 12 points (3g, 9a) in his last ten games. The versatile skater who plays both forward and defence had four points (1g, 3a) in four games last season against Central Plains.
The Central Plains Capitals have four players who have found success on the score sheet against the Northstars this season and last.
Cameron Trimble currently has 16 points (9g, 7a) in 26 games this season and failed to contribute in the one game he’s played against the Northstars this season. That being said, he had the magic touch last year, with nine points (4g, 5a) in four games against the Nor-Man side in 2017/2018.
Kian Calder is another Capitals player who seems to like playing against the Northstars. The 2002-born product of Portage la Prairie has two points against the Northstars this year in two games (1g, 1a), and put up five points (1g, 4a) in three games last year.
Cody Blight, who was taken by the Selkirk Steelers in the 2017 MJHL Draft, has four of his 18 points this season in the two games against the Northstars. All four of those points came on November 2nd, when he potted a hat trick and added a helper.
Stephen Grahn is among the leaders for the Capitals in terms of offence with 21 points (8g, 13a) in 32 games played. More impressively, Grahn has four points (4a) in the previous two meetings with the Northstars this season.
Elsewhere around the league this weekend
- Interlake @ Parkland (2:00pm)
- Southwest @ Bruins (3:15pm)
- Pembina Valley @ Brandon (7:30pm)
- Wild @ Kenora (7:30pm)
- Eastman @ Yellowhead (7:30pm)
- Kenora @ Bruins (12:45pm)
- Pembina Valley @ Parkland (1:30pm)
- Eastman @ Brandon (1:30pm)
- Southwest @ Wild (1:30pm)
- Interlake @ Yellowhead (2:30pm)
1 Wild (26-4-1-0, 53 points)
2 Brandon (24-8-0-0, 48 points)
3 Thrashers (22-7-2-2, 48 points)
4 Yellowhead (22-7-2-0, 46 points)
5 Eastman (21-10-2-0, 44 points)
6 Southwest (19-7-2-2, 42 points)
7 Pembina Valley (15-11-3-2, 35 points)
8 Bruins (13-16-1-2, 29 points)
9 Kenora (13-16-1-1, 18 points)
10 Central Plains (13-18-0-1, 27 points)
11 Interlake (7-23-2-0, 16 points)
12 Parkland (6-24-1-1, 14 points)
13 Norman (5-25-1-1, 12 points)
League leaders (points)
1 Nolan Ritchie – 61 points (Brandon)
2 Conner Roulette – 60 points (Thrashers)
3 Troy Hamilton – 50 points (Brandon)
T4 Matthew Boonstra – 48 points (Eastman)
T4 Kaden Bryant – 48 points (Wild)
13 Henry Muchikekwanape – 36 points (Norman)
League leaders (goals)
1 Nolan Ritchie – 29 goals (Brandon)
2 Kaden Bryant – 27 goals (Wild)
3 Callum Fortin – 26 goals (Southwest)
4 Troy Hamilton – 25 goals (Brandon)
T5 Conner Roulette – 24 goals (Thrashers)
T5 Reese Belton – 24 goals (Wild)
13 Henry Muchikekwanape – 17 goals (Norman)
League leaders (5 assists)
1 Conner Roulette – 36 assists (Thrashers)
2 Nolan Ritchie – 32 assists (Brandon)
3 Kade Runke – 31 assists (Eastman)
4 Matthew Boonstra – 27 assists (Eastman)
5 Tyson Kozak – 26 assists (Southwest)
26 Henry Muchikekwanape – 19 assists (Norman)