The Kindersley Klippers are off to their best start in 13 seasons thanks in part to big contributions from a pair of NWT players, Shaun MacPherson of Fort Smith and Devin Case of Yellowknife.
The team kept rolling last week, with MacPherson scoring an overtime goal with 47 seconds left last Wednesday to lift his squad to a 2-1 victory over the Melville Millionaires.
MacPherson seemed to indicate this one was “flukey,” like so many overtime goals are.
“When Owen (LeClare) passed it to me, it actually hit a Melville defenceman’s skate and it came to me,” MacPherson said. “I only got a piece of it as it went off the top of the goalie’s pad and into the net.”
MacPherson described the Melville game as a defensive battle.
“It was a good game,” MacPherson said. “Melville had played the North Stars (North Battleford) the night before and won so we knew we had to be ready for a tight checking-style game with few chances, which it turned out to be.”
On Friday night, Kindersley exploded with five goals in the third period en route to beating Flin Flon 6-4, with MacPherson notching a goal and a helper. Case had one assist.
The Klippers also won a 2-1 decision over Melfort on Nov. 29 and shut out the Humboldt Broncos 5-0 on Nov. 26.
“Both of those games were at home,” said coach Rockie Zinger. “It was nice to put together a little win streak after a tough road trip up north. They are a motivated group.”
NWT players make their mark
Yellowknife’s Case (forward) is sitting at sixteenth in the league with 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 30 games, while MacPherson (defence) leads the league for scoring among rearguards.
The Klippers sit in first place overall in the 12-team league first in the Kramer division with a record of 22 wins, six losses, two overtime losses and two shootout losses. In their 25-year existence, the club has won two league championships – one in 2001-02 and another in 2003-04.
“I did not think things were going to be this good,” Zinger said. “We had 10 returning players coming back and I thought we were going to be first in our division, but we have definitely set the bar higher for ourselves this season.
“Our goaltending is the best in the whole country. Our depth is very solid and I am very happy with that.”
Case said he is enjoying his season to date.
“It has been a great season so far,” he said. “Different forwards have been scoring and getting the job done each night. Our defencemen are contributing defensively and offensively.”
Zinger said Case has “turned a corner” and is meeting the expectations of being an over-age player on the team.
“He was out for a month and a half last season,” Zinger said. “Statistically, he is doing well. When he has the puck on his stick, he usually makes the right decision.”
Being able to play with teammate MacPherson has been an added bonus to the success Case has enjoyed so far this season, he said.
“We used to play each other and went to competitions down south as eight, nine and 10 year-olds,” laughed Case. “Shaun is really a great skater and thinks well on his feet to make the right choices in certain situations. I’m really glad I have him as a teammate and not an opponent.”
For his part, MacPherson also stated the season has been “pretty good so far.”
“It is my last year of junior and I want to do well,” he said. “Right now, I am leading the league in scoring for defencemen.”
MacPherson made the transition from forward to defence a few seasons ago.
“It has been a huge boost to my game. I was not really an exceptional scorer as a forward,” he said. “I now have the puck lots and can dictate more where I want the puck to go. It is not always like that when you are playing forward.”
Coach Zinger hopes MacPherson continues to do well.
“He sets the bar very high and is our best defenceman,” Zinger said. “He meets the gold standard for defencemen in our league.
“His ability to make a great first pass or shoot it out of our end is really high. He reads all the situations well.”
Kindersley next plays the North Stars in North Battleford on Wednesday before heading home next Saturday to take on Yorkton before travelling to Wilcox to take on the Notre Dame Hounds on Tuesday the 16th.