HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt Broncos cannot wait for the puck to drop for what looks to be a promising 2020-21 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season.
After the start of this season pushed back almost two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Broncos are slated to begin this campaign on Friday in Yorkton against the Terriers. On Saturday, the Broncos will host the Terriers for Humboldt’s home opener at the Elgar Petersen Arena.
“The players are excited. The organization is excited to get the season going,” Broncos head coach and general manager Scott Barney said. “Obviously, it’s been a little longer layoff than usual, a little longer training camp. Hockey players want to play games. I know all of these guys have worked hard and committed over the summer. Through the last two months here, they have put in a lot of time and dedication. A lot of them have been away from their families for a long time. They want to get some games going.”
Last season a young Humboldt team posted a 28-21-7-2 record. They lost 4-0 in the first round to Flin Flon in a series that allowed the rookies to gain valuable experience.
Many SJHL observers are picking the Humboldt squad as the team to win it all. The team went 3-0-1-0 in the exhibition season. The Broncos topped the first ever SJHL Coaches Poll. Respect and optimism for this group comes from the large number of returning contributors from last season – only captain Graysen Cameron and leading scorer Logan Foster (75 points in 57 games) aged out, the development of the Broncos’ young players form last season, the addition of junior hockey veterans, and some talented rookie newcomers who Barney said are the team’s future.
“I feel we have some strengths up and down our lineup,” Barney said. “We’re four lines deep in the forward department, have a lot of experience in the backend with our D core and obviously in net. We feel we are a deep club in all areas.”
While the Broncos are definitely talented, Barney said there are areas to improve on and the team is focused on those at practice every day. As well, he said, “It’s how you gel as a team. I think our leaders have done a good job here over training camp getting ready for the beginning of the season.”
The team’s depth could make for some tough decisions as far as who is in the lineup and ice time every game. However, Barney said, “That’s what you want as a coaching staff. You want hard decisions. If you have easy decisions then maybe I haven’t done my job well enough by recruiting.”
The Broncos are very confident in their goaltending, Barney said. Back for his second season is 19-year-old Michael Harroch. He is joined by a pair of 20-year-olds in Tanner Marshall from the British Columbia Hockey League and Dean McNabb from the Western Hockey League.
“Obviously, it starts from goaltending on out. We’re happy to have these three guys pushing themselves each day and at the same time making our players better in practice on a daily basis,” Barney said last week.
Harroch posted a .906 save percentage during a rookie season where he was hampered by injuries. Barney said, “He has looked really, really good in training camp here with us and has put in a strong summer and is becoming the goalie we knew he would be.”
Marshall helped the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits win the 2019 league championship as well as a national title. Last season, with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials, he posted a .882 save percentage while facing an average of more than 37 shots per game.
McNabb joins the squad from the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. He had a 3.42 goals against average last season. After the 2017 season where he was a AAA U18 First Team All-Star and helped the Regina Pat Canadians win a league championship, McNabb has spent three seasons in major junior hockey.
Up front, Barney said “We feel at forward we have four lines we can put out in most situations and be happy with.” While Foster and Cameron have aged out and Karter McNarland is headed to the United States Hockey League, the Broncos return a number of top players.
Tristan Shewchuk led the team last season with 30 goals in 52 games. He was second to Foster in scoring with 56 points. The Broncos return their fourth and fifth leading scorers in Logan Kurki (44 points and led SJHL with 17 goals after Christmas) and Braiden Koran (35 points). Luke Spadafora rejoined the team late last season after playing parts of two campaigns in Melville to produce 15 points in 14 games. Other top forwards back include Reid Arnold, eighth on the Broncos last season with 27 points; Justin Jamer, 10th in the last campaign with 25; and Max Gudason, who posted 20 points as a rookie.
To this group, the Broncos have added junior hockey veterans such as Austen Flaman, Chase Nameth, Stephane Huard Jr., and Jarrett Penner. Flaman was the Nipawin Hawks’ top scorer in 2018-2019. Last season he split the campaign between Nipawin and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Portage Terriers, who were loading up to host the national Junior A championship tournament before it was cancelled due to COVID-19
The 20-year-old Nameth had eight goals and 22 points in 54 games last season for Merritt. He won a U18 AAA championship with McNabb and the Pat Canadians. Huard, an 18-year-old, arrives from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League where he recorded 10 points in 46 games in 2019-2020. Penner was acquired in a trade last week. He posted 19 goals and 37 points om 53 games for Notre Dame last season.
In addition to incoming veterans, the Broncos have some talented rookies. These include Manitoba’s Justin Keck, who had four points in two preseason games. Ben Wourms-Rowe’s father Mike played for the Broncos. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Wourms-Rowe brings size and had 17 goals and 27 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors in 44 games last season. Strong skating Carson Schultz had 32 points in as many games for the U18 AAA Leduc Oil Kings in 2019-20.
The Broncos blue line is stacked with veteran talent. Captain Doug Scott leads the way. After joining the team part way through last season, he had 10 goals and 30 points in 26 games. Back for his third season in Humboldt is Kade Olsen, a stalwart defender and important leader.
Scott led the Broncos defencemen in scoring, but Jackson Bohan was right behind him with 29 points. Bohan is back as is second-year man Cody Hough, who had 24 points last season. After solid rookie seasons, homegrown defenceman Noah Barlage and Fort McMurray’s Nicksha Eric also return.
Also back with the green and gold are the Chases – Lacombe and Felgueiras. The latter was swapped to Portage partway through last season and has been acquired back. Lacombe split last season between the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and Humboldt.
The Broncos last week
Monday, Oct. 26 in Wilcox
Humboldt 5, Notre Dame 1
Broncos Scorers: Logan Kurki (2), Chase Lacombe, Tristan Shewchuk, Stephane Huard Jr
Hounds Scorer: Connor Nolan
Goalies: Michael Harroch, Humboldt, 10 saves on 10 shots; Tanner Marshall, Humboldt, 8 on 9; Raythan Robbins, Notre Dame, 33 on 38
Notes: Kurki had three points. Chase Nameth and Justin Keck each had two assists. Humboldt led 2-0 and 3-0 at the intermissions.
Saturday, Oct. 31 in Humboldt
Notre Dame 6, Humboldt 5 OT
Broncos Scorers: Chase Lacombe, Logan Kurki, Tristan Shewchuk, Luke Spadafora, Justin Keck
Hounds Scorers: Ethan Stuckless (2), Hardy Wagner, Zackary Whittaker, Zach Barros, Truett Olson
Goalies: Dean McNabb, Humboldt, 20 saves on 26 shots; McCoy Bidewell, Notre Dame, 39 on 44
Notes: Wagner scored the OT winner. Humboldt led 2-1 after the first period and 4-2 after the second. The Hounds outscored the Broncos 3-1 in the third to force overtime.
Sunday, Nov. 1 in Wilcox
Humboldt 2, Notre Dame 1
Broncos Scorers: Doug Scott, Braiden Koran
Hounds Scorer: Jaydon Forrester
Goalies: Tanner Marshall, Humboldt, 14 saves on 15 shots; Michael Harroch, Humboldt, 1 on 1; Jonathan Verity, Notre Dame, 38 on 40
Notes: After a scoreless first, Koran scored on a Broncos powerplay in the second. In that same frame, Forrester knotted the game at 1-1 but Scott lit the lamp on what would be the game winning goal. Harroch came on briefly in the second period for Humboldt.
Last week the Broncos added Jarrett Penner from the British Columbia Hockey League’s West Kelowna Warriors. He was acquired for a player development fee. The 20-year-old forward from Saskatoon had not played for the Warriors. Last season the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder had 19 goals and 37 points in 53 SJHL games for the Notre Dame Hounds.
The Humboldt team moved Josh Paulhus and Spencer McHardy last week. McHardy, a 20-year-old defenceman, was sent to the Weyburn Red Wings for a second-round draft pick. The Calgary product had 13 points in 26 games for Humboldt last season. Paulhus, an 18-year-old from Saskatoon, headed to La Ronge in exchange for a player development fee and a second-round draft pick. He had four goals and 13 points in 42 games as a rookie for Humboldt. Paulhus also played in three games, scoring one goal, for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats.
The Broncos are slated to open the 2020-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season Friday on the road against Yorkton. On Saturday, Humboldt hosts the team’s home opener against the same team. The Terriers went 4-0-0-0 in the preseason.