2024 MJHL-SJHL Showcase Recap

Photo: Scott Stroh

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League put on an awesome display of hockey over the course of two days at the Seven Oaks Sports Plex in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

In the first game of the event, SJHL Team Gold defeated MJHL Team Red 5-2. Saskatchewan came out flying in the first few minutes and set the tone with physical play and quick puck movement. After opening the scoring, the MJHL responded as Jordan Bax of the Dauphin Kings potted
his first of the event from Niverville’s Alex Walicki and the Blizzards Brett Ward. Winkler’s Malachi Klassen got the nod for Team Red and the 20-year-old Holy Cross commit made a couple massive saves to keep his team in the game. Klassen stood tall until back-to-back strikes by the SJHL put them up 3-1 through the opening 20 minutes.

Portage Terriers standout Nolan Nenow got his club to within one thanks to some help from his MJHL teammate Slade Stanick who picked up one assist as did Selkirk Steelers captain Mathieu Moreira. 3-2 would end up being as close as Team read would get. The SJHL scored around the halfway point of the second frame to restore their two goal lead through 40 minutes. Despite heavily outshooting Team Gold, Team Red just couldn’t force a puck over the goal line.

A power play goal against put the MJHL in a 5-2 hole that they couldn’t climb out of and eventually, ran out of time, losing the first game of the event. In the second game, MJHL Team Black took on SJHL Team White in a back and forth nail biter that came down to the wire. Steinbach Pistons forward Kirk Mullen put the MJHL on top early scoring on a power play, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.

The SJHL picked up the pace as the period went on and put shot after shot toward starter Cole Plowman, who turned away a couple of great chances. The 20-year-old Steinbach Piston goalie held the fort until the SJHL was final able to break through, knotting the game at 1-1 late in the first.

Just over five minutes into the second, Team White grabbed their first lead but it didn’t last thanks to Virden Oil Capitals stud Josh Lehto who buried his first of the event to bring things back to even, 2-2. His Oil Caps teammate Braeden Lewis picked up the lone assist.

David Cote would give the MJHL the lead before the period was through as the 20-year-old snapped a puck through a Trey Sauder screen and in for the 3-2 marker. It was a full on Pistons goal as Cote scored it from Leo Chambers and Kirk Mullen.

Early in the third, pressure for the SJHL was rewarded as they tied the game. As time ticked away, it appeared it might be heading for extra time but a great individual effort by a Team White forward earned his club the go-ahead goal with just over five minutes to go in the game.

Try as they might, the MJHL just couldn’t find the equalizer and eventually the horn sounded to signal an SJHL 4-3 win. The 18U game turned into a chippy affair with both teams playing for keeps both during and after play. The SJHL managed to build a 3-0 lead through two periods before the MJHL started to chip away in the third.

It would have been a greater lead if not for the strong play of Bemidji State commit, Raiden LeGall. The Niverville Nighthawk was sensational, making several huge saves through the game. Thanks to LeGall, the MJHL had some positives to build on and they took those positive vibes into the third and started to make a comeback.

Elliot Perreault, captain of the Winnipeg Freeze pulled the MJHL to within two as he finished off a nice pass from Winkler’s Blake Matheson. Flyer defender James Richards also picked up a helper. With under a minute to go in the game, Virden’s Bryce Bryant notched his first of the event to make it a 3-2 game.

A late penalty against put the MJHL down a man and they couldn’t get the momentum back, falling just short of a comeback, losing 3-2. Day 2 started off better for the MJHL thanks to a great team effort by Team Black. The group really came together and pulled off an impressive 4-2 win while outshooting the SJHL’s Team Goal 42-29.

It was a goal filled first period as the teams combined for 5 goals in the opening 20 minutes. After the SJHL got out in front, the Virden Oil Capitals trio went to work to tie the game. Nolan Chastko scored from Josh Lehto and Braeden Lewis. Perhaps the goal of the event belongs to David Cote as the defender regrouped in his own zone before blazing a trail into the offensive zone and then flipping a puck up over the shoulder short side of the unsuspecting goaltender, putting the MJHL up 2-1.

A couple minutes later, the SJHL found a lose puck in front and buried to tie the game 2-2. Waywayseecappo star, Sean Williams put the MJHL back in front after some great work in the corner by Piston Brandon Funk and fellow Wolverine Jack Clarke. Williams walked out of the corner and wired a perfect shot home, making it a 3-2 game.

Eric Reid got the start for the MJHL and after a bit of a shaky first, he was a rock star in the second and third. Williams doubled the lead with his second of the game off another perfect shot, making it a 4-2 game late in the second. The SJHL had no answer for the hardworking club and the MJHL managed to pick up their first win of the event, 4-2.

Following the MJHL’s first win, MJHL Team Red went toe-to-toe with Team Gold in a very entertaining game where the MJHL went down but showed no quit, battling back a number of times before coming up just short late. Down 1-0 in the first, Cody Gudnason of the Neepawa Titans cashed in from Blizzard defender Sebastian Hamming and Flyer forward Zach Nicolas, knotting the game up 1-1.

The SJHL regained the lead with less than a minute to go in the frame, taking a 2-1 advantage into the intermission. That lead grew early in the second, putting Team Gold grabbed a 3-1 lead. Winkler Flyer power house Dalton Andrew pulled the MJHL closer with his first from Blizzard defenders Brett Ward and Sebastian Hamming.

A power play goal later in the frame restored the SJHL’s two-goal lead and they went into the third up 4-2. Trent Penner, like he’s been doing all year, sniped a beauty to give some hope to the MJHL, making it a one-goal game again. Hamming continued his strong game with another assist. A power play for the MJHL gave them the space they needed to tie the game off a wonderful pass from Terrier forward Slade Stanick who hit Titans sniper Gudnason in front with a perfect pass and he deflected home the 4-4 marker.

Blizzard netminder Thomas Anderson battled all game long as the speed of the SJHL earned them some excellent chances throughout the contest. Anderson did all he could to keep his team within striking distance until they eventually did tie the game. Not able to build on the momentum, the MJHL watched as the SJHL scored twice in quick succession to make it a 6-4 hockey game.

Refusing to quit, Andrew’s second of the game off a scramble in front made it a little close but an empty netter from the SJHL sealed a 7-5 victory.

The final game of the event, the 18U clubs went back at it in a close, hard checking, back and forth game. Nether team gave up much of anything in the first half of the opening period. Liam Ernst of the Winker Flyers manned the crease for the young stars and stood tall early as the SJHL pressured with speed and some good work in the offensive zone. With under a minute and a half to go in the first, a little chip shot handcuffed the young goalie and gave the SJHL a 1-0 lead.

After the SJHL scored the go-ahead goal, Owen Witt of the Portage Terriers went to the backhand on the breakaway to score his 1st of the showcase.

The SJHL added a pair of powerplay goals in the first half of the 3rd period before Pistons forward, Connor Paronuzzi scored a powerplay goal to bring MJHL18U White back within a pair of goals. The MJHL would put on the pressure late and pull Ernst for the extra attacker but it was too little too late as the SJHL would add an empty netter to seal the win.