Making the trek north, the Jr. Stars found themselves in Blaine, Minnesota, where they took on the Minnesota Loons, Great Falls Americans, and the Norwich Sea Captains for the 2021 NA3HL Showcase at the Super Rink. This season marked the 11th year of this event that features all 34 teams under one roof for junior and college scouts to watch some of the great talents this league offers.
The Jr. Stars dropped the puck Monday against the West Division’s Minnesota Loons, and it was all Loons early. Josef Slepica opened the scoring at the 2:10 mark of the first period and was the first of six different scorers in the opening frame. Adam Brown and Blake Keller scored two goals 13 seconds apart to extend the lead to three goals before the end of the first half of the period. 12:32 and 12:50 in the first period, Jackson Dodds and Lack Keranen notched their first of the season, with Caiden Kjelstrom putting in the sixth goal at the 19:00 mark to end the period. Mid-Cities starting goaltender Adler Hoagland was pulled at the 12:50 mark and replaced with Quillon Bowman.
The second period had less action, but the Loons kept their momentum flowing as the lead extended to seven, with Fox Dodds joining the group of Minnesota scorers at the 11:11 mark.
In the third period, Adam Brown’s goal put the Loons up by eight before Isaac Fuller broke the goose egg for the Jr. Stars at the 7:50 mark. Kayd Peterson waited 10 seconds to give the Jr. Stars their second goal, but it was too little too late as the Loons took the victory on the first day of the Showcase with a score of 8-2.
It was an early morning affair on Tuesday as the Great Falls Americans of the Frontier Division were next on the docket for the Jr. Stars. Aaron Palos, a McKinney, Texas native, made his NA3HL goaltending debut for the Mid-Cities squad as they looked to have a better game than the one before.
It took only one minute for the Americans to find the back of the net as Tyler Sunagel opened the scoring, with Thomas Dalsin getting the assist. The Jr. Stars continued to fight hard, but Hunter Maschke for Great Falls extended the lead by two goals at the 5:30 mark and held this lead to periods end.
The second and third periods saw one goal each, both on the power play, as Jay Alford claimed his fourth goal of the season unassisted and Tyler Sunagel claimed his second of the game, 47 seconds in the third. The Jr. Stars couldn’t get any momentum throughout the game, collecting eight minor penalties and were shutout as they fell to the Great Fall Americans to a score of 4-0.
Arron Palos stopped 43 of 47 shots in his NA3HL debut.
Facing off against the Norwich Sea Captains of the East Division, the Jr. Stars claimed their only victory of the Showcase, and they had to play some extra hockey to get it. The first period saw the Sea Captains take the first lead late as Norwich forward Caden Wurzbacher scored the game’s first goal assisted by Ethan Ranger.
Despite the parade to the penalty box from both teams, that period stayed close until Colton Sebastian tied the game at the 18:49 mark of the second period with assists from Michael Kennedy and Kyle Russell to even the score at one goal each.
Norwich and Mid-Cities exchanged the lead in the third period starting with Drew Schemmel reclaiming the lead for the Sea Captains with a power-play goal at 4:16. It wouldn’t be until Chirs Wood’s goal with just over five minutes left to play to even the score. A flurry of goals in the 18th minute saw the Jr. Stars gain and lose their only lead of the Showcase as Josh Field claimed his first NA3HL goal with the Jr. Stars, but Wilkie Cook postponed defeat a little longer, notching his second goal of the season and forcing overtime.
Jr. Stars leading scorer Ilnur Madiarov needed thirty seconds of overtime to end the game with Kyle Russell’s assist to claim the lone win for the Jr. Stars in Minnesota.
With these Showcase games counting toward the regular season record, the Jr. Stars are now 8-18-0-0 with 16 points and sit 6th in the South Division. The next game will be at home in the Children’s Health StarCenter, January 8th, 2022, against the Atlanta Capitals.
On behalf of the entire Mid-Cities Jr. Stars organization, we hope you have a safe holiday season and a happy New Year!