The inaugural CRJHL season saw its fair share of drama in the first half, both on and off the ice.
If there is a word to describe the competition in the first half, it would be parity. There is no better way to describe the play in the 2018 portion of the season. On any given night, everyone was beatable and for the most part, games were close. In fact, there were 2 games that ended in a tie (yes, after 10 minutes of overtime) and 6 games that were decided in overtime.
As the first half wrapped up just before Christmas, the Selkirk Fishermen sat atop the standings, taking advantage of the 3 points awarded for a regulation win and earning 35 points. St. Malo found themselves in 2nd place with 28 points, while Arborg held down the 3rd spot, just behind the Warriors at 27 points. Both 4th place Lundar and 5th place North Winnipeg are well within striking distance at 23 and 20 points respectively. The Satelites have played the fewest games overall holding a few games in hand at this stage.
On the scoring front, the majority of games have been close. There has been great competition between the teams. At the midway point, Tyrel Bueckert of St. Malo leads the league with 29 points (16G, 13A) in 19 games, while his teammate Robert Guimond is second with 26 points (14G, 12A). Colton Davies and Derric Gulay are pacing the Arborg Ice Dawgs with 22 points and 20 points respectively. Fishermen rookie Reece Tessier is leading the team with 19 points (10G, 9A), while Dawson Courchene and fellow Fish rookie Travis Spratt both have 18 points. Lundar is being led by veterans Drake Zimmerman and Dennon Sichewski, both sitting at 17 points. North Winnipeg’s leading scorer is Nathan Jones, who has 13 points (8G, 5A) in his team’s 16 games.
In order to keep the games close, it takes goaltending, and the CRJHL has seen it’s share of performances. Austin Deboer of the Selkirk Fishermen leads the league with a 9-2-0 record, 1 shutout, a 2.43 GAA and a .924 save percentage. His teammate in the crease, Riley Bannerman sits 3rd in the league with a 3-3-1 record, a 3.20 GAA and .906 save percentage. Tre Strachan of Arborg holds down the second spot, with a 6-3-1 record, 1 SO, 3.14 GAA and a .919 sv %. Kenton Brass of North Winnipeg has recorded a 2-3-3 record, but has been sharp in net with a .904 sv % and 3.50 GAA. Chris Lesage has carried the load for Lundar this season, playing in 16 of his teams games and recording a 6-6-3 record, with a 3.94 GAA and .897 save percentage. St. Malo has been led by a pair of rookies, Matthew Vandenberghe (5-5-1, 4.40 GAA, .890 save %) and Hunter Neilson (3-4-0, 4.49 GAA, .876 sv %).
The second half begins Saturday, January 5th as the Lundar Falcons play the St. Malo Warriors. From there, a furious dash to the finish line will take place over the next 7 weeks of the season as teams jockey for position in the standings and look to claim the inaugural CRJHL championship.