The future of the Nipawin Hawks was on display Monday in Melfort as the team played their first exhibition game of the 2023/24 season.
Both the Mustangs and Nipawin dressed lineups featuring players 17 years old or younger with the Hawks winning 4-2 over their rivals. Sean Shiels scored 14 seconds into the game, Eric Hoiness, and Konnor Watson added goals in the first setting up a 3-0 lead after the first frame.
Nipawin allowed the Mustangs youngsters to cut the lead to 3-1 in the second period, but Jack Janzen ripped a one-timer past Kristan Coombs making the game 4-1.
Melfort added another in the third capping the scoring. Hawks General Manager and Head Coach Tad Kozun said he was happy with what he saw from their mostly under-18 lineup.
“Some of those guys showcased themselves very well and proved they are probably a lot closer than a lot of people think, but obviously some of them need another year of AAA,” he said after the game.
Corben Schnurr got the start in goal for Nipawin, the 16-year-old stopped 14 shots before the 15th beat him. Tyson Endall came on in relief at the halfway through the game, online scoring recorded Endall with just six stops.
Kozun said most of the roster that suited up returned to their hometown’s following the game and training camp. Now Nipawin will focus on trimming the roster and preparing for the regular season that begins on Sept. 22.
“We’re excited where we are at,” he said. “We will get our first official practice on Tuesday and then right back at it Wednesday. It’s a busy week with little practice time, but it will be good to see these guys in games and get rolling.”
Wednesday’s game against the Mustangs is the lone preseason game at the Centennial Arena. Nipawin will host La Ronge on Friday, but that game will be played at Big River. The Hawks travel to La Ronge on Saturday to conclude their preseason schedule.
Wednesday’s game versus Melfort in Nipawin is free of charge to attend for everyone. Faceoff is 7 p.m.