The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Flames of Nelson House have put on an absolute offensive clinic to begin the 2019-20 Keystone Junior Hockey League season.
Through the first two months of play, the NCN Flames trail only the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Storm in the standings with a 5-1-0 record. Due to some scheduling conflicts, the Flames have only skated in six contests, as opposed to OCN’s 12 games. Despite playing significantly less minutes than their opponents, NCN has picked up points in five of their six matchups – all victories.
Surprisingly, this disparity in games played has not equated to a significant drop in the standings, as NCN’s 10 points have the Flames in second place – 10 points behind the Storm (10-2-0).
Coming into the 2019-20 season as the ‘new team’ in the now five-club Keystone Junior Hockey League, the Flames have blown away all expectations, routinely routing their opponents in putting up multiple double-digit thrashings.
After two high-scoring exhibition wins (9-6 and 10-1 over Cross Lake) gave fans in Nelson House a glimmer of the offensive potential that the Flames possessed, NCN’s season opening weekend was delayed due to the significant mid-October storm that hit Manitoba rather heavily, cancelling both of the Flames’ games against Peguis.
The Flames then won one of two matchups with the Storm at home in a back-to-back season-opener, in which NCN put up seven goals. Closing October with a 1-1-0 record, the Flames upped the ante in November, picking up four-straight victories, amassing 45 goals in the process.
NCN ousted Norway House 9-2 on November 15, before pounding those same North Stars 14-1 the following day. The next weekend saw the Flames total another 22 goals in 10-1 and 12-4 decisions over the visiting Cross Lake Islanders.
Leading the way offensively for NCN are Jonathan and Keistin Saunders with 15 and 13 points apiece, respectively. Lance Laycock (14), Trent North (12), Henry Muchikekwanape (11), Michael Venne (9) and Michael Markus (6) are each also averaging two or more points-per-game. Goaltenders Braedin Melstad (3-1-0) and Kruz Mitchell (2-0-0) each have put up big numbers in the crease for the 5-1-0 Flames.
The league’s newest team will now travel to OCN for a two-game set with the first place Storm on Saturday/Sunday. Puck drop is set for 7:30 PM Saturday and 1:30 PM Sunday.