The best word used to describe the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in 2003-04 is parity. No fewer than six teams have a legitimate shot at winning the Membercare Cup, including the defending Royal Bank Cup champion Humboldt Broncos.
The Battlefords North Stars are anchored by 20-year-old goalie Justin Pesony, the best statistical goalie
through the first forty games of the season. He has the benefit of playing behind a blueline corps of six 20-
The Melville Millionaires are scoring goals in huge bunches with four players in the top ten of league scoring race. They are threatening to run away with the Sherwood Conference pennant down the stretch. Jordan Hack and Matt Stefanishion have secured early scholarships at St. Lawrence and Ferris State, respectively.
In Weyburn, the Red Wings are putting next year's Royal Bank Cup hosting season on hold as they feel there is a chance to win the SJHL crown this year. At the trade deadline, General Manager Ron Rumball dealt promising 19-year-old goaltender Brenden Cuthbert in order to acquire much needed toughness for this year's team.
The Kindersley Klippers are also amongst the league's best; despite icing a line-up that may be better suited for a run in 2004-05. And, the Yorkton Terriers are trying to find some consistency. With SJHL scoring leader Justin Keller leading the way, the Terriers are widely viewed as being a solid contender.
Cinderella runs are also possible in Estevan, Nipawin, and Flin Flon. The Bruins have just one 20-year-old on their roster (Defenseman Joel Pullman); but continue to play well despite being void of a superstar. Nipawin has a strong mix of veterans and youngsters with a pair of rookies (Michael Clements and Dan Bauer) between the pipes. Flin Flon has picked up some overagers for the stretch in the hopes of getting a push into the playoffs for the first time since they hosted the Royal Bank Cup in 2001.
1. Melville (good mix of scoring, defense, and good goaltending with depth in each area)
2. Battlefords (seven of ten 20-year-olds are on defense and in goal; only weakness could be lack of a gamebreaker)
3. Humboldt (a team that already knows how to win when it counts and big game players still on roster)
4. Weyburn (well coached by the legendary Dwight MacMillan; and no glaring weaknesses)
5. Kindersley (nothing to lose with a group of players who may be eyeing next year)
6. Yorkton (talented enough to be ranked in the top three, but inconsistent enough to be ranked in the bottom three)
7. Estevan (not enough offense to be ranked with the top five, and not enough experience in any of the other areas)
8. Nipawin (strength is on the back end with six defensemen who are all capable of moving the puck)
9. Flin Flon (on the right track, coached by Ryan Hoffman, who transformed a disasterous AAA program into a national contender in three years)
10. Notre Dame (some excellent players, but lacking in depth and will need an excellent stretch drive to make playoffs)
11. La Ronge (a franchise record winless streak has seen the team tumble since Christmas)
12. Melfort (clearly building for next year, this former SJHL powerhouse won't be a factor the rest of the way)