For the first time since 2008-09, the Humboldt Broncos are atop the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings at the close of the regular season, finishing five points up on the Battlefords North Stars for top spot.
After an 8-8-1-1 start to the season, the Broncos went 34-3-1-2 the rest of the way, including a 17-game winning streak and 25 straight games without a regulation loss between Nov. 18 and Feb. 3.
The last time Humboldt claimed the league’s regular season crown was also the last time it appeared in the RBC Cup; the Broncos, looking to become the first team to repeat as national champions in 18 years, fell to the Vernon Vipers 2-0 in the championship game in Victoria, B.C.
The Broncos already know they’ll make their fourth appearance in 10 years at this year’s RBC Cup – Humboldt will host the National Junior A Championship from May 5-13.
Humboldt also finished first in 2006--08, the first two years of back-to-back-to-back SJHL championships.
Two of the Broncos’ biggest offseason pick-ups led the way offensively, as Andrew Johnston (29G 52A 81P) and Robbie Ciolfi (28G 37A 65P) finished fifth and 10th, respectively, in SJHL scoring. Humboldt spread around the offence – Johnston and Ciolfi were the only Broncos to finish in the top 20 of league scoring.
Overall, 10 Broncos had at least 30 points and 12 reached double-digits in goals, helping Humboldt to a league-leading 240 goals, 18 more than second-place Weyburn.
Between the pipes, Matt Hrynkiw was one of the SJHL’s top netminders, finishing first in goals against average (2.28), tied for first in shutouts (four), second in save percentage (.921, just .001 behind league leader Alex Rajotte of La Ronge) and fourth in wins (22).
The first-place finish has earned the Broncos a bit of a rest – they’ll await the winner of the best-of-five Bauer Conference Survivor Series between La Ronge and Flin Flon in the conference semifinals, starting no earlier than March 2 in Humboldt.