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Leafs Byrne earns KIJHL First Star

Matthew Byrne of Penticton helped spark the Leafs to a 2-0 start by leading the Green and White with seven points.

By Emanuel Sequera, KIJHL Communications Department

During opening weekend of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey's 54th campaign, Matthew Byrne of the Nelson Leafs filled stat sheet with points to capture first star in the league's Stars of the Week.

Jordan Berschiminsky of the Osoyoos Coyotes and Jacob Biensch of the Chase Heat earned second and third stars, respectively.

Byrne, Penticton, B.C., is the first star as he helped spark the Leafs to a 2-0 start by leading the Green and White with seven points. In a 10-3 win over the Castlegar Rebels, Byrne collected five assists, then added two goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the Coyotes.

“Matthew was exceptional. He pushed us offensively this past weekend and was the driving force in our wins,” says Leafs assistant coach and GM Adam DiBella. “Two goals and five assists speaks for itself.”

DiBella added that Byrnes is “electric.” 

“Matthew has dynamic speed and a pinpoint, accurate shot,” he says. “His release is second-to-none in the league.”

Berschiminsky, Saskatoon, Sask., is the second star after he opened the season with a 4-1 win over the Grand Forks Border Bruins. He turned aside 49 shots. In a 4-3 overtime loss to the Leafs, Berschiminsky turned aside 44 of 48 shots. He has a .949 save percentage.

“Jordan played extremely well this weekend. Grand Forks is always a tough barn to play in and the boys having confidence in him, helped us push through for that win,” says Coyotes coach Carter Rigby.

Rigby added in Nelson, Berschiminsky’s performance showed the team and league his talents and “why he will be one of the top goalies this year.”

Biensch, Marsden, Sask., is the third star after he scored a goal and finished with five points in two games. In a 7-5 win over the North Okanagan Knights, Biensch scored the winner on the power-play.

Heat head coach Brad Fox said since the first week in September, Biensch has taken a leadership role. He is taking responsibility for his preparation and practice and that has carried over into the weekend.

“There are a combination of factors that contributed to his success this weekend. His level of concentration, high energy and compete level were very evident from start to finish,” says Fox. “Jacob has a real high skill set and excellent feet and when you factor in the other three elements, you get real good results. That's why he was an impact player in both games. Do the work leading into competition and get the results when the puck drops."

The KIJHL returns to action with the Nelson Leafs hosting Grand Forks Border Bruins Friday at the NDCC Arena. Saturday, the Leafs meet Osoyoos in the South Okanagan City.