The Estevan Bruins are rolling since the Christmas break and that continued on Saturday night against Melville, as the Bruins’ scored six unanswered goals en route to a dominating 6-1 victory over the Millionaires at Affinity Place.
After back-to-back wins over Weyburn following the Christmas break (outscoring Weyburn 12-3), the Bruins looked to keep it rolling and string together their first three-game win streak of the season against Melville.
Arguably the two best players this season for each team were in net, and in the first period Estevan’ Keenan Rancier and Melville’s Berk Berkeliev lived up to the billing. Both goaltenders made several big time saves, including some outright robberies, as neither team would be able to score in the opening frame. It would be 0-0 heading into the 2nd period, with shots even at 13-13.
The Millionaires would get the scoring started at the 5:37 mark of the 2nd period, as a shot from the point would deflect off the skate of Max McPeak and past Rancier to make it 1-0. However the Bruins would not only respond later in the period, the offence would explode for four goals in just over six minutes of play to take a commanding lead.
At 12:39, Cody Davis would force a turnover in the offensive end and center a pass out front for Brady Nicholas. Nicholas was tied up, but Eddie Gallagher pounced on the loose puck and fired it past Berkeliev for his 7th of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
Just 21 seconds later, Griffin Asham-Moroz would pick up the puck in his defensive zone and race down the ice, beating his defender wide and get a quick shot on goal. While Berkeliev made the initial save, Asham-Moroz quickly fired his own rebound into the net to make it 2-1 for Estevan 13:00 into the 2nd period. Tyler Savage and Devan Harrison assisted on the goal.
Just over a minute later, Bruins’ captain Jayden Davis would extend the lead with another highlight-reel goal. After a cycle in the corner, the puck would end up at the blueline for Kade McMillen who backhanded a shot towards the net. In front, Davis had been knocked down to his knees. However, while facing away from the net, Davis still had the ability to knock the puck out of midair with his stick, corral the puck and sweep a no-look shot through Berkeliev’s five-hole for the 3-1 lead at the 14:28 mark. Isaiah Thomas also assisted on the goal.
Then at the 18:57 mark, the Bruins would go up 4-1 as Asham-Moroz scored his second of the game. Again coming from the defensive zone, Savage carried the puck through the neutral zone and over the blueline with two other attackers driving the net. Savage would patiently drop a pass for a trailing Asham-Moroz and the rookie forward would rip a laser beam off the water bottle for his 13th goal of the season. Alex Von Sprecken also assisted on the goal as the Bruins put 24 shots on goal in the 2nd period alone, and outshot Melville 37-24 after two periods.
At the start of the 3rd period, the chippy play between the two teams would boil over into an epic fight between Estevan’s Brady Nicholas and Melville’s Jacob Bourchier at the 3:06 mark. The two players squared off in front of the Millionaires net and tossed heavy haymakers back and forth for almost 20 seconds straight. Many punches landed and both players got their shots in, with Nicholas landing a couple late left-handers to knock Bourchier to the ice.
Shortly after the fight, the Bruins would add to their lead. Tylor Ludwar’s point shot would be knocked down in front of the net and Tanner Manz found the loose puck and made a nice pass to Jayden Davis who had some room in tight. Davis would neatly deke around Berkeliev for his 2nd goal of the game and team-leading 14th goal of the season to make it 5-1 at the 4:31 mark.
The Bruins would earn a late powerplay and capitalize on it at the 10:26 mark to round out the scoring. Harrison and Jayden Davis would connect on a pass at the blueline and Davis would slide a pass through defenders to Ludwar who was posted up in front of the net. Ludwar’s quick shot trickled past Berkeliev to make it 6-1 for Estevan.
While there would be no more scoring, plenty of fireworks would still occur in the final minutes of the game. First, Ludwar and McPeak would square off following a whistle at center ice but, just as they were about to fight, the linesman stepped in a broke it up before it could get started.
Then in the final minute, a game-long battle between Estevan’s Austin King-Cunningham and Melville’s Braden Larochelle boiled over as the two players drop the gloves in front of the Bruins’ bench. Larochelle got in close to the much larger King-Cunningham to nullify his punches, though King-Cunningham was still able to land a few shots before the linesman broke up the fight. That would be the final highlight of a convincing 6-1 Bruins victory.
Keenan Rancier (32/33) wasn’t tested as much late in the game, but his play in the first 40 minutes was the main reason the Bruins were able to win until the scoring broke through. Despite a strong effort, Berk Berkeliev (46/52) would be tagged with the loss.
The Bruins powerplay (1/5) would convert for the 6th straight game, while Melville would be shut out (0/8) by the Bruins’ strong penalty kill.
The Bruins’ third straight win (16-17-2-1) leapfrogs the team over both the Notre Dame Hounds and Kindersley Klippers for the 8th seed in the standings, which is the final playoff spot in the new 1-8 playoff format. The Bruins still have games in hand (2 on ND, 3 on KK) on both teams as they look to continue climbing the standings in the second half of the schedule.
Estevan will travel to Yorkton (25-17-1-0) for another battle with the Viterra Division-leading Terriers on Tuesday, January 7th at 7:30pm. The Bruins trail the Terriers by 16 points for the division lead, however the Bruins hope to make up ground with a whopping 7 games in hand on Yorkton.