The Estevan Bruins had to wait two extra days to close out the 2022/23 regular season, but they did it in style with a solid 4-2 victory over the Weyburn Red Wings on Monday night.
The game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday, but a severe March blizzard slammed most of southern Saskatchewan on Friday night, forcing multiple SJHL games to be postponed.
And though the game would have no significance on the standings, as both Estevan and Weyburn were locked in to the 6th & 8th seeds respectively, this final tilt would determine the winner of the season-series and ‘Highway 39 Cup’ between the two longtime rivals.
The Bruins would jump out to an early lead just 1:24 into the game, as Keagon Little drove the net and tucked a pretty backhand in for his 7th of the year to make it 1-0. Garett Zasitko and Ilia Chmelevski assisted on the goal. A few minutes later, Weyburn would score to tie the game at 1-1 heading into the 2nd period.
After a scoreless middle frame, the Bruins would retake the lead in the 3rd period thanks to a pair of powerplay goals.
Just seconds into a powerplay, Sal Collora would beautifully deflect an Aleksa Babic shot into the net for the 2-1 lead at the 6:07 mark of the 3rd period. Owen Miley would also earn an assist on Collora’s 9th of the season.
Then at 11:46, the Bruins increased their lead to 3-1 as Brady Wilson fired a snapshot blocker-side for his 3rd goal of the season. Owen Barrow and Gabriel Filion drew the assists.
Weyburn would score a powerplay goal of their own with less than 5 minutes remaining to cut the lead to 3-2. But that’s when Cam Hrdlicka slammed the door shut, making multiple eye-popping saves late to preserve the lead. Weyburn would pull their goalie looking to tie the game, but instead Barrow scored an empty-net goal for his 12th of the year from Collora and Babic to round out the scoring in a 4-2 victory for the Bruins.
Cam Hrdlicka (26/28) closed out his impressive regular season with another outstanding performance, earning his 22nd win of the season. Dazza Mitchell (21/24) was tagged with the loss for Weyburn. The Bruins went (2/7) on the powerplay in the game, while Weyburn finished (1/3).
The Bruins rested several players in the finale, as Kade Runke, Cody Davis, Jag Phangura, Mitch Kohner, Holdin Getzlaf, and Jackson Miller all were not dressed for the game. The Bruins AP’d two prospects from the Tisdale U18 AAA Trojans in the game, forwards Kale Margolis and Madden Wallis, as well as backup goalie Landyn MacLachlan from the PJHL’s Assiniboia Southern Rebels.
After the game, Chief Richard Lowen (Estevan Police Service) and Chief Jamie Blunden (Weyburn Police Service) awarded the ‘Highway 39 Cup’ to the Estevan Bruins (3-2-1-0) as they took the season series over Weyburn (3-3-0-0). This is the second season that the two local police chiefs have promoted the season-series trophy, with Estevan having won the trophy in both seasons.
The Estevan Bruins finish the 2022/23 regular season with a record of (28-23-3-2), 6th overall with 61 points and the Viterra Division champions for the 5th time in the last 6 complete seasons.
The Bruins will now get ready for the 2023 SJHL Playoffs, which begin this Friday, March 17th. The Bruins will face the 3rd-ranked Flin Flon Bombers in the quarterfinal round, a rematch of last season’s SJHL Championship final where the Bruins won the league final defeating Flin Flon 2-0 in Game 7.