With the postseason drawing near, the Power Dodge Estevan Bruins and Battlefords North Stars went toe-to-toe in a potential playoff preview on Saturday night at Affinity Place.
In the end, Battlefords pulled the goalie and tied the game with 33 seconds remaining in regulation to force extra time. And after a 5-round shootout, Owen Lamb beat Estevan’s Tyler Szturm for a 3-2 come-from-behind Battlefords victory.
It was the first meeting between the two teams since November 9th with Estevan winning 2 of the first 3 matchups (6-1 loss, 6-4 win, 2-1 SO win). The two teams came into the game red-hot, with Estevan winning 12 of 14 and Battlefords getting points in five straight games (4-0-1).
Goaltender Tyler Szturm made his second straight start for Estevan in net with Kadin Kilpatrick serving as backup. After the first period, neither team could find the scoreboard and it remained scoreless until the 2:51 mark of the 2nd period.
Battlefords opened the scoring as Austin Becker finished off a nice passing play to make it 1-0 for the visitors. But just a few minutes later, the Bruins would tie the game.
While shorthanded, speedster Jayden Davis pressured the North Stars into a turnover and capitalized by waiting out a sprawling Joel Gryzbowski and scoring his 13th of the season to make it 1-1 at the 4:51 mark. For Davis, it’s his 4th shorthanded goal of the season tying him with Melfort’s Justin Ball for 2nd overall in that category behind Flin Flon’s Brandson Hein (5).
The tight-checking play would keep the score tied until late in the middle frame when the Bruins would take their first lead of the game. At the 17:12 mark, rookie Eddie Gallagher would score his second goal in his last three games for his 7th of the year to put the Bruins up 2-1 heading into the intermission. Ryder Pierson and Tyson Manz assisted on the go-ahead goal.
The Bruins and Szturm would face a strong push from Battlefords throughout the 3rd period, but Szturm and the Bruins defence stood tall and kept the score 2-1 until the final minute of play.
Battlefords would pull the goalie for the extra attacker looking for the tying goal. The Bruins would be unable to clear the zone and after the North Stars moved the puck around, a cross-ice pass to Ryan Gil left a wide-open net for him to score the equalizer at the 19:27 mark to make it 2-2 and force overtime.
With both teams battling for key playoff positioning, each team earning a point would soften the blow of defeat. But both teams were eager to try and earn that crucial extra point in overtime. Despite glorious scoring opportunities for both teams 3-on-3, it remained 2-2 and we would be off to a shootout.
The goaltenders continued to shine in the breakaway competition. Neither team could score in the first three rounds of the shootout (Estevan shooters: Turner Ripplinger, Michael McChesney, Bryce Platt…Battlefords shooters: Seth Summers, Quintin Loon-Stewardson, Macgregor Sinclair).
In the 4th round, Bruins forward Will Koop would ring a sharp shot past Gryzbowski but off the crossbar. Austin Becker would then have a chance to score to win for Battlefords, but was stopped by Szturm.
In the 5th round, Isaiah Thomas tried to deke out Gryzbowski but he was stopped. That set up Battlefords Owen Lamb who was able to stickhandle around an attempted poke check by Szturm and fire in the winning shot for the 3-2 North Stars victory.
Tyler Szturm (26/28) was stellar in goal for the Bruins, making several key saves and coming seconds away from his first SJHL victory. Joel Gryzbowski (32/34) stopped all 7 Bruins shots in overtime and all 5 shooters in the shootout in the win for Battlefords.
The Bruins powerplay was shutout (0/4) on the night, as was Battlefords (0/2). Estevan however did have the shorthanded goal from Davis.
The game was played in front of 1,175 fans at Affinity Place, with the Certified Energy Services 50/50 jackpot totalling $5,005.
With the single point combined with a Saturday night regulation loss by Yorkton (29-25-1), the Bruins (30-22-2-2) are now five points up on the Terriers for the Viterra Division crown.
Yorkton has only three games remaining, meaning if the Bruins can earn at least two points in their final two games, Estevan will win the Viterra Division title and the 3rd overall seed in the standings for the third consecutive season.
The Bruins will face the Weyburn Red Wings in a weekend home-and-home series (Friday in Weyburn ,Saturday in Estevan) to close out the regular season. Yorkton faces a weekend home-and-home with Melville then closes out their season on Tuesday, March 5th in Weyburn.
Will Koop Sets Up A Play In The 1st Period Against Battlefords On Saturday Night. (Photo: Durr Photography)