The Estevan Bruins couldn’t recover from a free-fall in the 1st period on Saturday night, as a late comeback bid fell short in a 6-4 loss to the Weyburn Red Wings on the final night of the SJHL regular season.
Despite the loss, with the Nipawin Hawks losing to the Melfort Mustangs on Saturday, the Bruins have clinched the 6th overall seed in the SJHL standings. The team now waits to see whether they will play the Yorkton Terriers (currently 3rd) or the Melfort Mustangs (currently 5th, can move up to 3rd) in the first round of the SJHL playoffs.
The stands in Affinity Place were packed as the majority of fans were already in their seats when Teagan Littlechief sang ‘O Canada’ to start the game. It would be a reported crowd of 2,552 fans at Affinity Place on Saturday night, a season-high for attendance and just over 100 fans short of a sellout crowd.
The Bruins came out of the gates flying with a loud crowd at their backs, scoring the opening goal at the 5:50 mark of the 1st period. On the powerplay, Brady Nicholas would jam home the rebound for his 13th goal of the year to make it 1-0 Bruins with Jayden Davis and Devan Harrison assisting on the goal.
But the Red Wings would come roaring back with an offensive onslaught, scoring five consecutive goals before reaching the 1st intermission.
Shayde Peterson (6:30) and Dace Prymak (6:48) scored 18 seconds apart less than a minute after Nicholas’ marker to give Weyburn a 2-1 lead. Prymak (12:25) extended the lead to 3-1 with his second goal of the game before Connor Stephenson (13:12) and Palmer Sinclair (14:58) added goals to make it 5-1 Weyburn after 20 minutes.
Isaiah Thomas would get a goal back for the Bruins just 21 seconds into the 2nd period, as Thomas one-timed home his 19th of the year to make it 5-2. Jayden Davis and Tanner Manz assisted on the goal. However, Weyburn responded at the 7:31 mark as Jake Misskey made it 6-2 for the Red Wings and that would remain the score heading into the final period.
The fans inside Affinity Place would come back to life midway through the 3rd period as a pair of quick goals by the Bruins closed the gap on Weyburn’s four-goal advantage. At the 9:26 mark, Griffin Asham-Moroz scored his rookie-leading 18th goal of the year from Jayden Davis and Tyler Savage to make it 6-3. Then just 39 seconds later, Tylor Ludwar blasted a shot from the center line that squeaked through Weyburn’s Douglas Wakelyn to make it 6-4 at the 10:05 mark. Cody Davis and Eddie Gallagher assisted on Ludwar’s 4th of the year, as the Bruins were now only down by two goals with half a period left to play.
Unfortunately for the large home crowd, the Bruins’ push would fall short as Wakelyn made a few big saves and two Bruins’ shots rang off the crossbar in the final two minutes, making the final score 6-4 for Weyburn.
Keenan Rancier (7/12) was tagged with the loss for Estevan after being pulled 15 minutes into the game. Defensive breakdowns and good shots by Weyburn forced the Bruins to go to Randy Cooke (19/20) for the remainder of the game, as the Bruins’ backup netminder played well in relief. Douglas Wakelyn (39/43) earned the win for Weyburn.
The large crowd also resulted in a large Certified Energy Services 50/50 jackpot, with the total amount reaching $15,960 and the winner receiving half that amount.
It was also the night of the Estevan Bruins Jersey Auction. Six jerseys were auctioned off live during the 1st and 2nd intermissions for a total of $12,450. The high number of the night was $4,100 for Griffin Asham-Moroz’s 3rd jersey, purchased by Overshot Oilfield Construction. Combined with the online auction for the other jerseys, a total of $23,400 was raised for the Estevan Bruins’ Education Fund.
The Bruins will now wait to see if they play Yorkton or Melfort in the 1st round of SJHL playoffs. Either way, the Bruins will start playing Games 1 & 2 on the road next Friday & Saturday, March 6th and 7th. Games 3 & 4 will return to Affinity Place in Estevan, dates and times to be announced.