The Estevan Bruins showed plenty of playoff-like toughness and resolve at home on Wednesday night, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to earn a much-needed 5-2 victory over the visiting Nipawin Hawks.
The two teams had split the first two meetings so far this season, with Nipawin edging the Bruins 4-3 in the most recent meeting up north only eight days ago. With the Hawks jockeying for playoff position and the Bruins looking to gain separation from the playoff bubble, the stage was set for another playoff-like atmosphere between Nipawin and Estevan.
It would be the Hawks striking first as former Bruins defenceman Bronson Adams’ point shot beat Keenan Rancier just 13 seconds into action to put Nipawin ahead 1-0 on the first shot of the game. The Bruins would outshoot Nipawin 15-4 in the opening period but trailed heading into the middle frame.
Once again it would be Nipawin scoring early as just 2:28 into the 2nd period, Burke Simpson scored to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. However the Bruins would respond just over a minute later as Tanner Manz scored on the rebound to close the gap to 2-1 at the 3:47 mark. Tyler Savage and Devan Harrison assisted on the goal.
Nipawin would earn a couple quality chances in an effort to reclaim their two-goal lead but Rancier made several big saves to keep it a one-goal game before the Bruins would score again to even the game up.
Just 13 seconds into a powerplay at the 12:26 mark, Cody Davis fired a shot on Hawks’ goaltender Dalton Dosch who made the initial save. However Davis would follow up nicely and bury his own rebound for his 10th goal of the year to make it 2-2, with Dayton Deics and Kade McMillen assisting on the goal.
The game would begin to take on a much more physical attitude just minutes later. At the 16:45 mark, forward Dain Sardelli was cross-checked hard into the end boards by Nipawin’s Max Johnson and fell awkwardly. Sardelli got up and went after Johnson as the two dropped the gloves and started throwing punches. The two, along with another Nipawin player who had ahold of Sardelli, fell with the linesman to the ice as the Bruins’ fans applauded Sardelli as the rookie forward skated off the ice.
Before the end of an entertaining period, the Bruins would take their first lead of the game as red-hot Eddie Gallagher buried his 10th goal of the year with only 18 seconds left to give Estevan a 3-2 lead heading into the intermission. Cody Davis and Brady Nicholas assisted on Gallagher’s goal, extending the 19-year-old’s point streak to 7 games.
The 3rd period would see a scary incident kick off a parade to the penalty box for Nipawin the rest of the game, with the Bruins’ taking advantage of their powerplay opportunities. At the 6:23 mark, Nipawin forward Jordan Simoneau would be penalized with a 5-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for a high, blind-side hit to the head of Bruins’ forward Erik Boers. Boers would be down on the ice in pain only briefly before skating off the ice under his own power and then being helped down to the Bruins’ medical room. Bruins’ forward Ryder Pierson would also be given a 2-minute roughing minor for going after Simoneau in defence of his linemate on the play.
During the ensuing 4-on-4, the Hawks would take a holding minor and the Bruins would capitalize on the 4-on-3 man advantage. Gallagher would receive a pass down low at the side of the net, neatly work his way around the defender into a great scoring position at the top of the crease and roof a shot past Dosch to make it 4-2 Estevan at the 7:39 mark. Jayden Davis and Harrison assisted on Gallagher’s second goal of the game and 11th of the season.
A few minutes later while Simoneau’s penalty was still on the board, Nipawin would take a cross-checking penalty. Hawks’ Head Coach Doug Johnson had some choice words for the officials after the call and the bench was given a 2-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Johnson was ejected from the game.
The result was an extended 5-on-3 powerplay for the Bruins and they executed with an insurance goal at the 12:52 mark as Tanner Manz scored his second of the game and 15th of the season to make it 5-2. Harrison and Jayden Davis assisted on the goal.
The roughness continued shortly thereafter as at the 13:46 mark, Bruins’ defenceman Alex Von Sprecken and Hawks’ captain Jake Trembley squared off and dropped the gloves in a spirited tilt.
As the clock wound down, the Bruins held the Nipawin offence in check with limited chances and held on for a crucial 5-2 win when the final buzzer sounded.
Keenan Rancier (25/27) settled in after the opening goal and was rock solid for the Bruins in net the rest of the game. Dalton Dosch (36/41) was tagged with the loss for Nipawin.
The Bruins earned a season-high 10 powerplay opportunities in the game, executing on (3/10). Nipawin (0/2) was unsuccessful on their two powerplay chances.
It was also a special night for Estevan-born (’03) defenceman Max Wanner, as the standout with the (SMHL) Moose Jaw Warriors made his SJHL debut on the blueline for the Bruins in the game. With plenty of friends and family in the stands, Wanner played big minutes and helped contribute to a big win for his hometown team.
The win puts the Bruins (23-21-3-1) five points clear of the Kindersley Klippers (19-22-6-1) for the 8th and final playoff spot, with both teams having 10 games left on their regular season schedule. Estevan also remains in striking distance for 7th overall as the Bruins are just 3 points back of the Humboldt Broncos (22-19-7-2) with Estevan holding two games in hand on the Broncos.
Another standings note worth mentioning: the Bruins are only six points behind the Yorkton Terriers (27-19-1-1) for top spot in the Viterra Division with each team having 10 games remaining. Estevan has won the division title the last three consecutive seasons and have a realistic shot of catching Yorkton, however the two teams do not play each other again this season.