For the first time since November 21st, 2020, a total of 307 days, meaningful games were played by the Estevan Bruins and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
And for the first time since March 11th, 2020, a total of 562 days, the Bruins’ were able to play in front of a full crowd as fans were back in the stands at Affinity Place for Friday night’s home opener against the Yorkton Terriers.
The Bruins began what will become a memorable season in Estevan with plenty of new faces on the roster and their new home gold jerseys on the ice. The crowd arrived earlier, thanks to a free pregame BBQ from the game sponsor: MNP, and were ready to cheer as soon as the puck dropped.
They wouldn’t have to wait long for the first goal of the 2021-22 season as just 8:02 into the 1st period, a good forecheck by Brandon Ambrozik helped force a turnover along the board in the offensive zone. The puck would bounce around in the high-slot where Ambrozik gathered it and fed a quick pass over to Antoine St. Onge, who snapped a quick shot past the blocker of Yorkton’s Jacob Herman to put the Bruins up 1-0. That would remain the score after 20 minutes, with the Bruins leading in shots 11-7.
Despite plenty of chances for both teams in the 2nd period, the score would remain at 1-0 heading into the 3rd period as both Herman and Bruins’ starter Boston Bilous were rock solid on opening night. The Bruins had a decided advantage in shots, 29-13.
The Bruins would keep up the pressure to start the 3rd period and, after a 4-minute penalty for kneeing to Yorkton’s Tyson Perkins, the Bruins’ powerplay would strike. Caelan Fitzpatrick would win an offensive zone faceoff back to the point, Nolan Jones and Mikol Sartor would give-and-go before Jones fired a quick shot towards the net that Fitzpatrick would neatly deflect past Herman for a 2-0 lead with 16:47 left to play.
Yorkton would cut the lead to 2-1 with 4:11 remaining as Karsten Kruska finished off a 2-on-1 pass from Carson Henry to end the shutout bid for Bilous. The Terriers would pull the goaltender in the final minutes but would be unable to find the equalizer, as the Bruins’ sent 1,098 fans home happy with a 2-1 victory on opening night.
Bilous finished with 25 saves in the victory, while Herman had 35 saves in the loss. Yorkton went 0/3 on the powerplay while the Bruins were 1/7, with Fitzpatrick’s powerplay goal the difference in the game.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday night in Yorkton to close out the home-and-home weekend. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on Rock106, which can be heard by downloading the Estevan Bruins App.