A three-game road swing that began with promise ended with the CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins taking home three of six points on the table.
The Bruins (26-25-0-2) blanked the Kindersley Klippers 4-0 on Thursday, then blew a three-goal lead in a wild 7-6 shootout loss to the Battlefords North Stars on Friday. The trip wrapped up Saturday with a 5-2 loss to the Klippers.
Bruins head coach Keith Cassidy said his team was drained after Friday’s loss, which required nine shootout rounds to settle before Stars defenceman Brody Luhning finally scored the winner.
“I think we went out and we played a whale of a game and it just didn’t turn out our way,” said Cassidy. “I think from the mental aspect of things, that was pretty tough to recover from and I think on Saturday, with the emotion and energy we spent on Friday, it was very tough for guys to find it on Saturday and obviously that showed in the result.”
The Bruins led 1-0 after the first on Dylan Smith’s first of two goals, but the Klippers scored three times in seven minutes in the middle frame to take control of the game.
Colby Daniels scored twice for Kindersley, with Travis Geislinger, Bradley Buckingham and Alex Laird adding singles.
“It felt like everybody was kind of in quicksand for that game. We couldn’t get our legs going,” Cassidy said of the loss in Kindersley. “It got out of hand in the second. Whether that’s mental fatigue or physical fatigue, at this point of the year, it’s disappointing for that to happen.”
Tyler Ross was in goal for the Bruins, who were outshot 31-20. Friday’s game in North Battleford was the one that got away. For the second time in less than a week, the Stars scored four times in the third period for a come-from-behind win over the Bruins.
And for the second time, Battlefords star Blake Tatchell played a crucial role in the rally, this time netting a hat trick along with an assist.
“The way Tatchell was playing in the third, he just hoisted that team up on his shoulders and found a way to get it done,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins led 3-0 after the first and 4-2 after the second. They went goal for goal with the Stars in the third, but Braeden Johnson shovelled a rebound past Bruins netminder Steven Glass with just four seconds remaining to force overtime.
“In the third, they took advantage on a couple of our mistakes but we answered right back. That showed some good character on our part,” said Cassidy.
“That tying goal, if you do it over again, it happens 100 different ways.
“Earlier in the year, we might not have handled it as well as we did at that particular point. The immediate thought wasn’t, ‘Woe is me, oh my God, here we go again.’”
Cassidy said his team played well in the scoreless overtime period, which he saw as “a sign of our guys maturing a bit in their ability to handle adversity.”
Neufeld was the only Bruin to score in the shootout, while Tatchell and Luhning scored for the Stars.
Matt Dochylo and Calder Neufeld led the Bruins with two goals apiece in regulation. Smith and Cole Olson had their other markers.
Kyle Hall and Robbie Newton had the other Battlefords goals. Shots on goal were 38-37 for the Stars.
Bruins forward Taylor Reich injured his shoulder in Friday’s game and is expected to be evaluated today.
On Thursday in Kindersley, Glass made his first start since suffering a knee injury Jan. 8 and posted his first SJHL shutout.
“He wasn’t tested too, too heavily in the first part of the game, but when he was called upon, he was there. He made the saves he needed to make and he made a couple of spectacular ones too,” Cassidy said of Glass.
The game was scoreless through 40 minutes, but the Bruins roared out of the gate in the third, scoring four goals in the first half of the period and outshooting the Klippers 22-11.
Dochylo scored twice, with Neufeld and Josh Jelinski potting the other Estevan tallies. Shots on goal were 38-31 for the Bruins.
“Once we got in a rhythm, we were playing good hockey, but we just didn’t put it in the back of the net. Just getting that first one, getting the ball rolling, the floodgates opened up a little bit,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins are back in action tonight when they host the Yorkton Terriers.