The Estevan Bruins embarked on arguably the toughest portion of their schedule with some momentum.
The Bruins won back-to-back games on the weekend at Affinity Place, defeating the Notre Dame Hounds 6-2 on Friday night, and edging the Humboldt Broncos 6-5 in overtime Saturday night.
They were the final home games before the Bruins embark on a four games in five nights road trip to northern Saskatchewan. Also, 11 of the Black and Gold’s final 15 games this season are on the road.
In Friday night’s game, Jared Hamm scored a short-handed goal less than six minutes into the first period to give the Hounds a 1-0 lead. Brady Nicholas tied the game with less than six minutes remaining in the frame.
Markers by Troy Hamilton and Tyler Savage 1:42 apart in the final two minutes of the opening frame gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead through one.
Bruin forward Eddie Gallagher, who finished Friday’s game with a goal and three assists, was impressed with how his teammates responded after surrendering the early goal.
“I feel like that really shows how much we’ve matured over the course of the season,” said Gallagher. “We used to just sit on our heels during that and get down on ourselves, but we did a good job of … taking it to them.”
Notre Dame’s Sho Takai scored another short-handed goal eight minutes into the second to pull the Hounds to within one. It was the Hounds first shot on goal in the period, and gave the Hounds some life for the rest of the middle frame.
But goals by Cody Davis and Gallagher 3:05 apart in the first half of the third helped the Bruins pull away.
“My linemates and teammates did a good job of getting open, and they did a good job of finishing today,” said Gallagher.
The Hounds had a glimmer of hope in the final six minutes of the third when they had a two-man advantage for two minutes, but the Bruins penalty killing units and goaltender Keenan Rancier kept them at bay.
Dain Sardelli scored into an empty net in the final minute to finish the scoring.
Rancier stopped 32 shots for the victory.
Head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood said he thought the players did a good job of fighting through adversity.
“I think it was a testament to our talent and effort levels, and that’s what won this game today,” said Lewgood.
The players did a good job of coming back to pucks and turning pucks over, which allowed them to transition to offence.
The short-handed goals were a cause for concern, and Lewgood said they were due to the Bruins entry into the offensive zone with the man advantage.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do on the penalty kill, but we probably didn’t adjust to our inability to execute,” said Lewgood.
Saturday’s game saw Tanner Manz score 2:35 into overtime to lift the Bruins to the 6-5 victory over the Broncos. Estevan had leads of 4-2 late in the second period and 5-3 in the third, but the Broncos fought back, and forced overtime.
Sardelli scored 3:08 into the first period to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead, and Jayden Davis doubled the advantage with a goal about four minutes later.
Tristan Shewchuk and Spencer McHardy scored for the Broncos in the opening 2:06 of the second to tie the game. Kersey Reich’s goal three minutes after McHardy’s goal put the Bruins back in front, and it remained a 3-2 game until Cody Davis scored for the Bruins with 1:51 to play in the middle frame.
Just 48 seconds later, Reid Arnold scored for Humboldt to pull the Broncos back to within one.
Cody Davis notched his second of the game 5:47 into the third, but former Bruin Logan Foster scored moments later to pull the Broncos to within one, and Logan Kurki tied the game with seven minutes remaining in the third, setting the stage for Manz’s heroics.
Lewgood expected that it would be a much more offensive game than the Notre Dame contest.
Rancier made 34 saves for the Bruins, who improved their record to 21-18-3-1.
Estevan still holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the league’s overall standings, but they sit three points behind the Broncos for seventh. The Bruins have three games in hand.
The Bruins opened the road trip with a 4-3 loss to the Nipawin Hawks Tuesday night. Brady Nicholas scored twice for the Bruins and Dayton Deics also scored.
The Black and Gold will play the Flin Flon Bombers Wednesday, the La Ronge Ice Wolves Friday and the Melfort Mustangs Saturday.