Old-time hockey brings Bruins fans to their feet

A hockey game broke out during the fights on Friday night.

The Estevan Power Dodge Bruins beat the Humboldt Broncos 7-4 at Affinity Place on Friday in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd who got a chance to see a game of old-time hockey marked by hard hits, highlight reel goals and six official fighting majors.

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“It's a fun game to play when it's like that,” said Bruins right wing Matt McNeil, who scored four goals and picked up one assist, a boarding minor and a 10-minute misconduct for a scuffle after a Bruins goal. “There is bitter blood between the teams. I don't know why, but tonight it was just rougher than usual and it was a great game to play with the atmosphere in the rink.”

It only took 52 seconds for McNeil to score his first of the night after a broken play in the Bruins zone allowed the high scoring forward to skate in alone on Broncos netminder Garrett Mason and wire a shot from the slot that found the low corner blocker side. Broncos left wing Hunter Gomercic tied the game just over 10 minutes later while on the power play with an attempted centering pass that deflected off a Bruins defenceman's skate and past goaltender Curtis Meger.

Bruins rearguard Josh Rieger scored the 2-1 marker with one second remaining in the first period firing a shot from the point through traffic and Mason's pads. Each of the teams spent a good deal of time travelling to the penalty box during the opening 20 minutes thanks to a number of questionable calls from the referee, which continued into the opening half of the second period before the bad blood spilled over.

“I think emotions amongst the players are the number one thing,” said Bruins head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood. “It's tough to manage those as an official and I think they could have been managed differently than it was, for sure.”

Broncos centre Brett Horn and McNeil exchanged markers during the first 15 minutes of the second period before Bruins defenceman Jake Heerspink scored his first Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) goal 15:36 in on a shot from the point that beat Mason who had yet to recover from a Bruins hard drive to the net moments earlier. McNeil and Bronco Tristen Elder began mixing things up during the goal celebration before Estevan's Levi Barnstable and Humboldt's Luke Kempf dropped the gloves shortly after the ensuing faceoff.

Bruins defenceman Mark Edmands and towering Broncos blueliner Stephen Wack got into a fight 32 seconds after the previous tilt leading the crowd into a fever pitch. The chippy play on the ice continued into the final frame with the Broncos skaters making it a point to interfere with the Bruins goalie at every available opportunity and the Bruins players continually chirping Mason.

The Broncos made hockey the main task at the 10:55 mark with Horn notching his second of the night on a deflection from the top of the crease bringing the score to 4-3.

“When they got within one, we had a little more intensity,” said McNeil. “We had to worry more about the game than the fights, so we just buckled down and played actual hockey.”

Jake Fletcher put the Black and Gold back in control scoring a shorthanded goal 16:07 into the third period by breaking up a Broncos play in the Bruins zone, driving the puck down the ice and skating cross crease in close on Mason before sliding the puck into the low corner just past his outstretched pad.

Horn replied less than 30 seconds later on the power play knocking in a loose puck from Meger’s crease that the goaltender couldn’t seem to smother. Bruins centre Jason Miller and Broncos defenceman Xavier Labelle finished off the fisticuffs shortly afterwards with each being accessed a fighting major against a dance partner who did not. With their goalie pulled, McNeil made sure the Broncos couldn’t notch the equalizer by potting two more of his own into an empty net.

The Bruins (27-13-0-1) win over the Broncos (23-18-0-1) started off their six-game home stand on the right note, but stronger opposition awaits. The Black and Gold will face the Nipawin Hawks (24-12-2-1) next at Affinity Place on Wednesday.

“Nipawin is one of the toughest teams to play against in the SJHL,” said Lewgood. “It’s a little more of a thinking man’s game against Nipawin, a little more of a patient game and grind it out. We’re going to have to make sure we work hard, win some one on one battles and play the game smart.”

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