The first-ever home game for the Estevan Eclipse Downhole Solutions U18 AAA Bears was a triumphant one.
The Bears scored four times in the opening nine minutes of the first period, and then hung on to defeat the Yorkton Maulers 4-3 Sunday afternoon at Affinity Place. It was the second win for the Bears (2-1-1) in 48 hours over the Maulers.
Ty Mason scored the Bears first-ever goal at Affinity Place 49 seconds into the first period. Less than four minutes later, he scored again to give the Bears a 2-0 advantage.
“It feels amazing (to get the first home goal),” said Mason, whose father, Willy, was a star for the Estevan Bruins junior club in the late 1990s and early 2000s. “Not very often that you hear about people scoring the first home goal in a franchise’s history.”
Blaze Gutzke tallied two minutes after Mason’s second to give the Bears a 3-0 lead, and force the Maulers to pull their goalie. It didn’t change much at first, as Hunter Kannok-Leipert scored 49 seconds after Gutzke for a 4-0 advantage.
“All of the boys were moving their feet and getting shots and banging bodies out there,” said Mason.
Head coach and general manager Jeff Smith said the players were nervous, but excited, and they came out flying for the home opener.
“They were riding high on the wave of being the first game at home, and playing in front of the parents and the billets and people like that, so they got to showcase to Estevan what they have to offer,” said Smith.
Yorkton chipped away at the lead, scoring with eight minutes left in the first to get on the board, and getting another goal midway through the second to pull within two.
It remained a 4-2 game until late in the third, when the Maulers scored for the final time. The Bears claimed the goal should have been disallowed due to goalie interference, but the referees stood by their call.
Jackson Miller stopped 32 shots for the victory.
“It’s good to get the first two wins, and especially the first win at home under our belt,” said Smith.
Estevan was supposed to have its first home game on Nov. 8 against the Swift Current Legionnaires, but that game was postponed due to a snowstorm that struck Saskatchewan that day.
“It’s nice to finally get a home game, and especially one that came down to the wire,” said Smith.
Mason said it was a great feeling to have the first two wins in franchise history.
“I think we played pretty good both games, and we played pretty hard both games to get those two wins,” said Mason.
The Bears have been improving at the little things with each passing game, Smith said, and they’re gaining confidence, too.
The Bears next home and home will be against the Notre Dame Hounds. They will visit the Hounds on Nov. 21 in Wilcox, and then host Notre Dame the following day at 2 p.m.