The new-look Estevan Westmoreland Coal peewee AA Bruins shook off their opening-night jitters with a 2-2 tie against the Weyburn Youngfellow Wings at Affinity Place on Sunday.
Aren Miller, head coach of the Bruins, said the seven minor penalties they took while trying to find their place in the game were too many for this level of hockey and if that happened later in the season against a dialed-in Wings power play they’d be in trouble. He said a cause of the infractions may have been the kids’ nerves as only six of their players have seen action at the South Saskatchewan Minor Hockey League peewee AA level before.
“We haven’t been able to practise in Affinity either,” said Miller. “We were in the Civic (Auditorium), so the big ice was a change and just the atmosphere of being at Affinity is an eye opener for some of these younger kids. Now that we’ve got that out of the way hopefully we’ll be better next time we’re here.”
Bruins rookie forward Kaden Chrest got the team off to a solid start wiring a backhand from the slot low glove side on Wings goalie Dylan Ernst 1:06 into the game, but Weyburn battled back with Ty Boren evening the score with 53 seconds remaining in the first period on a chip over Bruins netminder Jackson Miller who had gone down to try and corral the puck at the top of his crease.
The Wings took the lead 17 minutes into the second period on a shot from near the bottom of the faceoff circle by Ty Mason that beat Miller glove side. Chrest tied the game 5:39 into the third period on a short-handed breakaway where he fired a shot low that Ernst seemed to stop only to watch it trickle in behind him.
Miller said the Bruins only have one returnee on defence this season, but they played well against the Wings and with some more practice and time to get used to each other will be a solid group. He said each of the forward lines should be able to score this season with the pairing of veterans Keagan Merriman, Mason Kukura and Boden Dukart being counted upon to light the lamp and rookies such as Carson Birnie, Ty Hoste and Chrest expected to step up.
“I don’t think we’re going to win too many games 10-9,” he said. “We’re going to win these games 4-2 and take care of our own end first and the one thing I thought we could have done a lot better tonight was shoot the puck more. After two periods we only had 20 shots on net and for this level that’s just not good enough. We’ve got some kids who can shoot the puck. They just need to realize they got to use it more.”
The Bruins will have two weeks to come together before their next game against the Moose Jaw Warriors on Oct. 15. The team will return to Affinity Place for their annual home tournament on Oct. 21 to 23.
“We’ve got some time off here, but probably the biggest thing for me going forward is our compete level,” said Miller. “The guys got to realize there are no easy games at this level and every team is going to be ready to go and if we’re not going to be ready to compete for 60 minutes we’re going to have a rough go.”