The Bienfait Coalers senior hockey team honoured the memory of former teammate Dustin Pratt before their Big Six Hockey League season opener against the Midale Mustangs at Bienfait Memorial Arena last Friday.
With players from the Coalers and Mustangs lined up on either blue line, members of Dustin's family were invited to centre ice where Dustin's girlfriend Christine Meszaros dropped the puck during a ceremonial faceoff between Mustangs captain Joshua Gustafson and Coalers captain Kyle Garagan. Each of the Coalers then skated to the emotional family members to shake their hand, offer a hug and express their love for Pratt who passed away in a workplace accident on Aug. 22.
“It means a lot to us,” said Dustin's mother Roxane Pratt. “I know that Dustin really loved the Coalers and we're very grateful for their support.”
Roxanne said Dustin played off and on for the Coalers for the past 10 years. She noted their family is very thankful that the Coalers would honour his memory by holding the pre-game ceremony and also retiring his #77 sweater, which has been placed in a display case outside the team's dressing room.
“The last three (seasons) I played with him,” said Garagan. “We won two championships and last year we lost in the final, so he's a big part of our team.”
The Coalers came out flying once the game started against the Mustangs with Keegan Malaryk having a glorious chance to put the home side up three minutes in on a shot to the top corner of Derek Tendler's net that the goaltender just got a blocker on. Coaler Dylan Lay made good on his chance 6:04 in to put the home side up 1-0 early with Payden Benning following suit less than six minutes later by taping in a cross-crease feed from Riley Tetreault.
Mustang Garrett Sherlock brought his team to within one late in the first period popping a Bradley Tomiski rebound over Coalers goalie Jackson Walliser. Cole Siostrand tied the game at two 11:33 into the middle frame, which seemed to wake up the Coalers slumbering offence that fired back 33 seconds later on a Tetreault deflection of a Dylan Herzberg shot that was heading just wide of the Mustangs net.
“We let up for a couple shifts there,” said Garagan. “Usually for the last few years our guys are pretty resilient, so we're always trying to get one back as soon as we get scored on.”
The Coalers got their two-goal lead back with just over a minute remaining in the second period when Herzberg drove to the net from the corner, dragged the puck across the crease and tucked it in five hole on Tendler. Tetreault made it 5-2 six minutes into the final stanza while on a two-on-one break with Matt Bourassa, which Dallas Kickley followed up seven minutes later before Tetreault finished off the scoring with his hat-trick marker late in the third.
“Everyone knew we wanted to try and win it for Dustin, so that was the main goal,” said Garagan. “We said we'd come out on top for him and that's all tonight was about. Pretty much for the rest of the year, that's what the year's going to be about.”