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Bruins ready to face Bombers in the first round

The Estevan Bruins will begin the 2022-23 SJHL postseason the same way they finished last season’s playoffs: by playing the Flin Flon Bombers.
The Estevan Bruins will face the Flin Flon Bombers for the second straight season. Last year the Bruins beat the Bombers in the SJHL final.

ESTEVAN — The Estevan Bruins will begin the 2022-23 SJHL postseason the same way they finished last season’s playoffs: by playing the Flin Flon Bombers.

Fans of the Black and Gold are hoping this series will finish the same way the last one did: with a Bruins’ victory.

The Bruins defeated the Bombers in seven games in the 2022 SJHL final to win their first championship since 1999. Estevan was the top-ranked team in last year’s playoffs, while the Bombers were the fifth seed. This time Flin Flon is the third-ranked team, while the Bruins are seeded sixth.

The series begins with games March 17 and 18 in Flin Flon, Man. Games 3 and 4 would be March 21 and 22, respectively, in Estevan. Game 5, if necessary, would be March 24 in Flin Flon, followed by Game 6 two nights later in Estevan and Game 7 March 28 in Flin Flon.

“I think there are people around the league who are pretty excited about it. For us, come playoff time, you play who you have to play, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Bruins’ head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic.

The Bruins were focused on their own spot in the standings late in the season. They didn’t wrap up the Viterra Division title until last Wednesday, and know they would be the sixth seed until Friday night.

Tatarnic said there are enough players from last year’s series on both sides who remember how intense the seven-game battle was, and how tough it was to win in the other opponent’s rink. The home team won all seven games in that showdown.

“Players who participated in that final have some memories of that series. For us, we have to focus on us and what it’s going to take to be successful. We’re different teams than we were last year. They have some things that they do very well, in their rink and on the road, so there’s some things that we have to pay attention to,” said Tatarnic.

It will help that they had a couple games in Flin Flon in late January as opposed to October.

“I think for teams that can black out the noise or all the stuff outside of the ice surface, it will be beneficial for them. Who knows what kinds of crowds we’re going to get in both rinks. I think we’ve established a pretty good rivalry. We created a rival from last year and I think it’s carried over to this year. The games will be intense and they will be games that will be competitive,” said Tatarnic.

And it will help to have players who were part of last year’s championship team. Goaltender Cam Hrdlicka, defenceman Aleksa Babic, and forwards Kade Runke, Cody Davis, Mitch Kohner and Keagon Little were on the Bruins’ roster. Goaltender Jackson Miller was an affiliate player for the 2022 postseason.

“I say it all the time: ‘You don’t know what it takes to win until you win.’ Our guys know that feeling, they know what they sacrificed. Flin Flon took it to Game 7 and they were really close. They know what it takes to get that far. Those players have that experience on their roster.”

Tatarnic hopes to see great crowds in Estevan for Games 3 and 4.

“I know our fans played a big part in our run last year, so our guys really benefit from it, and it does play a part in how our team does perform.”

The Bombers won three of the four matchups with the Bruins this season. Estevan took the first meeting 8-6 in Estevan in October. The Bombers won the next two, 5-1 and 3-1, in Flin Flon in January. Then the Bombers won 7-6 in overtime in Estevan in February – a game the Bombers led 5-2 at one point.

As for player health, Tatarnic didn’t rule out anyone from playing in Game 1. That being said, there are a few players who are day to day.


The Bruins dropped a 5-4 decision to the Melville Millionaires last Wednesday at Affinity Place.

Tucker Buhay, who spent his last two seasons of U18 hockey playing with the Estevan Steelhaus AAA Bears, had a hat trick for Melville, including two in the first period as Melville led 4-0 after 20 minutes. Isaac Suppin also scored twice.

“We have to figure out how to start on time here pretty quick,” said Tatarnic. “If we don’t start on time in Flin Flon, it will be pretty tough to come back against that team.”

Runkie scored early in the second for the Bruins, but Buhay picked up his third of the night 30 seconds later. Little scored a short-handed goal 1:41 after Buhay’s hat trick marker, and Tim Tychonick pulled Estevan to within two before the period was out.

Ilia Chmelevski scored late in the third for Estevan to finish the scoring. Most of the final frame was spent in the Mills’ end, but Estevan only scored once.

Hrdlicka allowed Melville’s first three goals along with their fifth goal. He finished with 15 saves on the night. Miller stopped nine of the 10 shots he faced in the first period.

Buhay’s performance came on a night in which his former Bears’ teammate, Carter Onrait of Estevan, was making his SJHL debut for the Bruins. Onrait, 17, has spent the past two seasons with the Bears and has one more year of eligibility remaining at the AAA level.

“Carter did all right,” said Tatarnic. “He’s a guy who’s in our plans at some point, unless he makes the Western Hockey League.”

The Bruins clinched the division title that night despite the loss, as Weyburn lost at the Humboldt Broncos.

Estevan was supposed to be wrapping up the regular season Saturday night with a game at the Weyburn Red Wings, but that contest was postponed until Monday night due to the blizzard that hit southeast Saskatchewan.

Follow for a recap of the game.

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