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Brennan and MacPherson eyeing SJHL title

Former Bruins three wins away from unexpected championship

Four months ago the odds of seeing Liam Brennan and Colton MacPherson in the Credit Union Cup final could have been pegged at slim to none.

And slim, it appeared, was leaving the building.

Monday afternoon the two former Estevan Bruins sat three wins away from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship, their new team, the La Ronge Ice Wolves, tied 1-1 with the Yorkton Terriers in the best-of-seven final.

Results from Tuesday's Game 3 were unavailable at press time. Game 4 goes tonight in Yorkton.

"It's definitely surreal," Brennan said in an interview Monday. "I was just thinking that I would have probably been working for almost two months now if I was still with Estevan it's pretty crazy that I'm still playing hockey and it feels good."

Of course even after the Jan. 3 trade that sent Brennan and MacPherson to La Ronge after nearly 300 combined games as Bruins, making the final was no sure thing.

The Wolves were 6-6 in their first 12 games after the trade, and finished fourth in the Bauer Conference (seventh overall out of 12 teams), but showed signs of things to come as the playoffs drew near.

They went 5-1 in their final six regular season games, including two drubbings of the conference-leading Flin Flon Bombers to close out the schedule. They then knocked off the three-time defending league champion Humboldt Broncos, the Bombers, and the second-seeded Battlefords North Stars to reach the final, where they split the first two games with the Terriers.

"We're playing with a little more urgency and I think we're a team that's built for the playoffs," said Ice Wolves head coach Bob Beatty. "It's been a grind but we've got a lot of gutsy guys that have fought through some injuries.

"Everybody wants to win. These opportunities don't come around too often and we want to make the most of it."

Two of the more respected Bruins in recent years, MacPherson's and Brennan's contributions have gone far beyond the scoresheet according to Beatty.

Entering Tuesday's play Brennan had one goal and eight assists in 17 playoff games after averaging a point a game for La Ronge during the regular season. MacPherson had five points and 38 penalty minutes in the same 17 games.

"We wanted them because of their character," said Beatty. "Their two-way play, their physical play, their skill set, and their leadership. Macker was definitely a guy that everybody wanted, and we were pretty fortunate to get him. He's been playing great. He adds a lot of stability to our back end and some physical presence.

"Liam is the same. I think he's probably been one of the most underrated players in our league the last couple years and I've always liked the way he played and the way he competes. He's a great faceoff man, he's a great checker, he can score, he's physical, and he plays well down low."

Yorkton pulled out a 4-3 victory in Game 1 Friday, despite a three-point effort from Brennan.

Beatty shuffled the deck Saturday for Game 2, starting 19-year-old backup goalie Joel Danyluk in place of starter Adam Bartko, and came away with a 3-1 win.

"We weren't too happy with the way we played in Game 1," said Brennan. "We came out flat, we weren't ready to go, and we all know that. It was nothing too major, we just tried to play our physical game more in Game 2 I got no points but I felt I played just as good, if not better, than in Game 1."