ESTEVAN — The Estevan Bruins will have a couple of familiar faces in goal when they start the 2022-23 regular season Friday night at Affinity Place against the Yorkton Terriers.
And it’s been rare that people have said that in the past 20 years.
Cam Hrdlicka is back for the second straight year, following a terrific rookie season. Serving as the back-up to Boston Bilous, Hrdlicka finished with an 18-1-1 record with a 1.79 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.
Since the start of the 2002-03 season, the Bruins have had just one goalie play at least two full seasons with the team: Nathan Alalouf in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The other goaltender who will start the season is rookie Jackson Miller, an Estevan hockey product who spent the last two seasons with the Estevan Steelhaus U18 AAA Bears. Miller cemented his spot on the team during training camp and the preseason.
He was also with the team during the playoffs and the Centennial Cup as an affiliate player.
Hrdlicka said the offseason was nice, although he was still on the ice a lot. He’s glad to be back in Estevan, playing hockey and seeing the fans.
Last season he was a walk-on who played his way onto the team. This year he is expected to be the No. 1 goalie.
“I’m a returnee, so I’ll have a bit more of a leadership role this year than last year. I came in thinking I still need to prove I deserve my spot, and I can’t just come in and not really try to think I deserve to be here,” said Hrdlicka.
He’s looking forward to the pressure of being a No. 1 goaltender.
There are a lot of new faces this season, but he thought the club played well in the preseason and there’re is a good defence in front of him.
“Defensively we will have a lot of good guys. I’ve seen offensively a lot of good returnees as well as some new faces that have done really well. I’m just excited to see what these guys can do.”
Hrdlicka said Miller is a great teammate, and they know each other fairly well after last season’s playoff run.
“Just watching him in training camp and preseason, he looks like he’s doing really well and stepped up his game a ton from last season.”
Miller said it’s a great accomplishment to make the team.
“I’ve looked forward to it since I was a kid, and I’ve pretty much just dreamt of it all my life,” said Miller.
He’s also the son of Bruins’ long-time assistant coach Aren Miller.
The younger Miller said he’s been told that this is a faster, harder level of hockey that requires a lot more dedication.
“That’s all you’re here for is to play hockey now, so it’s really the main focus instead of just being in school,” said Miller.
And he could see the difference when he watched the high-level hockey of last year’s playoffs. Miller believes it gave him a head start on other goalies.
Miller was the No. 1 goalie for the Bears last season and played a lot in the second half. He then played three times in four days during the preseason last week.
“I think they were pretty good. One was a bit shaky, but the Virden games were good, I think. I didn’t let in goals that I would have wanted back, so they were a good help to get me ready for the regular season.”
The team was particularly good in front of him in the final preseason game against Virden, as they blocked shots and didn’t give up many chances.