Chad Leslie's first two games as head coach of the Eagle Drilling Estevan Bruins didn't go exactly how he would have liked as the Bruins dropped a pair of home contests to the top two hockey clubs in the Bauer Conference.
The Melfort Mustangs shut down Estevan's offence on Saturday night at the Civic in a 3-1 win. The Bruins then hosted the La Ronge Ice Wolves on Sunday evening and came out on the losing end of a 3-2 overtime decision.
Estevan's power play continued to struggle, going 0/10 in the two contests; something Leslie said he wasn't able to address in the week leading up to his debut behind the bench.
"Unfortunately we didn't have time last week to work too much on our power play, but that will be addressed going forward," he said."
The Bruins came out strong in the first period on Saturday, but had a tough time finding the back of the net and the Mustangs opened up a 2-0 lead in the second period.
Estevan finally got on the board at the 7:26 mark of the third when Josh Jelinski banged home his fourth tally of the season to bring the home team within one. They weren't able to capitalize on the momentum however, and Devin Balness restored the Mustangs' two-goal lead six minutes later to give his team the 3-1 victory.
Shea Copper was in goal for the Bruins in the loss and played quite well making 30 saves, several of the acrobatic variety to keep the game close.
The Bruins fell behind once again on Sunday against La Ronge as Travis Eggum and Justin Ducharme found the back of the net behind Estevan goalie Joel Danyluk to make it 2-0 after the first period.
The Bruins picked up their play after the opening frame, and were able to tie the contest on the strength of goals by Ryan Ostertag in the second and Dominic Perrault early in the third.
After that, the goalies shut their respective doors and the game headed for overtime, where an ill-advised hooking penalty by Ryan Andersen came back to haunt the Bruins. The Wolves took advantage of some tired penalty killers and scored just six seconds after Andersen exited the box to win the game.
After the game, Leslie talked about the Bruins' lack of discipline throughout the weekend.
"It's disappointing really," he said. I" think (we) shot ourselves in the foot. I can handle a hard hit and trying to kill that, but when it's slashes in the back of the legs and behind the play and stuff like that, it's unacceptable."
Despite the two losses and the undisciplined play, Leslie said he did see lots of positives over the weekend. Their penalty kill was excellent, allowing just one goal in 11 shorthanded situations and that he says, is because the players are starting to buy into the system.
"I'm very pleased with our progression and it's a work in progress, but I think the guys believe in what we're doing," said Leslie. "Some things have changed and that's all we need is for guys to believe in what they're doing."
Another bright spot was the play of goaltenders Cooper and Danyluk. After Cooper's solid effort on Saturday night, Danyluk matched him on Sunday, making 30 saves against his old club.
"I'm extremely pleased with Coops' effort, he made a hell of a lot of good saves," Leslie said. "He had one that he wouldn't mind having back, but other than that and Dany did the job on his old mates; he was ready for the game, he was mentally prepared and going forward that's what we need out of both of them."
After the two losses over the weekend, the Bruins (18-17-3-2) remain in fourth place in the Sherwood Conference with 41 points; five behind third place Kindersley and six behind Weyburn, who occupies second spot.
It doesn't get any easier for the Bruins either as they host the first-place Yorkton Terriers tonight at the Civic at 7:30, and Leslie knows his team will need to bring their best effort.
"Definitely. Obviously for me, the first three games against one, two and three in the league is not really fun, but it's a measuring stick and I think that our guys measured-up (Sunday)," he said. "We didn't play in the first and we played two periods against the best in the north and I thought we bested them."