ESTEVAN - The Estevan Bruins have been rewarded for their strong start to the season.
The Bruins are ranked second overall in the country in the first Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings of the 2021-22 season. The rankings were released Monday afternoon.
The Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League are the top team in Canada. The Bruins are the only Saskatchewan team to crack the rankings.
Estevan will host the 2022 Centennial Cup national Junior A hockey championship from May 20-29, 2022.
The Bruins improved their record to 3-0 Saturday with a 6-3 win over the Weyburn Red Wings in Weyburn's home opener.
Estevan scored four times in the first period to chase Red Wings star goaltender Joseph Young from the net.
Caelan Fitzpatrick scored the first two goals of the game, including one while the Bruins were short-handed. Antoine St. Onge and Kade Runke also scored in the opening frame.
Runke’s goal was his first as a Bruin, after he was assigned to the Bruins by the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League on Sept. 28.
“I thought we had a really good first period,” said Estevan Bruins head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic. “We came out strong and we capitalized on our chances. We did some little things really well that period, and when you’re playing against a good hockey team, you have to be sharp.”
Weyburn’s Braden Birnie scored the lone goal of the second period to get the Wings on the board, but goals by Mark Rumsey and Brandon Ambrozik in the third gave the Bruins a 6-1 advantage and dashed any hopes of a Red Wings comeback.
Davis Chorney and Dante Ballarin rounded out the scoring for Weyburn.
Boston Bilous stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced for the Bruins. Young made nine saves in the first period for Weyburn, and Dazza Mitchell made 12 stops over the final 40 minutes.
Weyburn is a hard-working, physical team that plays with pace to their game, Tatarnic said. They have good goaltending, but the Bruins found a way to score.
“It’s always nice to capitalize on your chances. We took advantage of an odd-man rush on the penalty kill, and we were able to capitalize on a two-on-one. It was a pretty big goal in the game.”
Runke brought what the team expected. The Bruins watched him on video on a number of occasions last season when he was in Moose Jaw and playing in the WHL East Division bubble.
The Bruins are now in Warman for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Showcase. They will play the La Ronge Ice Wolves Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., and the Humboldt Broncos Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m.
“You have the opportunity to showcase your abilities. It’s an important event for some of our players who are looking for opportunities to play at the next level, whether it be the NCAA (in the U.S.) or the CIS (in Canada),” said Tatarnic. “It’s an important two games for them to showcase their skills, and a lot of eyes will be watching them, be it live or on video.”
He’s not sure how many scouts will be in attendance due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
“If they’re not there in person, they’re going to be watching it online. So either way, there’s going to be eyes on our players. You still have to perform,” said Tatarnic.
Estevan will then host Weyburn on Oct. 8. Game time is at 7:30 p.m.