ESTEVAN - The Estevan Bruins opened the 2021-22 regular season with a couple of one-goal victories over the Yorkton Terriers.
Friday’s game saw the Bruins win 2-1 at Affinity Place, and then they edged Yorkton 4-3 Saturday in Yorkton.
Antoine St. Onge scored the first goal of the season for the Bruins eight minutes into Friday’s game. From there, the Bruins had plenty of opportunities to score, but couldn’t double the advantage.
Estevan continued their dominance in the second period, outshooting Yorkton 18-6, but the score remained 1-0 after 40 minutes.
Early in the third period, Caelan Fitzpatrick redirected Nolan Jones’ point shot on a power play to give the Bruins the 2-0 advantage, and it remained a two-goal lead until four minutes remained in the third, when Yorkton’s Karsten Kruska finished off a scoring opportunity, generated by a great rush by linemate Carson Henry.
Yorkton had several chances to tie the game, but they were turned away by Bruin goaltender Boston Bilous, who finished with 25 saves on the night.
Jacob Herman stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced for Yorkton.
Bilous said it was great to return to game play, for both the players and the fans. It didn’t take long for him to get into the flow of the game.
“It’s weird the first minute or so, but we’ve been in training camp for a month, and we’ve been practising hard, so we’re all ready in here. It definitely is different in a game situation,” said Bilous.
If there was rust, he didn’t show it, as he made an impressive pad save in the final minute of the first period to keep the Bruins in the lead, and then had some clutch stops after Yorkton scored.
The team did a good job of keeping the shooting lanes clear, he said.
“Our team knows they did a lot of good things. I think we know we can fix up a few things as well.”
Head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic said the Yorkton goalie made some nice saves. It was a similar story to early in the preseason, when the Bruins had chances but couldn’t convert.
“We have to capitalize on our chances. We had some posts and missed some opportunities. At some point some of those things have to start going in,” said Tatarnic.
It was the first time since March 2020 that the Bruins played a regular season or playoff game without restrictions for capacity. The announced crowd Friday night was 842, although the league’s website reported 1,068 spectators.
In Saturday’s game, the Bruins’ line of Mark Rumsey, Brandon Ambrozik and Griffin Asham-Moroz combined for seven points, as the Bruins spoiled Yorkton’s home opener.
Maddux Nollski’s goal with 7:16 to play in the opening period gave the Terriers a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Asham-Moroz scored 11 seconds into the second period to tie the game, and Ambrozik tallied with less than three minutes to play in the second to give the Bruins their first lead of the night.
Rumsey scored short-handed 55 seconds into the third period to double the Bruins’ advantage, but Clay Sleeva responded with a Yorkton power play goal 30 seconds later.
Rumsey notched a power play goal 91 seconds after Sleeva’s tally to restore the Bruins’ two-goal lead, and it remained a 4-2 game until late in the third, when Kruska scored.
Bilous stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced for the Bruins, while Herman stopped 12 shots for Yorkton.
Thanks to his performances against Yorkton, Bilous was named the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's Goaltender of the Week for the opening weekend of the season.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Bruins announced that forward Eric Houk had been selected as the team’s captain. Houk missed Friday and Saturday’s game due to injury.
“He’s been an assistant captain for a few years now in the Western Hockey League. He’s a very mature kid. He speaks well. His communication skills are great,” said Tatarnic. “He has a good pulse of what’s going on in the dressing room.”
Dayton Deics, Jones and Rumsey will be the alternate captains. There were a number of other players who would have been worthy selections, Tatarnic said, making for some tough decisions for the team’s staff.
Deics is in his third season with the Bruins. Houk did play three games with the Bruins in the 2018 playoffs, and Jones played five games with the Bruins for last year’s abbreviated season.
The Bruins next game is slated to be against the Melville Millionaires on Oct. 1. Melville’s opening weekend games against the Weyburn Red Wings were postponed due to COVID-19 associated with the Millionaires organization. Then the Bruins will visit the Red Wings on Oct. 2.
The Bruins’ have signed Kade Runke (’02) off the roster of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. Runke spent the last two seasons with the Warriors, putting up three goals and six points in 70 games played. Runke previously played with the Eastman Selects U18 AAA program in Manitoba, where he tallied 23 goals and 63 points in 48 games.
“We are very happy to add Kade Runke to our group as he will add speed and skill to our lineup. Kade can play centre or wing so it gives us depth in both positions. He’s a strong kid that we believe will do very well at our level and we look forward to inserting him into our lineup this weekend,” said Bruins head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic.
Runke has joined the Bruins at practice and is expected to play this weekend.