The Highway 39 rivalry is alive and well. After three heated battles in as many days, the Eagle Drilling Estevan Bruins and Weyburn Red Wings made it very clear that they do not like each other.
The two hockey clubs engaged in a trio of heated contests over the weekend, and the Wings were able to win both games in Estevan on Friday and Sunday to take two of the three affairs.
The three-game set kicked off on Friday night at the Civic Auditorium, where the Red Wings scored four third period markers to down the Bruins 7-3. Estevan played well for the first half of the game, but fell behind in the second period and could not recover.
Dylan Smith, Cole Olsen and Cole Gibson provided the Bruins offence, while Shea Cooper took the loss in goal. He was pulled in favour of Joel Danyluk in the third period after Weyburn's fifth goal of the game and fourth in less than seven minutes of hockey.
Estevan put forth a much better effort on Saturday afternoon in Weyburn and were able to skate away with a 6-2 victory. With many of their fans in attendance at Crescent Point Place, the Bruins received scoring from six different players, and notched three power play goals including two late in the third period to upend the hometown Red Wings.
Smith, Calder Neufeld, Bed Findlay, Ryan Andersen, Tyler Spencer and Mark Cross each found the back of the net for Estevan on Saturday in a game that saw a spirited bout between Ty Ariss of the Bruins and Lucas Ulmer of the Wings. Both combatants landed several big punches as they tried to spark their respective teams; little did they know their fight would be a sign of things to come in the rubber match on Sunday evening.
With several Weyburn fans in the stands at the Civic on Sunday, the Red Wings received stellar goaltending from Mitch Kilgore and were able to get by the Bruins 5-1 with Ryan Ostertag accounting for the home team's only goal.
The main story of the game however, was not the final score but the aggressive and heated atmosphere both on the ice and in the crowd. The two hockey clubs combined for seven fighting majors and 195 minutes in penalties. There were also several verbal confrontations between fans of the opposing clubs as well as between fans and players.
After the game, Bruins former coach Karry Biette said the game can turn out that way sometimes, especially when you meet the same opponent three days in a row. He also commented on some of the Red Wings' players actions during the game on Sunday.
"We're playing hockey, it's not badminton," he said. "If you want to lip-off, fighting's allowed; if you don't want to fight, then I guess you shouldn't lip-off. All I heard from the crowd behind me from Weyburn was 'Have some class.' To me class and balls go hand-in-hand, it's hockey and fighting is allowed."
As for dropping two of three to the Wings, Biette didn't think the Bruins played all that bad.
"I thought we played well (Saturday) night, and for 30 minutes Friday night we were the better team, but (Sunday) it was one of those ones where we ran into a hot goalie and put 19 shots on him in the second period and it didn't go in," he said. "When you work that hard, it gets awful frustrating."
Estevan (18-16-2-2) has a pair of home games this weekend with Melfort in town on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. before La Ronge visits the Civic on Sunday at 6 p.m. They will be without forward Ryan Andersen for the game versus Melfort as he has been suspended for one game for engaging in a second fight during the same stoppage against Weyburn on Sunday night.
The two contests will be Chad Leslie's first as the Bruins' new head coach.