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Estevan Bruins return to the ice and impress at fall camp

Bruins held scrimmages and an intersquad game as they get ready for the 2023-24 SJHL season.
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Team Gold faced Team Black on Aug. 30 in the annual intersquad game for the Gerry Aspen Cup.

ESTEVAN - The Estevan Bruins returned to the ice at Affinity Place from Aug. 28-30 for the club's annual fall training camp.

Approximately 40 players attended the camp. They were divided into two teams and participated in two scrimmages a day on Aug. 28 and 29; rosters were tinkered with each day. Then camp wrapped up with the annual Black-Gold intersquad game on Aug. 30.

"I thought the pace was good," said head coach and GM Jason Tatarnic. "Fall camp's always a little nerve-wracking the first day. I thought some guys settled in, and overall, I'm happy with where we're at right now."

Team Gold trounced Team Black 8-1 to win the Gerry Aspen Cup. The trophy is named after Aspen, who was the Bruins' long-time trainer and the man who built the club's dressing room when Affinity Place opened in 2011.

"Unfortunately for the one team, both goalies had a day where they kind of struggled," said Tatarnic.

The returning players looked strong, he said. The veteran goalies played well, with second-year goaltender Jackson Miller posting a couple of shutouts and only allowing a few goals in five games. Third-year goalie Cam Hrdlicka also looked strong when he was on the ice.

All of the returning defencemen put in some work during the summer and Tatarnic could tell they had a year of experience. The forwards also had strong showings.

Forward Ilia Chmelevski was in the camp of the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. Tristan Dussault, a forward recently brought in from Quebec, suffered an injury before Bruin camp and won't be available for a couple of months.

They also have some other players at major junior camps and so the Bruins will see if they eventually come here.

Among the newcomers, Tatarnic was pleased with the group overall. Forward Brendan Hunchak played well for a guy who hadn't played since 2021, and scored a number of times. Defenceman Felix Allard, Liam Bell and Blake Heward had strong showings, too. All four will be 20 years old when the season starts.

"I think they'll grow and they'll become very good players," said Tatarnic.

The local contingent also did well. Tatarnic singled out forward Carter Hirsch, who played house league hockey last year. He received the call to attend camp due to injury and stepped in, scored a goal and provided size.

"That kid has some potential. He's going to have to put the work in," said Tatarnic.

The Bruins will be trimming their roster to between 20 and 25 players. They won't be carrying as many players as they did at the start of last season. Tatarnic said they will have some tough decisions to be made, especially since they have nine 20-year-olds and they can only carry eight.

They will have a preseason home and home with the Weyburn Red Wings, hosting Weyburn on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. and visiting the Wings the following night. Then Estevan will visit Manitoba's Virden Oil Kings on Sept. 10.

For coverage of the Bruins throughout the season, be sure to check out our provincial news hub at SaskToday.ca.