CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins head coach/GM Keith Cassidy was pleased with his team's efforts during their most recent northern road trip, but once again, they came away without a victory.
Estevan lost 3-1 to the Nipawin Hawks on January 18, and 2-1 in overtime to the Melfort Mustangs the following night. It's the third time this season that the club has gone winless up north.
The game against Nipawin was a good, playoff-style game in which the Bruins skated pretty evenly with the Hawks, Cassidy said. His only quibble was that he wanted the players take the puck to the net a little harder.
“The next night in Melfort, I couldn't have asked for a better start from our hockey club, but unfortunately we ran into a pretty hot goaltender,” said Cassidy. “Although we did get one point out of it, we should have had both.”
Estevan was outshooting Melfort 12-2 at one point in the first period, but trailed 1-0. The Bruins had shots advantages of 14-4 in the third, when they tied the game, and 5-2 in overtime. Melfort scored the game winner with a minute remaining in the extra frame.
Dylan Smith scored for Estevan in both games. Curtis Martinu was in goal each night.
The Bruins will play their next six games, and 10 of their final 14 contests, on home ice.
“When we set up the schedule, we wanted to backload it that way, basically because we didn't want to have any home games in December,” said Cassidy. “Hopefully, towards that playoff run, having some home games is going a big advantage to us.”
The first three games on the home stand are January 25 against the Flin Flon Bombers, January 26 against the Battlefords North Stars and January 30 against the Notre Dame Hounds.
As long as the team approaches the home games properly, Cassidy believes they should be in good shape at home.
Forward Calder Neufeld is getting closer to returning. Neufeld has to improve his mobility and strength in the injured tendon, Cassidy said, since it's unlikely that Neufeld will reinjure the tendon.
The Bruins occupy the fifth and final playoff spot in the Sherwood Conference with a 14-23-3 record, and 31 points. They sit three points ahead of the Weyburn Red Wings, but Weyburn has a game in hand. The Bruins are six behind fourth place Kindersley, and the Bruins have a game in hand on the Klippers.
Smith was named the SJHL's Player of the Week for January 14 to 20. Smith was in on all six goals that the Bruins scored during that stretch. He had a goal and three assists January 15 against Notre Dame, and he scored once in each game on the road trip.