The CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins have wrapped up a playoff spot, and they did it at the expense of their top rivals.
Estevan defeated the Kindersley Klippers 6-3 on February 17 to punch their ticket to the SJHL's post-season.
"This means that we have an opportunity," said head coach/GM Keith Cassidy. "Now that we're in, fourth place is still within our grasp."
With the win, the Bruins eliminated the Weyburn Red Wings from the playoffs. It's the first time since 1999 that Weyburn hasn't qualified for the post-season.
Estevan jumped on Kindersley early by scoring five times in the opening 23 minutes. Dylan Smith and Matt Brykaliuk scored in the first 3:13 of the game to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Connor Milligan and Wyatt Garagan extended the lead to 4-0 before the end of the frame.
"Especially against a team that was playing their third game in three nights, you want to get all over them right away," said Milligan.
Alex Cote scored 2:17 into the second to up the lead to 5-0.
Kindersley's Kyle Davies scored on a penalty shot late in the second to cut the lead to 5-1, but Cote restored the five-goal lead with a marker 90 seconds into the third period.
Beau Stewart and Bradley Buckingham scored in the third for Kindersley to make the score respectable.
The Bruins were shorthanded for most of the game's final 10 minutes.
"I'm proud of the fact that the guys are standing up for one another, defending their turf and playing with a bit of an edge," said Cassidy.
Estevan had a chance to clinch a playoff spot February 15 against Humboldt, but suffered a 3-2 loss. Alex Forsberg scored early in the first period for Humboldt, but Smith responded with two goals in a five-minute span to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Brandon Tidy tied the game for Humboldt in the second, and added the game-winner early in the third.
Curtis Martinu was in net for both games. He stopped 25 shots against the Broncos, and 19 versus Kindersley.
The Bruins are guaranteed to meet Kindersley in the first round of the playoffs in a best-of-five series, so the win over Kindersley was a much-needed one, after Kindersley bested Estevan in the previous four meetings between the two teams.
"I think we know deep down that we can beat these guys," said Cassidy. "Actually going out and doing it is certainly going to help our psyche going forward."
Milligan said that the victory was a big "message-sender."
"Hopefully we can keep it going into the playoffs," said Milligan.
Fourth place in the conference, and home ice advantage for the Estevan-Kindersley series, has yet to be determined. The Bruins (19-28-4) are fifth in the Sherwood with 42 points, which leaves them three behind the Klippers. The Bruins have three games remaining; the Klippers have two.
Estevan will host the Weyburn Red Wings on February 22, visit Weyburn on the 23rd, and host the Notre Dame Hounds on February 26 in the regular season finale.
The home game against Weyburn will be the Bruins' jersey auction night. The jerseys for the captain, alternate captains, local players and fan favourites will be sold during a live auction between periods; the jerseys for the other players are currently in an on-line silent auction.
Proceeds from the auction will be directed towards the new outdoor arena that will be constructed in the Kinsmen's Hillside Playpark.