The CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins wrapped up the regular season on a positive note with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Notre Dame Hounds on February 27.
Dylan Smith scored the winner with a little more than a minute to play in overtime. Hudson Morrison, who set up the winning goal, finished with a goal and two assists. Wyatt Garagan and Leighton McLachlan also scored in the victory.
The win gave Estevan a little momentum entering their Sherwood Conference best-of-five survivor series against the Kindersley Klippers.
“I think it's more important than people think,” said Smith. “A lot of people just say it's a game that doesn't really matter (in the standings), but to me, it's pretty important.”
Estevan knew prior to the game that they would be finishing fifth in the conference. Any hope of catching Kindersley for fourth place, and seizing home ice advantage for the Survivor Series, was dashed in a 4-3 loss to the Weyburn Red Wings on February 23.
“Obviously this game didn't affect anything in terms of the standings, but you always want to finish positively, and that's what we focused on,” said Cassidy.
The Bruins finished the season with a 21-29-4 record, and 46 points. Kindersley (22-27-3-2) had 49 points.
Games 1 and 2 of the Survivor Series will be played in Kindersley on March 2 and 3, respectively. Game 3 will be March 5 in Estevan. Game 4, if necessary, will be on the 6th in Estevan. Game 5, also if necessary, will be March 7 in Kindersley.
Estevan won just two of six meetings against Kindersley this year.
“We need to be intense, confident, and to roll in there with some composure,” said Cassidy. “If we're able to do that, and play our game, we're going to be all right. It's a matter of feeling good about ourselves. Getting quick starts against Kindersley is certainly going to be a huge thing, and then backing that up for 60 minutes.”
Smith hopes that the Bruins' experience in the survivor series will pay off. This is the Bruins third straight year in the series, and Smith, Cole Olson and Calder Neufeld have played in all three. Several players are in the series for the second time.
“We can talk to the other guys and tell them what it's like … and how tiring it is,” said Smith.
Estevan swept Notre Dame in three straight games last year. Two years ago, they needed overtime in Game 5 to defeat the Melville Millionaires.
The winner of the survivor series will face the Yorkton Terriers in a conference semi-final.
The Bruins' other recent game was a 3-2 win over the Weyburn Red Wings on February 22. Weyburn led 2-0 in the second period, but the Bruins fought back with three unanswered goals.
Curtis Martinu was in goal in the win over Weyburn. Tyler Ross started in the second game against the Red Wings, and in the game against Notre Dame.
Ross was with the Bruins for the final two months of last season, but left the team to try out in the U.S. Hockey League. Cassidy said the Bruins contacted him about rejoining the team earlier this season, but he decided not to come. He recently changed his mind, and rejoined the Bruins for the final two games of the campaign.
“Tonight I thought he looked pretty sharp,” Cassidy said after the Notre Dame game. “He made some big saves for us, and he made the saves that he needed to make.”
Cassidy said Ross will serve as the Bruins' back-up in the playoffs.
The Bruins are as healthy as they can be entering the playoffs, Cassidy said, and they have everyone available for the series.
Notes: Garagan, Smith and Tyler Paslawski had the goals for Estevan in the win over Weyburn on the 22nd. McLachlan, Tanner Froese and Cole Olson scored in the loss on the 23rd…McLachlan shifted from defence to forward in the final two games of the season, and scoring in each contest. Cassidy said he's not sure if McLachlan will continue to play up front…Defencemen Edwin Hookenson and Carter Forsyth were called up from Swift Current's Midget AAA team for the Notre Dame game. Cassidy said a decision hasn't been made whether any Midget AAA players who missed the playoffs, such as Hookenson, a Lampman product who played a few games with the Bruins this year, will join the Bruins for the post-season.