The Estevan Bruins were 11 minutes away from sweeping their annual season-opening home-and-home series with the Melville Millionaires.
Then the wheels fell off, leaving the Bruins with three points instead of four.
Estevan squandered a 3-0 lead by surrendering three goals in the final 11 minutes of the third period, and then gave up the game-winning goal 11 seconds into overtime, in a 4-3 loss to Melville on September 20 at Spectra Place.
Captain Tanner Froese scored twice for the Bruins in the first period to give his team a 2-0 lead. Darcy DeRoose scored early in the third to up the lead to three.
Head coach/GM Chris Lewgood said he saw problems surfacing in the second period.
“We were taking stupid penalties and being on the wrong side of the puck and losing 50/50 battles,” said head coach/GM Chris Lewgood. “Luckily our penalty kill was good in the second.”
Matt Gibney stopped 35 shots in the loss.
“I thought he was awesome tonight,” said Lewgood. “He would have liked to have had that last one back, but I reminded the guys about the first period when he stopped a two-on-zero, and some of the other plays he made. If it weren't for Gibney, we wouldn't have been in overtime tonight. We would have lost in regulation.”
The night before, Estevan scored twice in the third to beat Melville 4-2 to open the SJHL season. Froese had two goals and two assists; DeRoose and Austin Daae also scored.
Gibney had 28 saves for the win.
Lewgood said that Froese has parlayed his effort from the off-season into the regular season.
“He was our most fit player in fitness testing, and the leadership was there right from the start, so we knew it would carry over onto the ice,” said Lewgood.
Froese, a 20-year-oid local product, said it's a pretty big honour to be wearing the captain's “C” for a team he grew up watching.
And he's feeling the pressure to elevate his game.
“I have a bigger role this year, and they're expecting a lot more from me,” said Froese. “My game has definitely stepped up.”
Special teams were also impressive in both games, Lewgood said. The power play scored four times in 10 opportunities between the two games, while the penalty killers allowed three goals on 12 Melville chances. They did kill off a two-man advantage for 1:45 in the second period in the game on September 20.
The Bruins played both games without forwards Wyatt Garagan and Lynnden Pastachak. Garagan is sidelined day-to-day; Pastachak will miss one to two weeks.
Estevan's next game is Tuesday night against the Melfort Mustangs. Game time is at 7:30 p.m.