Two straight losses have diminished the Estevan Bruins' hopes of grabbing one of the top six seeds in the SJHL playoffs.
Estevan lost 4-1 to the Battlefords North Stars on February 21, and 4-3 in a shootout to the Melville Millionaires on February 25.
The setbacks leave the Bruins with a 26-19-3-6 record, and 61 points. They sit three back of the sixth-seeded Humboldt Broncos; both teams have two games remaining. Humboldt owns the tie-breakers, so if the Broncos get one more point, they clinch the sixth seed.
The top six teams receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs, while the next four teams play in a best-of-five survivor series. Estevan can finish no worse than seventh, so they would face the 10th seed; as of Lifestyles print time, that would be the Weyburn Red Wings.
Estevan will finish the season with a home-and-home against the Red Wings, too. The two teams meet February 28 in Estevan at 7:30 p.m., and the following night in Weyburn.
Humboldt, meanwhile, finishes the regular season with home games March 1 against the Yorkton Terriers and March 2 against the Notre Dame Hounds.
"I don't expect it (to get the sixth seed), but I certainly know that we're going to work our butts off to try to get it," said head coach-GM Chris Lewgood.
The Bruins struggled to generate offence against the Battlefords, as they mustered only 19 shots on goal. Eight came in the first period. Brady Anderson, who has been a regular junior B call-up for the Bruins this season, had the only goal – his first in the SJHL.
Anderson's goal briefly tied the game at 1-1, but the Battlefords restored the lead five minutes later. The North Stars then dashed any hope of a Bruin comeback with two third period goals.
Matt Gibney made 30 saves in the loss.
"It was good to see Brady get a goal," said Lewgood. "He's played really well for us in his games. He's played eight now … and he's given us a very consistent effort, he tends to buzz around the net and create opportunities, and it was good to see him finally cash in on one."
Estevan fell behind 3-0 early in the second period against Melville; the Mills' second and third goals came in a 13-second span of the second period.
But Cory Kosloski and Austin Daae scored 79 seconds apart in the second to bring Estevan to within a goal, and Lynnden Pastachak scored the tying goal with less than five minutes to play in the third.
"I was proud of the work ethic," said Lewgood. "In Melville, with a strong team like that, most teams mentally check out once the score goes to 3-0, but we know better about our guys. They're going to dig in, and they did that tonight."
The Bruins had chances to win in overtime on a 4-on-3 power play, but couldn't convert, so the game went to a shootout. Melville scored the only goal in the penalty shot competition.
Gibney made 33 saves in the loss.
"I think we played 64 solid minutes of hockey, but that one-minute stretch there (in the second period) cost us the game," said Lewgood.
The Bruins played both games without injured forwards Keaton Longpre and Ben Johnstone. Longpre remains sidelined indefinitely, but Lewgood is optimistic that Johnstone could be ready to play in the final games of the regular season against Weyburn.