The Estevan Bruins had the most explosive offense during the regular season and that trend has continued in the playoffs, but during the Bruins’ run to the Canalta Cup final series they have received some additional scoring from an unlikely source.
Tanner Manz, who turned 19 in January, had just seven goals in 55 regular-season games, but so far, in nine post-season tilts, the 6-foot-0, 171-pound forward has scored five times to be among the team leaders in that category.
The product of Southey, Sask., has also set up a pair of markers during the Bruins’ playoff run giving him almost half as many points as he produced during a full slate of games during the regular campaign. Manz finished his first season with the Bruins with seven goals and eight assists, but he has obviously amped up his play during the post-season as Estevan looks to win its first league title since 1998-99, the last time they reached the league championship series.
Manz came to the Bruins after three solid seasons with the Moose Jaw Generals of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. In 127 regular-season games with the Generals, he only missed five games during his entire stint in Moose Jaw, Manz provided depth scoring with 26 tallies and 40 assists. He is following a similar role with the Bruins.
Manz’s ability to produce should not come as a complete surprise as he averaged more than a point-per-game in his final season of bantam hockey collecting 47 points on 15 goals and 32 helpers in just 31 games with the Balgonie Prairie Storm.
The circumstances are obviously a lot different as play resumes in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, but Manz has helped put the Bruins in a position to claim a championship and with two more years of eligibility remaining he is making a case to take on more responsibilities in the future.
It took a move to Nipawin early in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season before 19-year-old Gage Misskey scored a goal at the Junior “A” level and since joining the Hawks the veteran defenceman has not only done that, but he has provided strong leadership on a team looking for its first league championship in nearly 30 years.
Misskey, who hails from nearby Melfort, was acquired from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drumheller Dragons in mid-October and in 47 games with the Hawks the 5-foot-10, 158-pound rearguard registered two goals and six assists. He has nearly matched those totals in just nine post-season contests as Misskey has scored once and set up five others.
After three seasons with the Swift Current Legionnaires of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, where he amassed 46 points in 130 games and served as team captain during his final season at that level, Misskey moved west to Drumheller.
His one and only full season with the Dragons saw Misskey play in 54 games and register nine assists, but he also racked up 150 minutes in penalties providing the team with some grit on the back end. Misskey, who was selected as an alternate captain at the start of this year with Drumheller, had two more helpers in 10 games before being moved to Nipawin for a player development fee.
His grit and character has followed him to the Hawks as not only did he provide leadership with his new squad, but he continued to be a physical presence as evidenced by his 76 minutes in penalties during the regular season.
A lot of the players have connections to Humboldt having played with some of the Broncos at various levels in the past, but Misskey’s connection is even deeper as he played one season of bantam hockey in that community picking up three goals and three assists in 24 games during the 2011-12 campaign.
The Hawks have had a season to remember winning both the Sherwood Division and regular-season banners and they would like to cap it off with a Canalta Cup championship. Misskey will likely play a big role should Nipawin have a favourable outcome in their series against Estevan.
As the Nipawin Hawks get set for their Canalta Cup Final series against Estevan, they've been riding the hot hand of 20-year-old forward Brandan Arnold. After 60-points in just 43 regular season games, Arnold has racked up 9-goals and 14-points in 9-games. He's had four multi-point games in those nine, including a four point effort (1g-3a) in his first outing against Flin Flon in Game 1, and then two goals and an assist, including the winner in triple overtime against Humboldt on April 4th. The Hawks host Games 1 & 2 of the Canalta Cup Final April 14th and 15th.
With a lot of high-profile scorers in the Estevan Bruins' forward group, it's been fair to say that Jake Fletcher has flown under the radar during his three year career. He was obviously noticed by Chris Lewgood and the Bruins' coaching staff however, as he was given the captaincy for his 20-year-old campaign. Fletcher had a career-high 23-goals and 62-points this season, and through nine games in these playoffs, Fletcher has led the Bruins to an 8-1 record, with a team-high 8-goals, while his 13-points has him one back of teammate Michael McChesney as they get set to kick off the Canalta Cup Final in Nipawin.
16 people tragically lost their lives in the Humboldt Broncos' bus crash the evening of Saturday, April 6th, 2018. Among them, was Broncos' Assistant Coach Mark Cross, a Strasbourg, SK product who had just wrapped up a fantastic junior and university playing career, and a budding coaching star. Cross played three seasons with the Estevan Bruins, playing 166 games between 2008-2011, putting up 38-goals and 89-points. He then furthered his hockey and academics at York University in Ontario for five full seasons, where he had 47-points in 137 CIS (USPORTS) games. Cross played a season of senior hockey with his hometown Strasbourg Maroons last season (17GP-16g-23a-39p) while he coached AA Midget in Lumsden/Bethune, before joining Darcy Haugan's staff in Humboldt this season.