The Melville Millionaires have to wonder what could have been.
On opening weekend starting netminder Berk Berkeliev was injured in an ugly on-ice incident and ultimately sidelined for the next two months. During his absence the Millionaires struggled to a 3-13-2-1 record, which has put Melville in a difficult situation to claim a spot in the upcoming playoffs.
With Berkeliev in the net the Millionaires are 9-12-0-3 and had he not been sidelined it is very likely that Melville would have a much better chance of extending their season. As it stands the Millionaires are 14 points back of the eighth-place Estevan Bruins and with just 14 games left on the schedule that task appears to be quite daunting.
Regardless, Melville has seen significant growth in the 19-year-old Calgary product as last year as a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League rookie the 6-foot-1, 177-pound Berkeliev managed just four wins in 22 appearances posting a 4.06 goals-against average and .881 save percentage. This season those numbers are 2.68 and .930, among the best in the league.
The Millionaires knew they were getting something special when he arrived in Melville as prior to making the move east, Berkeliev capped a splendid midget career with a sparkling 2.16 GAA and .916 save percentage in 20 games with the Calgary Buffaloes of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League. The year before that, he was named the Hockey Calgary Midget AA Hockey League goaltender of the year after posting a 2.09 GAA and .922 save percentage in 20 games with the Calgary Rangers.
Berkeliev was instrumental in helping his teams win a pair of championships, in his final year of bantam hockey and again with the Rangers as a 16-year-old, so he has that experience to draw from. While time might be running out this year for the Millionaires, Berkeliev is the cornerstone for the team next season, but there is still a lot of hockey to be played yet and if he continues to perform as he has then anything can happen.