Whatever the Estevan Bruins did during the recent holiday break seems to have rejuvenated them as they have returned with a vengeance outscoring their opponents 27-5 in picking up four straight victories.
As a result, the Bruins are now in a playoff position and while they remain 15 points back of the Yorkton Terriers for first place in the Viterra Division standings that gap is somewhat slanted as Estevan holds eight games in hand on the front runners.
The Bruins will look to extend their streak on Friday when they host the Melville Millionaires and on Saturday they will try to pull even closer to Yorkton when they host the Terriers in a rematch from a statement victory earlier this week when Estevan cruised to a convincing 9-1 triumph in Yorkton.
The Bruins’ recent run has moved them past the Notre Dame Hounds and Kindersley Klippers into the eighth and final playoff spot, but there is little wiggle room in that battle as just seven points separates the bottom five teams in the overall standings with all five of those teams fighting to get the last spot for the post-season.
The impressive start to the stretch run not only has the Bruins moving past a couple of teams in the standings, but it also brings into view both the Humboldt Broncos and Nipawin Hawks who are just ahead of them in the playoff race. With three games in hand on both of those squads, Estevan can climb that ladder even further should they take advantage of those extra games.
Nipawin, however, has also returned from the break with renewed jump winning their last three contests including a 4-1 decision in the Battlefords against the league-leading North Stars on Wednesday. The Hawks, who are the two-time defending regular-season and Sherwood Division champions, will have their hands full this weekend as they take on the league’s hottest team when they face the La Ronge Ice Wolves in a home-and-home set.
The Ice Wolves have points in their last 10 games and have not suffered a regulation-time loss since the end of November. With 22 victories already this year the Ice Wolves have won more games than any other La Ronge team in the last five seasons, but they have also played more games than everyone else other than Yorkton so those behind them can still make up some ground.
Other games this weekend in a relatively light schedule see the Flin Flon Bombers hosting the Melfort Mustangs, Melville returns home after their Friday game against Estevan to take on Notre Dame and Humboldt entertains Kindersley in a rematch from Thursday’s contest when the Klippers picked up a crucial 5-2 decision over the Broncos.
Flin Flon and Melfort were to have played the first part of a home-and-home set earlier in the week, but that game was postponed due to poor weather conditions. There is just five points separating the Sherwood Division rivals and with La Ronge sandwiched between them this game can either bring some separation in the standings or tighten that division up even further.
SJHL NOTES – The Battlefords North Stars are idle for a week and despite their loss to Nipawin on Wednesday they are close to capturing their fifth straight Global Ag Risk Solutions Division banner as that number is now down to six following Humboldt’s loss in Kindersley on Thursday… It was a good news-bad news week for the Terriers as team captain Chantz Petruic reached the 50-goal plateau in just his 43rd game of the season, but the team also lost its No. 1 netminder when Ryan Ouellette decided to return to the United States. Ouellette, who began the year in the North American Hockey League, was 16-3-1-0 with the Terriers with a 2.19 goals-against average and a league-best .939 save percentage. The Colorado product was one of two Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League players named to the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Top Prospects game slated for Hamilton next week, but as a result of his departure his spot was forfeited and his replacement is rookie Ross Hawryluk of the Nipawin Hawks. The Terriers have dropped three straight since Ouellette left the team, which increases the intrigue in Estevan’s chase as a result of their recent run of success…Petruic’s lead in the individual scoring race is now 30 points and while his closest pursuers have as many as seven games in hand, it would take something extraordinary for the Yorkton captain not to win that title…Having scored 27 goals in their last four games it is not surprising that some players are enjoying lengthy consecutive-point streaks and Jayden Davis, Isaiah Thomas and Kade McMillen are three such players as the trio are entering this weekend on seven-game runs. Davis has 11 points, Thomas has 10 and McMillen has eight during their streaks while the longest current stretch is 11 games turned in by Flin Flon’s Cole Rafuse. With 24 points during his run Rafuse is second in the league in both goals with 29 and points with 66, but as mentioned before both are well back of Petruic, who had a 23-game consecutive-point streak earlier in the season when he put up a total of 52 points…Here’s an interesting stat: Yorkton and the Weyburn Red Wings have the best penalty-killing records on home ice yet both are at the bottom when killing off penalties while on the road. The difference is noticeable as Yorkton has allowed 17 more power-play goals against on the road in the same amount of shorthanded opportunities while Weyburn has yielded six extra power-play goals to opponents in almost 30 fewer shorthanded situations on the road.
La Ronge at Nipawin
Melville at Estevan
Melfort at Flin Flon
Nipawin at La Ronge
Notre Dame at Melville
Yorkton at Estevan
Kindersley at Humboldt