By Dave Leaderhouse
It is definitely going to be a fresh start for the Estevan Bruins.
After spending the better part of the last season and a half gearing up to be the host team for the hugely successful 2016 Crescent Point Place Western Canada Cup, the 2016-17 edition of the Bruins will be an almost total makeover.
Gone from last year’s club that finished second in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Viterra Division and who were winless in three starts at the WCC, are Jason Duret, Keaton Longpre, Keegan Allison, Darcy DeRoose, Owen LaClare, Tyson Predinchuk, Tyler King, Zach Douglas, Daniel Wapple and Braden Oleksyn, among others. DeRoose is off to the University of Calgary while King and Predinchuk will be teammates at the University of Regina. Wapple heads off to the University of Saskatchewan where he will vie for a spot on a goaltender-deep team that made it to the national tournament last spring.
Oleksyn was dealt to the Melville Millionaires in the off-season to complete a deal that brought Predinchuk to Estevan last January and the Bruins also moved Landon Gross to Olds for Nicholas Sutter who was then sent to Drayton Valley of the Alberta Junior Hockey League for Matt McNeill, Zach Sherburne and Jason Miller, all three of which Estevan head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood had high praise for following training camp.
“I’m excited about having a fresh group of players,” says Lewgood. “It’s a group that will learn together and grow together. It will be fun working with a new group.”
Two North Dakota products are also high on Lewgood’s list of recruits with Johnny Witzke looking to secure a spot on the blueline while Michael McChesney could provide some offense as the 18-year-old had 66 points in 24 games at Dickinson High School and another 13 points in eight games with the North Dakota under-18 team last year.
Among all the new faces will be Lynnden Pastachak, who will be returning for a fourth season with the Bruins. The Bienfait product had a huge year last season with 25 goals and 35 assists and his production and leadership will be heavily leaned on by Lewgood and his staff.
Also back is Kaelen Holt with the recently-turned 19-year-old having registered seven goals and 20 helpers in his rookie campaign last year and expected to see a majority of the action in goal will be 20-year-old Nathan Alalouf. In 15 games last year as a back-up to first Tyler Fuhr and then to Wapple later in the season, Alalouf had a 9-3-0-0 record with a 2.85 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.
“Our first couple of lines will be as good as anyone in the league,” assessed Lewgood. “We will have lots of offense.”
“Our defence will be young, but they will be a good group and in goal we will have Nathan Alaouf and two young guys,” added Lewgood.
Expectations were high for the Bruins last year and while there is no WCC carrot dangling in front of them this year, Lewgood enters his fourth season with the Bruins with the same expectations as any year and that is to win a championship.
Fans might need a program to get used to the new line-up, but it will certainly be one that will provide plenty of entertainment.