By Dave Leaderhouse
ESTEVAN RESUMES LENGTHY HOMESTAND AS HOTTEST TEAM IN THE SJHL
A couple of weeks ago it looked like top spot in the Viterra Division was going to be the most competitive battle with the Estevan Bruins and Weyburn Red Wings matching a win with a win and a loss with a loss while the other two divisions had some separation as the Flin Flon Bombers were comfortably in front in the Sherwood Division and the Humboldt Broncos had exploded out of the gate to grab not only the Finning Division lead, but the overall lead as well.
That has all changed, however, as the Bruins are now riding a seven-game winning streak to hold an eight-point bulge over Weyburn and they are also the top team in the entire league with an impressive 15-3-0-1 record. Flin Flon now finds themselves in a dead heat with the Nipawin Hawks and the Battlefords North Stars have also caught the Broncos. In fact, the North Stars can overtake Humboldt if they get past the La Ronge Ice Wolves on Friday and they can expand their lead with a win on Saturday when they host the Broncos at the North Battleford Civic Centre.
Estevan has not lost since Oct. 15 when they were crushed 10-3 by the Battlefords on home ice. Since then they have reeled off seven straight wins and they got a five-game homestand off to a good start on Tuesday when they blanked the Yorkton Terriers 5-0. The Bruins continue their lengthy stay at home this weekend with a Friday match against the Melville Millionaires and a Saturday date against the Kindersley Klippers.
During the current hot spell the Bruins have netted a staggering 40 goals for while allowing 25. That offensive outburst has the Bruins well ahead of any other team for goals scored with both Humboldt and the Battlefords a distant second with 77 each. Not surprisingly, then, Estevan has four of the top six scorers in the league with Lynnden Pastachak (12-15-27), Matt McNeil (11-15-26), Kaelen Holt (16-9-25) and Zach Goberis (6-19-25) all within striking distance of the leaders as Ben Duperreault of the Notre Dame Hounds leads the way with 29 points (12 goals and 17 assists)followed by Humboldt’s Chris Van Os-Shaw, who has 28 points including 15 goals.
While the Bruins have been on a roll, the Red Wings have backed off a bit losing four of their last six including their last two outings last weekend when they were winless up north with 4-2 and 2-0 setbacks in Flin Flon and Nipawin, respectively. Weyburn will be looking to get back on track this weekend when they entertain the Kindersley Klippers on Friday before heading to Yorkton on Saturday to face the Terriers.
The weekend schedule actually gets underway on Thursday with a pair of games when the Bombers travel to Melfort to face the struggling Mustangs and the Klippers kick off a grueling three-games-in-three-nights swing through the southeastern portion of the province with a stop in Wilcox to face the Notre Dame Hounds.
Flin Flon will be looking to keep pace with Nipawin in their game against Melfort while the Mustangs will be seeking their first win in six games as they are 0-3-1-1 in their last five. Kindersley and Notre Dame have both fallen well back of both the Broncos and North Stars in the Finning Division, but a win for either team will at least keep the frontrunners in their sights.
Nipawin has just the one game this weekend when they are home to the Ice Wolves to complete Saturday’s schedule. There are no games scheduled for Sunday.
Flin Flon at Melfort
Kindersley at Notre Dame
Battlefords at La Ronge
Melville at Estevan
Kindersley at Weyburn
Humboldt at Battlefords
Kindersley at Estevan
La Ronge at Nipawin
Weyburn at Yorkton