It was the first game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in over a week, and the first since the April 6th bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that killed 16 people. It was game one of the Canalta Cup Finals between the Nipawin Hawks (the Broncos opponent in the previous round), and the Estevan Bruins who had only lost once in the first two rounds. You could feel the emotion in the building. The game in Nipawin began with a short pre-game ceremony that honoured the Broncos and the first responders to the crash. After that, it was time for hockey.
Estevan Bruins Beat Nipawin Hawks in Emotional Game 1 of SJHL Final
The game began with both teams playing fast and playing hard. The top-seeded Nipawin Hawks were the first ones to strike on the powerplay. SJHL Defenceman of the Year, Josh McDougall fired a slapshot passed Bruins netminder Bo Didur just four minutes into the game to make it 1-0.
The Hawks lead for a portion of the first frame, but the Bruins came storming back on a powerplay of their own. Kaelan Holt tipped on a Jake Heerspink shot that fooled Hawks goalie Declan Hobbs, and it was 1-1 after one.
In the second period, Nipawin once again got a goal four minutes in. Jordan Simoneau created a turnover in the Bruins zone, circled the left wing circle and found space to fire a slapshot passed Didur to give the Hawks the lead once again.
About eight minutes later, the Bruins cleared the puck into Hawks territory, and Hobbs came out of his net to play in the corner. The Saskatoon product fanned on the pass out of the zone and Jayden Davis slid the puck into the empty net to tie the game up.
Taking the Lead
Then, late in the second frame, the Bruins got an odd-man break. Jake Heerspink flipped the puck out of his own zone, right on to the stick of Arthur Miller. He slapped a shot passed Hobbs to give the Bruins their first lead of the evening.
In the third period, the Nipawin Hawks would press hard, looking for the tying marker. They ended up outshooting the Bruins 22-8 in the final frame, and 43-33 overall. The Hawks just could not solve Bo Didur. The Bruins would get empty net goals from Michael McChesney, and Zach Goberis to balloon the lead to 5-2.
The Bruins now lead the best of seven series 1-0, with game two going tonight (Sunday) back in Nipawin.
Main Photo by Mat Barrett for Last Word on Sports Inc. All Rights Reserved.