What a difference a week makes. Heading into the weekend Grand Forks was cruising along near the top of the standings.
Two losses and the Bruins have dropped to third place behind Nelson and Beaver Valley. The Bears lost 6-3 in an inter-divisional game on Friday in Creston Valley. Back home the next night they were shutout 6-0 by the Castlegar Rebels.
Both games had a similar pattern where the Bruins stayed close for two periods, and then things fell apart for them in the third. Against the Thunder Cats on Friday they fell behind 1-0 but tied the game when Hunter Harrison scored his first goal of the season.
Jordan Robertson gave Grand Forks the lead with a second period goal. Creston scored before the end of the period, nevertheless the Bears, entering the final frame tied, were very much in this game.
Alas, Creston outscored the Bruins 4-1 in the final stanza with Harrison’s second goal the only offence his team could produce. The team needs to overcome these third period swoons.
Saturday night at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena in Grand Forks was quite a night for the 400 fans in attendance. The game was delayed over an hour as no on ice officials were present. The person who assigns the referees and linesmen for all KIJHL games overlooked the Grand Forks v.s. Castlegar game!
Eventually a referee and two linesmen, all from the local area, were summoned and the game began.
Leading up to this game I scanned the Bruins upcoming schedule, and concluded this whole season will come down to the 21 games remaining against Castlegar, Nelson and Beaver Valley.
One of the most popular television shows produced in Canada is Murdoch Mysteries. The mystery the Grand Forks hockey team must quickly solve is how they are going to defeat these Murdoch Division rivals.
On Saturday after a scoreless first period Everett Hicks notched two quick goals in the last three minutes of the second, and Castlegar carried that lead into the third period. The Bruins never recovered, falling apart completely while giving up four goals in a defeating 6-0 loss.
A topic often debated in sports is that defence wins championships. We could discuss this for a long time, but if there is any accuracy in it the Bruins are in trouble.
Offensively they remain one of the top four teams in the 20 team league with 59 goals; comparing their Goals Against record to date with their Murdoch division opponents is another story.
Nelson and Beaver Valley each have allowed 28 goals while Castlegar is close behind at 36. Grand Forks’ total is 54. The message here is clear: the Border Bruins must keep the puck out of the net! The team currently has three goalkeepers on the roster, all playing reasonably well, so you really cannot fault the goalies.
Is it the system they are playing? Are the players not committed to playing defence or are they simply not talented enough?
During the second period of the 6-0 loss on Saturday, Alex Skinner was one of the players on the ice for Grand Forks while they were killing a penalty. He was outstanding. Skinner’s hustle, hard work, tireless skating and checking were a glimpse of what is missing.
Someone once said, “Play every shift as if it were your last.”
Remember, if you are not playing your heart out, someone else is, and when you meet him, he will win.
My observation at this point of the season is that the Bruins are a good hockey team, even better than the past two years when they finally made the playoffs after 19 long seasons.
During the game on Saturday someone tripped the alarm at the arena; a little unnerving, but perhaps a subtle message to the team!
The Bruins’ next home game is this coming Saturday at 7 p.m. against Columbia Valley Rockies.