Exhibition season is nearing an end in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, with regular-season play beginning on the weekend. The Border Bruins played four of their six exhibition games in the last week.
The Bears faced off against the Castlegar Rebels last Wednesday, Sept. 22.
The Bruins scored twice in the first period: Ray Warrack scored 16 minutes into the frame and Jackson Smith added another goal in the final minute with the Bruins’ first preseason powerplay. Jonah Smith added a third halfway through the third period.
Goalie Ethan Shebansky secured the Bruins’ shutout, making 30 saves. Castlegar gave roughly equal time to goaltenders Ethan Lawczynski and Ryder Graham, switching out midway through the second.
On Friday night, the first half of a home-and-home series played out at the Beaver Valley Arena. The Bruins opened the scoring six minutes in with a play from Ray Warrack to Jackson Smith. The Grand Forks squad extended their lead in the second when a clearing attempt passed Cooper Ross and found its way to Ben MacFarlane.
His shot into traffic led to a rebound planted by Jackson Smith. Early in the third period, the Hawks picked up the puck right after a faceoff, and a quick shot by Ethan Smyth from the far circle caught Harrison Tutt on the stick side. The lead extended again when Davis Hunter stole the puck from Spencer Dixon-Reusz, putting a quick shot into the Beaver Valley net behind Kyle Kooznetsoff. To finish things off, the Nitehawks managed a buzzer-beater with just over a second remaining in the game when a shot from Brennan Wilson behind the goal line deflected off Tutt into the Bruins net. The final score Friday night was 3-2 Bruins.
The second half of the series didn’t go as well for the Bruins, who tied the Hawks in a hard-fought battle at the Jack.
The Bruins had Justin Dueck in net, while the Nitehawks started Owen Albers. Both goaltenders performed well, holding the game scoreless well into the second period. Ray Warrack took a pass from Brydon Bell and was able to get Albers to over-commit on the right side, then a nifty dodge to the left gave Warrack a wide-open net.
The Bruins maintained their lead until midway through the third period, when Austin McLean found Hayden Stocks a stride ahead of the Bruins defence, giving Stocks an open shot at Dueck and catching him five-hole. Exhibition games can end in ties, and that’s what happened on Saturday: 1-1, with Grand Forks out-shooting Beaver Valley 34-31.
Head coach Dave Hnatiuk said he’ll be putting the Bruins through their paces as the team comes together.
“We’re a young team and we have a learning curve ahead,” he said postgame Saturday.
The Bruins’ final exhibition game was played against the Castlegar Rebels on Tuesday night, Sept. 28, after The Gazette went to press. The regular season for the Bruins starts Saturday, Oct. 2 in Fruitvale.
The bears’ regular-season home opener is the following week on Oct. 8 when the Rebels are back in town. Last Saturday’s game can be seen online with a subscription to HockeyTV.com.