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Border Bruins playoff season ends with game 6 loss

Junior A team wraps best season in 25 years
The Bruins season ended on Saturday night as the Nitehawks advance to the conference finals. Photo: Steve Piccolo

The most successful Border Bruins season in over 25 years came to an end on Saturday night when the Beaver Valley Nitehawks collected their fourth win of the seven-game series.

As reported last week, games one and two were played the previous weekend in Fruitvale, and saw the divisional opponents split the series, with the Bruins victorious on Friday night in game 1 and the Nitehawks taking the win in game two the following evening.

The series came to Grand Forks for games three and four. On Monday night, the Nitehawks were 2-in-8 on the power play, with a goal in the first period from Kaleb Percival and another in the third from Joel Smyth. The Hawks had another goal at even-strength in the third by Adam Redding. The Bruins, outshot 34-29 in the game, were unable to solve Fruitvale netminder Connor Stojan who stopped all 29 Bruins shots.

On Wednesday night, the Bruins gave up an early power play goal to the Hawks when Lohgan Nimmo scored 5:30 into the game. Theo Naidu evened the score five minutes later to tie the game at the first intermission.

Logan McCabe put the Bruins ahead early in the second period, but Connor Drake evened the score again ten minutes later, and the game remained tied after forty minutes. Bruins scoring continued midway through the third when Keanan Pearman beat Stojan, and the game ended with a Bruins win and the series tied 2-2. All three Bruins goals were the first post-season goals for the players.

Game five returned to Fruitvale last Friday night, and the first two periods saw no goals scored with great work by both Ethan Shebansky and Connor Stojan. In the third period, Tim Josza scored for the Nitehawks at 4:55, and Joel Smyth added a goal of his own at 16:02. Fifty seconds later, on the power play Josza added another to finish the Bruins off 3-0.

With elimination on the line, the series returned to the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena on Saturday night, where a capacity crowd of 720 were in attendance. The game got off to a shaky start for the Bruins just 2:23 into the game. Although credited to Nitehawk Boris Hristov, the Nitehawks first goal of the night was in fact deflected into the net off a Bruins stick. Overlapping Bruins penalties at 6:18 and 6:57 gave the Nitehawks a 5-on-3 power play and they made the most of it with a goal scored by Adam Redding to give the Hawks the lead 2-0 at the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Chad Bates scored a power play goal for the Bruins, their first with the man-advantage in the six-game series, and the Bruins looked poised to make a comeback down by just one goal at the second intermission.

Although the shots in the third period were even at 11 apiece, Beaver Valley scored three times (Simm, Hristov, Clement) and the Bruins couldn’t solve Stojan, giving the Nitehawks the series with their fourth win.

The Bruins last trip to the second round of the playoffs was in the 2015-16 season, when the Nitehawks swept the series 4-0. This season’s finish was the best playoff run the Bruins have seen in over 25 years and shows the significant improvement made over the past three seasons.

Captain Ray Warrack and starting goaltender Ethan Shebansky played their last junior hockey game on Saturday night, as both 20-year-olds age out of the league at the end of the season. While many of the other teams in the KIJHL carried up to six 20-year-olds on their roster and face a bigger hurdle rebuilding during the off-season, the Bruins are in a position to start the next season with plenty of veteran players already familiar with the team’s strategies and systems.

We congratulate all the players who have made Grand Forks their home for the past six months, for a fantastic season of hockey that was appreciated by local hockey fans throughout the season. On behalf of the team, we would also like to thank the sponsors and fans for supporting the Bruins through the season.

Just two-and-a-half weeks from now, the Bruins will be holding their Spring Camp, with recruitment and planning for next season already on the calendar. The camp will be held at the Jack from April 5-7, with a weekend schedule to be announced in the next week or so.