A pair of wins over the weekend both at home and on the road have moved the Border Bruins back into first place in the Neil Murdoch division.
On Friday night, the Bruins travelled to Fruitvale for their third match against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks this season. The first period was evenly matched with 15 shots each and just a single penalty to the Hawks. Hunter Hansen had the lone goal of the period, catching the Bruins on a 3-on-2 rush and faking a pass before chipping the puck over Ethan Shebansky’s right shoulder. With about two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second period, Jace Koole picked up the puck on the left wall of the Nitehawks’ zone and flipped it across to Levi Astill in the slot for a tip-in past Connor Stojan.
The Bruins came out strong at the start of the third period, with a power play goal short-side from Chad Bates less than two minutes in, followed by Levi Astill’s second of the night about a minute-and-a-half later. The final score was 3-1, and the Bruins have the edge in the season series with Beaver Valley, 2-1 with three more matches ahead.
The first of two meetings against the Kimberley Dynamiters followed on Saturday night. The Dynamiters, coming off a 3-2 win in Spokane the night before, were in second place in the Eddie Mountain division, a point behind the Columbia Valley Rockies.
Like the night before, where the scoring started late in the first period, it was over 16 minutes in when Nate Tillmanns poked the puck out of the Bruins zone past a Kimberley defender, carried it across the opponent’s blue line, and snapped a quick shot from the hash marks blocker-side past netminder Matt Fleet.
The Nitros took advantage of a power play opportunity early in the second period, where their top-scorer Tristan Weill added another to his total with a shot from almost the same place as Tillmanns’ the previous period. The game remained tied for a little over ten minutes, although a Bruins goal by Ben Edwards was waived off after Tyler Burke was pushed into Fleet. The sting of the disallowed goal motivated the Bruins. At 12:15, the Bruins went on a power play of their own. Carter Price passed the puck from the right side over to Tyler Burke at the left point. He sent the puck across to JP Desabrais at the right hash marks for a one-timer that beat Fleet to retake the lead.
In the third period, Weill had the puck knocked away from him at center ice, where Ray Warrack took possession and carried the puck into the Kimberley end. He played the puck to Luke Nottveit, who backhanded it into the Dynamiters’ crease. Jace Koole cut in, kicking the puck from behind him onto his stick, where he found the open side to pick up his sixth goal of the season. Two minutes later, while playing 4-on-4, the Bruins made the most of an odd deflection. On a shot from the point by Tillmanns, the puck was deflected off Chad Bates’ stick up over Fleet. Fleet reached back for it, but he glanced over his left shoulder to see the puck hit the crossbar. It rebounded to the crease on his right side, where Bates had moved to plant the puck in on the open side to make the game 4-1.
The Bruins were clearly able to get under the skin of the Dynamiters, drawing more penalties than they took, 79 minutes to 36 through the game. Last season, the Bruins split the series with Kimberley with each team winning their home game. Their next meeting won’t be until February 9th at the Kimberley Civic Centre.
While this wasn’t the first weekend the Bruins picked up four out of four points, coach Dave Hnatiuk said after the game that this might have been the most important weekend yet, given that both opponents sit high in the standings. Prior to the game, several Bruins players recalled last year’s game in Kimberley and spoke of the importance of a solid performance.
The Bruins play Thursday and Friday this week on the road, visiting Nelson on Thursday and then taking on the Kelowna Chiefs on Friday. The next home game for the Bruins will be the last before the holiday break, Saturday Dec. 16 against the Nelson Leafs. That’ll be the last chance to Pack the Jack and cheer on the Bruins until after the New Year, so plan your holiday events to keep the evening of the 16th free for Border Bruins hockey!