The Grand Forks Border Bruins can only go up from here. Two early January losses, first away to then-bottom team the Castlegar Rebels and then at home on Jan. 4 against the Columbia Valley Rockies, mean that the team now finds itself tied on points with Castlegar for last in the Neil Murdoch Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), having played two more games than its cross-Paulson rival.
Grand Forks grabbed an early lead in its Jan. 3 game in Castlegar against the Rebels, but let it slip away in the third period, when the opposition tallied four unanswered goals (one, hardly 30 seconds into the final frame and one on the power play with 10 seconds left in the game).
The next day, at home against the Rockies (who play in Invermere), the Border Bruins were outshot two to one and outscored four to nothing, conceding two goals in nine seconds near the end of the second period.
The first of the quick-fire pair came from a shot off goaltender Dillon Beebe’s post. Down and committed, Beebe couldn’t find his net before Rockies forward Gavin Fleck snapped in the rebound. Another unlucky bounce left the goaltender sprawling eight seconds later, when Zachery Dovichak lit the lamp again for the visitors.
Despite the Border Bruins’ loss, there were still two local winners at the game on Jan. 4. Two children scored on a tiny net with shots from centre ice, securing their families one-night stays at PV Ranch.
While at the bottom of their division, the Border Bruins are still seven points clear of the Osoyoos Coyotes, who are in a different league division.
Perhaps the one bright spot in the Border Bruins season is the surge of Slack, 17, who has whose coach wishes he had a few more Slacks on the roster too.
“We’d be pretty much top of the league,” Clewlow said. “With his ability, and the way he plays, he has the ability to change a game just by himself.”
Slack credits his line-mates for his first half success. They showed the Jasper, Alta, product how to play and it helped him adapt quickly.
Slack says playing in the CSSHL helped him adjust to the KIJHL, though the players aren’t as big. He realized he had to do everything faster and keep his feet moving.
His goal is to play in the B.C. Hockey League next season and has interested teams, meaning that the Border Bruins could lose his points as a result.
Clewlow loves Slack’s work ethic and skill level, as well as the desire to progress in his career. The way he works rubs off on teammates. “Just the way he battles,” Clewlow said. “You can see it in Elvis when something doesn’t go right. He just bears down and starts taking the body.”
The Border Bruins play next at home on Jan. 14, against the Nelson Leafs. The Leafs are currently second in the Neil Murdoch Division, 22 points ahead of Grand Forks.
– With files from KIJHL writer Emmanuel Sequeira