As the regular season winds down the Grand Forks Border Bruins still do not know who they will be playing in the first round of the playoffs. One win against the Castlegar Rebels last weekend would have clinched third place; however they lost both weekend games.
The Bruins play Castlegar again this Friday and the following night are set to close out the regular season against the fourth place Nelson Leafs – both games at home.
The Bruins are three points ahead of the Leafs in the standings and the Saturday game could decide who finishes third and fourth. The Leafs will play in Spokane on Friday – a loss there would clinch third for Grand Forks, even if the Bears lose to Castlegar on Friday.
Right now the chances of beating Castlegar, frankly, seem remote. Castlegar takes its name from a place in Ireland but there is no Irish luck in the team’s success against the Bruins. In the seven games the Bruins have come face to face with the Rebels this season, Grand Forks won the first but has lost the last six. The Rebels have scored 42 goals in the season series.
Last Friday in Castlegar the Bruins fell behind early. Late in the first period Trey Mason set up Dylan Haney, sending his team into the dressing room down by only a goal.
The second was one of the better periods in a while for the Bears as they came out with a sense of purpose, scoring five goals and heading into the final frame with a 6-3 lead.
This certainly was encouraging, but a team had to play hard for 60 minutes to win. The third period was all Castlegar, as they stunned the visitors with 3 goals in less than 5 minutes to tie the game.
The Bruins’ Chad Grambo took an undisciplined penalty and John Moeller of the Rebels tied it up on the ensuing power play. Then Moeller, the league’s leading scorer, fired home the winner to complete the comeback. Final score was 8-6.
What a collapse, as the Bruins stopped working after they had the lead. It is time for this team to show some character and a greater desire to win.
The following night on home ice we were looking for a bounce back performance from our home team. After a scoreless opening stanza the Rebels took a 1-0 lead early in the second period with a goal by Shawn Campbell. The turning point of this game occurred when the Rebels made it 2-0. They added a third goal before the period ended but by then it was apparent the Bruins were somewhat indifferent.
Dylan Haney, with his 24th goal of the year and defenceman Alex Leonidas, managed to beat Castlegar goalie Chandler Billinghurst, in the 6-2 loss.
There are many fans who feel the Border Bruins match up better against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, reasoning that they are more competitive against the team who will finish the season in first place in the Kootenay Conference and one win, or Osoyoos loss, will give Beaver Valley the KIJHL title.
That reasoning, on paper at least, does have some credibility. Grand Forks has beaten the Nitehawks twice and tied them once in eight games and one of the five losses was in overtime. Two other losses were by two goal margins. In one of those they were tied heading into the third and in the other, the Bruins held a two-goal lead after two periods.
So how do our local heroes confront this? Do they simply go through the motions in their final two home games this weekend, reasoning that the team might have a better chance against the conference champions from Fruitvale? Or, do they play as well as we know they’re capable of and show the hometown crowd that they can beat the Rebels? Prove it, guys.