Cody Laybolt Tips in the Opening Goal Against the Nitehawks. Photo courtesy Peter Kalasz (www.peterkalaszphotography.com)

Cody Laybolt Tips in the Opening Goal Against the Nitehawks. Photo courtesy Peter Kalasz (www.peterkalaszphotography.com)

Bruins Split Weekend at Home

Submitted by Kevin McKinnon

Grand Forks Border Bruins

Grand Forks, January 11, 2023 – The Border Bruins returned to KIJHL play after the winter break with a pair of home games, hosting the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Osoyoos Coyotes. The Bruins had a longer break than the divisional rivals who all played games the previous weekend.

The Nitehawks arrived with a depleted squad, with four players serving suspensions for getting caught up in a line brawl the weekend before in Nelson. As such, the Hawks had five affiliate players called up and in the lineup.

The pace of the game was rather quick, with both teams eager for the points in the tight race at the top of the Murdoch division standings. The first period saw no scoring, but the Bruins led the pressure with 24 shots on Hawks netminder Connor Stojan. The Nitehawks had just 6 shots against Ethan Shebansky.

In the second period, the Bruins went on the power play late in the period. Cody Laybolt won a faceoff in the Nitehawks end, getting the puck back to Carter Price at the point. He passed to Russell Kosec in the high slot, who fired a one-timer through traffic on Stojan. He made the save, but the puck rebounded to Laybolt, who scored his tenth of the season to give the Bruins the lead.

In the third period, Shebansky passed the puck to Jonah Smith deep in the Bruins end. Smith broke out, chipping the puck to himself off the board at the Bruins bench to get around the Nitehawks forecheckers – he skated the puck in deep, and his sharp-angle shot caught Stojan over the shoulder for his 15th goal of the season.

Before the game ended, Beau Manegre caught Shebansky from the right face-off circle to make the final score 2-1 with a home victory for the Bruins in front of an ecstatic crowd of 540 fans.

On Saturday night, the Bruins faced the #2 ranked team in the Ohlhaussen division when the Osoyoos Coyotes came to town. Although the Bruins face the Okanagan teams only once each season, the Bruins and Coyotes played a home-and-home series of exhibition games in the pre-season.

Again, the first period saw no scoring, with the Yotes outshooting the Bruins 21-12. The Coyotes picked up a pair of goals in the first half of the second period (Jack Henderson’s 17th of the season, and Ethan McKinley’s 21st), with the Osoyoos squad controlling the first half of the game.

The tide shifted in the latter part of the second period with the Bruins showing more of a presence on the ice – although there was no further scoring in the period, shots were much more even at 17 for Osoyoos and 13 for Grand Forks.

The Bruins dominated the third period, with Jonah Smith scoring on Rhett Harkot on a pass to the slot from the far boards by Spencer Horning and Cody Laybolt. The Bruins had an opportunity to tie the game with under three minutes remaining. Harkot only partially caught a shot, with the puck trickling behind him. Although the goal light went on momentarily, the puck in fact deflected off the base of the goal post and back out. The Bruins out-shot the Coyotes 17-5 in the period, but were unable to tie the game.

The Nelson Leafs picked up a couple of points on the road in the North Okanagan and sit 1 point behind the Bruins in the Murdoch Division. The Bruins will face Nelson twice in the coming weeks while the Nelson lineup is short players serving suspensions from the New Years Eve fracas against Beaver Valley.

The Bruins are on the road to Castlegar on Tuesday night to face the Rebels – a Bruins win would clinch a playoff spot for the Bears. Next weekend, the Nelson Leafs are in Grand Forks on Friday night and on the road to Fruitvale on Saturday night – all important divisional games this week.