The Border Bruins are making their first playoff appearance in 19 years after finishing third in the Neil Murdoch Division. The Bruins finished the last week of the season with a 5-4 overtime win over Castlegar at home on Feb. 16 and then followed that up with a 5-4 overtime loss also at home on Friday. Grand Forks was supposed to finish the season off at home Sunday with an afternoon game against Nelson but the Leafs defaulted due to not having enough players giving the Bruins the win.
The Bears ended the regular season just one game under .500 with 23 wins-24 losses-0 ties-5 overtime losses good for 51 points. The record gives the team the third place spot in the Neil Murdoch, 18 points behind their first round opponent the second place team from Castlegar (32-15-3-0-2).
By comparison, last season’s Border Bruins ended with eight wins and 40 losses for 20 points and fifth and last place in the Neil Murdoch 32 points behind fourth place Nelson. That marks a 31-point, 15-win improvement for the Bruins in one season.
Bruins head coach Emery Olauson said the team is playing well and working hard in practice preparing for the Rebels. “Really in the second half of the season we had one game that we weren’t happy with the effort,” he said. “We’re still a young team that’s made mistakes here and there. I think we’re happy at the right; I think we’re peaking at the right time. We’re going to give Castlegar all that we have and see where we stack up in a seven-game series.”
Olauson said that most of the players are new to play-offs but he expects them to get their feet (skates) under them quickly. “It’s a new process for this club,” he said. “We’re hoping that our hard work will pay off. We’ve been trying to preach play-off hockey in practice and we’ve been doing that all year.”
The best-of-seven series began last night in Castlegar (after press time) with the Rebels hosting. Game two is tonight also in Castlegar. The series comes to Grand Forks for games three and four on Friday and Saturday at Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. The series will then alternate between Castlegar, Grand Forks and then back to Castlegar for game seven if needed. Dates have not been secured for games 5-7 (if needed).
Bear bites –
Rookie forward Chad Grambo led the Bruins in scoring this season with 16 goals and 25 assists for 41 points. Dylan Haney finished second in team scoring with 20 goals and 37 points, one ahead of Trey Mason who had 10 goals and 36 points. Top scoring defenceman was Nico Sidoni with one goal and 15 points. Anthony Galliart was the top goalkeeper with a 3.31 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.