It took Tyler Ross only four starts to do something the CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins had failed to do in nearly three years: get a shutout.
The unlikely milestone was achieved on Sunday when the Bruins blanked the Flin Flon Bombers 3-0 to win their second straight game and earn four points on their three-game weekend homestand.
The Bruins’ last shutout win came on Feb. 13, 2009, when they defeated the Kindersley Klippers 5-0.
Estevan had edged Flin Flon 4-2 in their first meeting on Saturday, one night after losing 6-4 to the La Ronge Ice Wolves.
With starter Steven Glass recovering from a knee injury, Ross played in all three games and was named the SJHL’s goalie of the week.
On Sunday, the Bruins got two goals from captain Josh Jelinski and an empty-netter from Michael Hengen to improve to the .500 mark.
It was the second game of the weekend in which the line of Jelinski, Matt Dochylo and Tyler Paslawski led the way on the scoresheet, with Dochylo scoring twice on Friday.
“Those guys work so hard and it’s nice when they get rewarded for that hard work,” said Bruins head coach Keith Cassidy. “A couple of huge goals by (Jelinski) and I think that line sort of sets the tone for us right now. Their energy and enthusiasm sort of permeates throughout the team.”
Jelinski opened the scoring at 8:20 of the first, jamming the puck past Bombers goalie Andy Desautels after it had banked off the end boards.
He added to the Bruins’ lead four minutes into the second, wristing a shot over Desautels’ glove on a 3-on-1 rush.
Jelinski said a tightened defensive game was a key reason for Sunday’s win.
“We’ve been working hard on D in practice and it’s nice to see it’s paying off. The biggest thing is we’ve been talking to each other out there on the ice and we’ve done a good job of staying focused in our own end and getting pucks out when we need to.”
Shots on goal were 38-30, with Flin Flon launching 18 shots at Ross in the third period.
Dominic Perrault returned Sunday after being a healthy scratch the previous night, as did Dylan Smith, who sat out Saturday’s game due to a combination of a minor injury and a poor outing on Friday.
“(Perrault) had a strong game. He kept it simple, took advantage of a couple of opportunities he had, he shot the puck and did everything that we expect him to do. Now what we expect him to do is keep it at that level and build on that,” said Cassidy.
Eric Baldwin and Tyler Paslawski both left the game with injuries.
On Saturday, meanwhile, Ross bounced back from a shaky Friday performance with a spectacular effort to help the Bruins snap a four-game losing skid.
Tanner Froese, Jelinski, Matt Brykaliuk and Cole Olson, into an empty net, scored for the Bruins. Jesse Mysiorek and Landon Hiebert replied for the Bombers.
Brykaliuk scored the winner at 1:42 of the third period, taking a drop pass from Calder Neufeld and ripping it past Devin Buffalo.
“When you can battle through and stick together and have the confidence to play in those tight games, and you get used to being able to do that, that’s going to go a lot farther than blowing teams out 9-1 or 8-2,” said Cassidy.
“As opposed to (Friday), we eliminated the mistakes that were extremely costly. I’m not saying we eliminated all of them, but we did a better job of, first of all, limiting them, and when we did make them, we did a real good job of covering for each other and helping out.”
Ross turned aside 33 of 35 shots for his first SJHL win.
“It was a strong bounce-back game for him. He could have been a little shaken (on Friday), but he came out, played like we saw him in Humboldt and he deserves a big pat on the back for what he put out,” said Cassidy.
Friday’s game against La Ronge was a different story for the Bruins and for Ross, who surrendered a goal to Franklin Cook from the red line midway through the second period.
“He made some fantastic saves, but there’s a couple that I’m sure are going to give him nightmares for a while,” said Cassidy. “He’s gotten stronger as he’s gone on here and I think we’re pretty comfortable having him back there.”
Pat Tran scored twice for the Ice Wolves, who also got goals from Marc-Andre Carre, Nathan Boyer and Skyler Hladun.
Brykaliuk and Olson replied for the Bruins, along with Dochylo’s two markers. Cook’s goal tied the game 3-3, and Nathan Boyer gave the Wolves the lead on a power play with 33 seconds remaining in the period.
After Tran’s second of the night made it 5-3 with under eight minutes to go, Olson drew the Bruins within one with 3:35 remaining.
Only 20 seconds later, though, Hladun would respond to widen the gap to two goals again.
Cassidy described it as “just a fantastic array of stupid mistakes by players that shouldn’t be making them.
“(Olson) scored a huge one. Then we go back and we make a stupid play trying to get the puck out of the zone, and then we follow it up with another stupid play by not picking up a guy in front of the net.”
The Jelinski line and another unit comprised of Taylor Reich, Derek Whitehill and Brykaliuk both shone for the Bruins on Friday.
“They’re not fancy, they’re not pretty, they’re not toe-dragging at the blueline on a 1-on-3, they’re just putting the puck in, they’re battling and getting the job done,” said Cassidy.
The Bruins will host Kindersley on Friday before getting a full week off. Glass could return to the lineup for that game.