The CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins are in a hole after two games of their Sherwood Conference semifinal.
Entering Game 3 last night in Weyburn, the Red Wings held a 2-0 series lead after a 3-2 overtime victory on Friday and a 3-0 win on Sunday.
In the series opener Friday in Weyburn, the Bruins took the lead early in the third period and looked poised to win when Carter Struthers tied it with 25.6 seconds left. Miguel Pereira then won it for the Wings 47 seconds into overtime.
Weyburn followed that up with a strong effort Sunday, getting 33 saves from Mitch Kilgore in shutting down the Bruins’ attack.
Bruins head coach Keith Cassidy said his team is staying upbeat despite a wobbly start to the series.
“When you start looking at what the score in the series is, you’re done. Right now we’ve got to look at it one game at a time,” he said. “If we start thinking about the fact that it’s 2-0, that seems like a huge hill to climb, but it’s not. It’s one game at a time, you gotta win four to win the series and that’s why they play best out of seven.”
On Sunday, the Wings struck first midway through the first period when Keegan Bruce beat Bruins goalie Steven Glass to a loose puck at the right post and jammed it in.
At about the same time in the second period, Bruce hit SJHL scoring leader Jesse Ross with a long stretch pass for a breakaway, and Ross buried the puck behind Glass to give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.
Early in the third, the Bruins were given three power plays in a span of just under five minutes, but failed to convert.
“We had great movement on the power play, it generated great opportunities, but it didn’t net us any goals. Is there something wrong with the power play, other than that it’s not scoring goals? No, it’s working pretty well. But we’re just not putting the puck in the net on it,” said Cassidy.
He added that the failure to score on the power play was an extension of a bigger problem he saw in Sunday’s game — failing to capitalize on shots by going after rebounds.
“I think it’s a good example of the difference between shots and quality shots,” he said. “This is playoff hockey. I’ll tell you, Kilgore played a heck of a game and made some great stops. We just gotta have the determination that no matter what’s going on, that puck’s going to go in the back of the net.”
Wings forward Ryan Whitell eventually iced the game with an empty-netter with 1:22 left in regulation.
Shots on goal were 33-30 for the Bruins.
On Friday, it was the Red Wings who shot from all over and they took advantage with a stunning late comeback.
With the game tied after two periods, Calder Neufeld scored 1:58 into the third, flipping a glove side rebound past Kilgore.
The Bruins retreated into a shell for much of the rest of the period, with Glass standing on his head to hold off the Weyburn shooting gallery.
Just when it looked as if the Bruins would steal the first game in the Wings’ rink, Carter Struthers feathered a point shot through traffic and high on Glass to tie the game with 25.6 seconds left.
And the Wings didn’t need long to end it. After a scoring chance in the slot, the puck ricocheted into the right corner, where Pereira scooped it up, walked out alone and tucked a backhander between Glass’s pads to win it at the 47-second mark.
Cassidy said he was disappointed that Struthers’ shot got to the net.
"A lot of the shots (were) coming from the perimeter, which is where we want them to shoot from. That’s not taking anything away from Steven Glass, because he made all the saves and he was phenomenal for us,” Cassidy said.
“But we gotta learn how to get in front of some of those shots. If there’s one glaring disappointment for me this year, it’s our inability to block shots. It cost us (Friday) and it’s cost us before.”
He also wasn’t happy that the Bruins largely stopped pressing for more goals in the third.
“We’re not supposed to change our game. Those guys know that, we know that … You can’t do that because all you’re doing is waiting for something else to happen,” Cassidy continued. “I want us to know for 60 minutes that we play the same game.”
Still, he said there was a significant positive to be taken out of the game, in that the Bruins were less than 30 seconds away from a road victory to start the series.
“The fact that we pushed this team to the limit in their own rink, (we should) carry that as a positive.”
Shots on goal were 44-27 for the Red Wings.
Injured right winger Eric Baldwin returned to the lineup for the two weekend games, while the status of left wingers Matt Dochylo and Taylor Reich for Tuesday’s game was uncertain.
Game 4 of the series goes tonight at Spectra Place.