Despite outshooting the Weyburn Red Wings for the third straight game, the CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins could not solve goaltender Mitch Kilgore and saw their season come to an end with a 3-1 loss to the Wings on Wednesday.
The Game 4 defeat completed a sweep at the hands of the rival Red Wings, who advance to face the Melville Millionaires in the Sherwood Conference final.
Jack Kennelly and Jesse Ross scored in the first period and Coltyn Sanderson added an empty netter to help the Wings wrap up the first series between the two teams since 1998.
“We had high hopes, obviously, for coming out and playing our hearts out and being able to take this series,” said Bruins head coach Keith Cassidy. “But they came prepared and ready for battle and with the exception of one game, they were all close games.”
Kilgore stopped 36 of 37 Estevan shots, including 18 saves in a second period dominated by the Bruins.
Matt Dochylo scored the team’s only goal of the game at 3:31 of the second, poking a Josh Jelinski rebound five-hole from the side of the net.
“When it comes down to it, I think Mitch Kilgore played solid right through this series and we couldn’t squeak anything by him,” said Dochylo, who returned to the lineup for Game 3 after missing four games with a head injury.
“Kilgore was rock solid on rebounds and traffic in front. We couldn’t even buy one if we wanted to. That part was tough to swallow and the empty netter was more or less a dagger in the back.”
Cassidy said it was “very, very frustrating” to see his team play some of their best hockey of the series in the second period, only to be stonewalled by Kilgore.
“We had some quality scoring chances and Kilgore made some saves that I have no idea … he’s going to have to watch the tape in order to see them,” Cassidy said.
“We saw, especially in that second period, guys doing everything they could for one another and unfortunately we couldn’t break through that wall.”
In the first period, Kennelly opened the scoring less than three minutes in when his wraparound ricocheted in off the skate of Bruins goalie Tyler Ross, who made his first start of the playoffs.
With one minute left in the period, Ross made it 2-0 when he walked into the slot and pinpointed a wrist shot into the top right corner. Shots on goal were 37-26 for the Bruins.
In Game 3 the previous night in Weyburn, the Bruins came out flying, outshooting the Wings 7-1 at one point in the first period, but they could not sustain that momentum in a 7-3 loss.
Cole Olson scored less than two minutes in to give the Bruins the lead, but the visitors’ fate would soon change.
“For the most part, I think we played well through that (first) 20 minutes except for making two horrendous errors that ended up in the back of our net,” said Cassidy.
At 14:26, Bruins goalie Steven Glass coughed up the puck, leading to a goal by Miguel Pereira. Another turnover three minutes later led to a Coltyn Sanderson marker to give the Wings the lead.
Jens Johnson and Kyle Oleniuk scored three minutes apart in the second period to make it 4-1 for Weyburn after 40 minutes.
Ross, Sanderson and Ryan Whitell added markers for the Wings in the third, with Tyler Paslawski and Olson countering for the Bruins.
Cassidy acknowledged that the ending of Game 1, where the Red Wings tied the game with 25 seconds left in regulation and then won it in overtime, was the turning point of the series.
“That first game, looking back, was probably the TSN turning point. That’s probably it right there.”
He also singled out the team’s lack of success on the power play as a key reason for the series loss.
The Bruins went just 1-for-22 with the man-advantage after being ranked first in the SJHL in the regular season.
“Our power play really hurt us. We went from being the top power play in the league all year long to basically a flameout here in the second round. It’s not for lack of getting opportunities because I think we got the puck to the net.”