The Yorkton Harvest couldn’t have gotten off to a better start to the season following sweeping the Swift Current Legionnaires in back-to-back home games on the weekend.
“We said we wanted to get off to a good start this year and what better way than to win two games here,” said Harvest head coach Dan Cross. “I’m really happy with the how the guys came out ready to play.”
In hockey where confidence is everything, the victories could ultimately boost the Harvest to an early season winning streak. But since it’s tough to say whether the Legionnaires are a strong or soft team this early in the season, the wins can’t be viewed as too much of a telling point of what to expect from Yorkton this year.
“Over half of every team’s lineup is different from year to year, so we don’t know what to expect,” said Cross. “We just have to play hard and go into the games confident, but not overly that confident that we underestimate teams.”
Despite letting a goal in just 39 seconds into the game, the Harvest stormed back to beat the Legionnaires 5-1 on Saturday at Farrell Agencies Arena.
Blueliner Turner Ottenbreit led the Harvest offense in the opening frame by notching the first goal and setting up Tanner Jeannot for the second.
Following a Chase McKersie marker in the second, Brennan Watson and team captain Corwin Stevely wrapped up the game’s scoring with late third-period goals.
Carson Bogdan stopped 28 of 29 shots in the Harvest’s blue paint.
Late period Ottenbreit goals ultimately led the Harvest 4-3 over the Legionnaires in the second contest on Sunday.
“We don’t want to give up those goals, but it’s great to score them,” said Cross. “It gives the guys some momentum heading into the next period and it can really hurt the other team, too.”
Down 1-0 in the first, Ottenbreit scored his first goal on the night from a slick Watson pass to tie the contest up with just two seconds left on the clock.
After exchanging markers in the first 10 minutes of the second, Ottenbreit struck twice by lighting the lamp with only three seconds left in the frame.
Tyler Kreklewich scored his first as a Harvest on the power play just four minutes into the third period to give Yorkton a two-goal cushion.
Swift Current’s Conner Odelein scored in the final three minutes of the final frame, but it turned out to be too little too late.
Bogdan turned away 20 of 23 shots in his second consecutive game.
Overall, Cross was happy with his team as a whole throughout the matches.
“It was a great effort. I thought it was a solid team effort,” he said. “I thought we played better today than we played yesterday (Saturday) even though the score was more in our favour yesterday. I guess that’s a tribute to Swift Current playing better today.”
All signs point to Saskatoon Blades prospect Turner Ottenbreit asserting himself as a star in his sophomore season. He played a strong two-way game with some swagger, netting three goals and six points along the way.
“He had an incredible weekend,” said Cross. “He just loves to play hockey and he’s having a great time out there. (He was) by far our best defenceman this weekend. He’s going to have a good this year.”
Jeannot, who scored two goals and five points, and Watson, who scored a goal and an assist, shined for the Harvest as rookies on their second line. They buzzed around the net, making a significant dent in the score sheet. Not to mention, they thrived on their second penalty kill unit.
“Jeannot had a big weekend and he’s been awesome,” said Cross. “It’s great to see him scoring early on in the year.”
“Watson has some sick offensive skill as the kids would say. He has great vision and I’ve been really impressed with him.”
Jaden and Tyler Kreklewich, meanwhile, are already showing chemistry on the first line.
“They looked good out there,” said Cross on the brothers. “I’m expecting them both to have good seasons – they are important pieces in our offense.”
The Harvest hit the road on Wednesday, Oct. 2 to take on the Notre Dame Hounds at Duncan McNeill Arena. They later return home on the weekend for back-to-back games against the Saskatoon Blazers.
In the Blazers contests, rookie goaltender Carter Phair will see his first game of SMAAAHL action.
“It will be a good opportunity for Phair and Bogdan will get a break,” said Cross. “We’re not sure what type of team he’ll face, but we’re confident in him.”