The regular season has yet to begin, but the Estevan Bruins have already had a number of positive developments.
They defeated their Highway 39 rivals, the Weyburn Red Wings, 6-3 in Weyburn on Friday night and 3-0 in Estevan on Saturday, to open the 2020-21 SJHL preseason schedule for both teams.
Kade McMillen, Antoine St. Onge, Matt Millette, Griffin Asham-Moroz, Erik Boers and Mason Smith scored for Estevan in the first game. Eric Clark made 27 saves in the victory.
The following night, Mason Strutt scored twice and Troy Hamilton also scored. Emerik Demers stopped 18 shots to get the shutout.
Both teams ran into penalty troubles in the first two periods of Saturday’s game. Bruins head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic said he was pleased with how the Bruins coped, especially during a two-minute, two-man advantage Weyburn enjoyed in the first period.
“We were pretty aggressive,” said Tatarnic. “It’s no secret what we do. I think we’re fast enough and we have enough team speed that we can kill that way.”
While Demeric wasn’t busy, he was good when called upon, making impressive saves in the first and third periods.
Tatarnic was pleased with the effort of both nights.
The two teams will meet again Oct. 30 in Weyburn and Oct. 31 in Estevan.
Estevan received some good news before Friday’s game, when they learned that local product Cole Fonstad would be allowed to join the club to start the season.
Fonstad, a skilled forward, hails from Estevan and played most of his minor hockey here. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and he helped the Prince Albert Raiders win the 2019 Western Hockey League (WHL) title.
After being dealt to the Everett Silvertips early in the 2019-20 season, Fonstad went on to finish tied for third in assists in the WHL last season.
Fonstad is slated to remain with the Bruins until Dec. 20, when he will rejoin the Silvertips.
An agreement has been reached with the WHL and the SJHL to allow WHL players to play in the SJ, since the WHL season won’t start until at least Jan. 8, 2021.
In the two preseason games, Fonstad joined Mason Strutt and Ryder Pierson, both of Estevan, to form a local line.
“It’s been a while since I played in this rink, so I have a lot of buddies that I played with back in minor hockey, so it’s pretty cool,” said Fonstad.
Earlier in the week, he wasn’t allowed to join the Bruins, but then a teammate from Everett went to the Melfort Mustangs, and Fonstad looked into the situation.
“I reached out to Jason, and then had to get approval from my team, and that was it,” said Fonstad.
Tatarnic said there has been some criticism about WHL players joining junior A teams, but he counters this will benefit both Fonstad and the team.
“Guys can learn from him. He’s a great teammate,” said Tatarnic. “There’s no arrogance about him whatsoever, and he’s a very humble kid. He’s been good for our dressing room and he’s been good for practice.”
Fonstad said it was great to play with Pierson and Strutt. The three formed a dangerous line at the U15 level, and were a threat to score consistently in the two exhibition games against Weyburn.
He’s pleased with the team, and he’s already enjoying playing for Tatarnic.
“He’s a good coach. For everyone here, he’s brought in a lot of new stuff and created an excitement in the room,” said Fonstad.
The Bruins have also announced the acquisition of forward Quintin Loon-Stewardson, a 2000-born forward, from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BC Hockey League for a player development fee.
He spent the 2019-20 season with the Battlefords North Stars, who were the top-ranked team in the SJHL before the SJHL playoffs were scuttled due to COVID-19. He had 30 goals and 55 points in 53 games played for the Battlefords, and added 168 penalty minutes.
Loon-Stewardson also helped the Stars win the SJHL title in 2018-19, recording 19 points in 16 postseason games.
“He’s a very established guy in this league and a proven winner,” said Tatarnic. “He’s good on the faceoffs. He’s going to make our team better.”