The adage “home sweet home” was not so applicable for our junior hockey team last weekend as the Bruins lost two games to Neil Murdoch division rivals on home ice.
Three weeks earlier the Border Bruins fell behind the Nitehawks in Fruitvale but launched an inspired comeback to win the game 5-4. On Friday a comeback was not in the cards for the Bruins. Beaver Valley stunned the home team with three goals in just over two minutes late in the opening period; two of them were shorthanded. Paul Leroux scored two of the goals.
This margin proved to be too much to overcome, although the Bruins did respond with two unanswered goals in the middle frame to make it close. Newcomer Sidney Cruz scored his second goal as a Bruin while Josh Garlough-Bell recorded his 15th of the year in only 18 games. Bell has the highest goals per game percentage on the team. Arriving from Edmonton after the season began he has demonstrated impressive offensive skills.
Seven minutes into the final period Leroux scored his hat trick goal and Hawks goaltender, Noah Decottignies shut the door on any chance of a Grand Forks comeback. The Bruins actually outshot the visitors 39-28.
Things got a little heated in the final period, resulting in game misconducts to Zane Avery of the Bruins and Jared Stocks of the Nitehawks. These penalties carry an automatic one game suspension. This meant that the Border Bruins would be without the services of their top scorer, Avery, the next night at home against the Castlegar Rebels. Avery currently stands fifth in the KIJHL in scoring with 45 points in 28 games.
Castlegar got off to a slow start this season but has made a number of roster moves of late. The team’s play has improved and they will be a much tougher opponent for the rest of the season. Grand Forks won the last meeting six days earlier in Castlegar by a score of 5-4.
On Saturday at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena the teams entertained the fans with a spirited affair. Despite the Bruins outshooting the visitors 16-9 the first period ended tied at one. Castlegar’s Brendan Skerratt with his sixth of the year and Nathan Cohen-Wallis with his team leading 17th were the marksmen. The native of Canmore, Alta. had only five goals in 30 games last season for the Bears.
Colby Winia gave the Rebels their second lead of the game but Garlough-Bell answered just over a minute later, set up by Liam Stalwick. However, Kole Halvorson scored what proved to be the winning goal before the period ended.
This was an important game for both teams with Castlegar and Grand Forks right now in a battle for the final playoff spot, although the Bruins are only two points behind third place Spokane Braves. With the win Castlegar trails the Bears by five points.
In the scoreless final stanza, play was dominated by the two goaltenders, Curt Doyle of Castlegar and Zak Larson of Grand Forks. The Bruins pulled Larson for an extra attacker and with three seconds left Bruins defenceman Evan Gorman fired a blistering shot from 20 feet out which hit Doyle but stayed out. Close, but not quite! The period featured 46 minutes in penalties as tempers flared.
Something very unusual and unfortunate occurred after the final buzzer; it was both intentional and inappropriate. For years hockey at all levels, including the National Hockey League, has a tradition that after the game the players of the home team raise their sticks before they skate off the ice as a salute to their fans.
Incredibly, with very poor taste, the visiting Castlegar Rebels, before they left the ice, raised their sticks and skated to center ice, mocking the fans of the team they had just defeated. The Rebels won the game, and were deserving of the victory. Unfortunately, they lost the respect of hockey fans, and indeed the league, by performing such a brazen and bizarre stunt at the end of the game.
The Border Bruins host the Spokane Braves this Friday at 7 p.m. and visit Castlegar on Saturday. The Spokane game will be the final one at the Jack Goddard Arena for the year, until the team returns to home ice on Jan. 11.