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Weekend wins earn Border Bruins playoff home ice advantage

Regular season play wraps Feb. 16
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The Border Bruins played a pair of divisional games on the weekend, and a pair of wins has given the Bears the points spread needed to ensure the playoffs will start on home ice. First or second place in the division is still up for grabs, with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks holding a seven-point lead on the Bruins with five games to play.

On Friday night, the Bruins hosted the last home game against the Castlegar Rebels. The Bruins, leading the league in power play efficiency, couldn’t capitalize on three opportunities in the first period, while allowing a short-handed goal to the Rebels’ Carter Peters late in the period. Peters got the jump on the Bruins defence at the Castlegar blue line and raced up ice to get the shot on Ethan Shebansky. Shebansky slowed the puck and deflected it, but not far enough as the puck ricocheted off the post back into the Bruins net. The Bruins outshot the Rebels 19-7 and had control for much of the period but went to the first intermission down 1-0.

In the second period, the Bruins were outshot 12-7 but were the only team to score, putting a pair of goals behind Castlegar netminder Matteo Hueston. Carter Price scored 4-on-4 at 4:11 as he skated unchecked in the slot and received a pass out from the near corner from Levi Astill to tie the game. With about 5 minutes left in the period, Cam Bryant got the puck back to Russell Kosec at the near point off a face-off win. Kosec sent the puck off a Rebels skate to Theo Naidu, who held the puck for a long two seconds while selecting his passing lane. Electing to take a shot instead, Naidu found a spot five-hole on Hueston, putting the puck off Hueston’s left knee onto his right skate and into the net. Naidu’s fourth goal of the season put the Bruins up 2-1 into the second intermission.

With no scoring in the third period, the Bruins took the win, maintaining their distance in the standings behind the Nitehawks who also had a win on Friday night. The Nelson Leafs also won on Friday night, moving a point ahead of Castlegar into third place in the Neil Murdoch division.

The Bruins second game of the weekend was a Sunday afternoon matinee in Spokane for the final meeting of the season against the Braves, with the Bruins controlling the season series 4-1.

A scrum about 12 minutes into the game saw three players sent to their dressing rooms, disconcertingly including Bruins goaltender Shebansky. Gabe Osmond came into the game in relief, playing his second game since joining the Bruins. Penalties were costly to the Bruins that period, giving up a pair of goals to Spokane to Dante Hughes at 15:12 and Cameron Oien a minute later.

In the second period, JP Desabrais got his 16th of the season on a Bruins power play, narrowing the Spokane lead. Tyler Burke and Kody Marches paired up for the Bruins second goal of the period at 16:36 to tie the game.

The Bruins kept the Braves hemmed in during the third period, outshooting the home team 22-10 and scoring another pair of goals in the first five minutes of the period as Nate Tillmanns got his 22nd of the season from Levi Astill and Chad Bates notched his 19th from Carter Price and Reid Schechtel.

The 4-2 win gave the Bruins another two points, four for the weekend, but the gap with the Nitehawks remains at 7 since they also had a pair of wins on the weekend.

The Bruins play the Nitehawks twice more, the first being a road game Tuesday this week in Fruitvale. The Bruins continue the last half of four games on the road with a swing through the East Kootenays next weekend, playing in Kimberley on Friday night and Fernie on Saturday – both games are 6:00pm Pacific starts. The Dynamiters are on a four-game winning streak, following five consecutive losses in January. The Ghostriders, meanwhile, have two losses so far in February.

The Bruins return home for a game on Friday, Feb. 16, against Beaver Valley, then wrap up the regular season in Castlegar the next night.