Following a string of eight games where they lost only once, the Grand Forks Border Bruins cooled off this past week.
They were thumped 9-2 at home by their arch rivals from Spokane on Nov. 20 and seemingly never recovered this past weekend. On Friday in Creston they dropped a 5-2 decision to the Thunder Cats. It was back on the bus Saturday for a date in Nelson. The result was a narrow 4-3 loss to the first place Leafs.
The Creston game was closer than the final score indicates. After a scoreless opening period Logan Berggren got the home team on the board midway through the second. This was all the scoring until the final period. Zane Avery tied the game for the Bruins on a power play in the opening minute and the Bears were right back in it.
Darby Berg and Bruins’ Josh Garlough-Bell traded goals and the game remained tied as the teams moved into nail-biting time. Unfortunately, for Grand Forks, penalties reared their ugly head in the closing minutes of a tight, winnable game. Keaghan Holub and Avery went off for cross checking and roughing infractions respectively, and the Thunder Cats made them pay with two goals. They iced the cake with a fifth marker seven seconds from the final buzzer.
Holden King made his first start in goal for the Border Bruins since Oct. 20. The rookie from Merritt, B.C. faced 50 shots and made some superb saves.
After travelling home over two mountain passes the team boarded the bus the next day for yet another tough road game, this time an encounter with the first place Nelson Leafs.
This game was evenly played, but resulted in another distressing loss for the Bruins. Once again they received outstanding goalkeeping, this time from Ross King. He was superb, facing 46 shots in his first start since Nov. 2.
The Leafs scored the only goal of the opening stanza, off the stick of Easton Jolie, his eighth of the year. The Border Bruins displayed a lot of energy and grit in this division matchup, responding with an unassisted goal from Nathan-Cohen Wallis less than a minute into the second period. It was his 16th of the year in 24 games played. Last season Nathan scored 5 goals in 30 games.
Zane Avery put the Bruins ahead with a power play goal at 12:44 of the middle frame. It looked like the Bruins would be heading to the dressing room with a one-goal lead, but they lost a battle along the boards, just inside their blueline, and with only six seconds remaining, the Leafs leading scorer Jack Karran tied the game.
Grand Forks continued to fight hard in the final period, and it paid off, as Avery scored his second power play goal of the game. Briar Whyte and defenceman Cole Jensen picked up assists. Avery, who came to the Bruins from the Revelstoke Grizzlies part way through the 2017-18 season, is currently fifth in the KIJHL scoring race, one point behind sensational rookie Bear Hughes of the Spokane Braves.
The lead was short-lived as Nelson’s Keenan Crossman struck less than two minutes later. Heartbreak again for the visiting Bruins when Karran notched his second of the game; it came with 1:53 remaining and Nelson hung on for the win.
The Bruins are in fourth place in the competitive Neil Murdoch Division of the KIJHL but only two points out of third, and four points back of second place Spokane Braves. They will host the Columbia Valley Rockies this Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena.