The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings entered their game Friday night in Estevan having won four of the previous seven meetings between the clubs, dating back to the 2021-22 season. Over that span, the Wings had also outscored Estevan 29-20.
After a first period that saw the two clubs tied 2-2, Weyburn seemed to find another gear and would score four unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win over their Highway 39 rivals.
How the game started, though, was in no way indicative of how it ended. The Bruins would take the lead 48 seconds in when Ilia Chmelevski put the puck past Dazza Mitchell on an odd shot. Chmelevski had wound up to make a hard shot, but caught the puck more with the heel, causing Mitchell to be out of position as he, along with those watching, didn't expect how the shot came off the stick.
Weyburn didn't take long to respond, though. Just 2:01, while on the power play, Jacob Visentini scored his first as a Red Wing to make it 1-1. The play started with Jerome Maharaj coming over the blue line and making a move to pull a defender towards him, leaving Elijah Anderson alone down low on the right-wing side. Anderson took the feed from Maharaj and put it towards the front of the net where Visentini was waiting to deposit the puck in the net behind Estevan goalie Cam Hrdlicka.
The Bruins would regain the lead nearly four minutes later, though, when a shot from the top of the left circle from Blake Heward managed to glance off the trapper of Mitchell just enough to redirect it below the crossbar, and the Estevan was back up 2-1.
The Red Wings came striking back three and a half minutes later. A play developing similarly to how the first goal of the night did for Weyburn would see captain Max Monette redirect a centring pass from Visentini into the twine behind Hrdlicka, and Weyburn was back even with the score 2-2. The other assist on the goal was credited to Anderson.
"As a coach, you don't love exchanging punches like that, especially when you're the team always having to answer," head coach Cody Mapes said after the game. "I think Dazza (Mitchell) settled in, our defensemen as a group settled in and once that kind of happened, I think things started to kind of slowly move forward for us."
The second period would see both teams taking a number of chances before Weyburn finally broke the deadlock with 3:43 remaining in the frame. Rocco La Cara, recently acquired by the Red Wings, would score his first while wearing the Winged Wheel on the power play. He was assisted by Nick Kovacs and Nolan Henderson.
The lead would be expanded to 4-2 with 2:46 on the clock, just 57 seconds later, as Maharaj intercepted a clearing pass from the Bruins, and came streaking in on the left wing. He cut in towards Hrdlicka, made two moves that Mapes called a hard deke after the game, and with the goaltender well out of position, tapped the puck home to make it 4-2 after 40 minutes.
When play resumed after the goal, the game took a bit of a feisty turn after a hit from behind along the boards in front of the penalty box. Mark Corbett of the Bruins would be given the minor plus automatic game misconduct for the hit. The resulting scrum would see Weyburn's Cade Meiklejohn given a cross-checking penalty, and Dallen Oxelgren a 10-minute misconduct. Estevan's Dillion Jackson would also get a misconduct penalty.
Weyburn would come into the third period working to maintain the lead, and the play paid off with just under five minutes remaining.
At the 15:18 mark Oxelgren, pinching in from the blue line, snapped the puck behind Hrdlicka for his first goal in the SJHL, making it 5-2 for the Red Wings. Carter Briltz would be credited with the assist.
"He worked so hard this summer and he's put himself into our top four and to see him get rewarded like that on doing everything that we've talked about doing - join the rush, go to the net - and to bang one in like that is, you know, there's nothing better than seeing guys be happy for their teammates," Mapes said of the reaction on the bench after the tally.
Then, the icing on the cake came with 2:50 remaining when Bradley Banach knocked a puck out of the air and into the net behind Hrdlicka to make it 6-2. Drew Molde and Oxelgren were credited with the assists on the marker.
The Red Wings won't have too long to celebrate the win over their rivals, however. They will be back on the ice Saturday night at Crescent Point Place hosting the Bruins in the return leg of the home-and-home series. The puck drops on the game at 7:00 p.m.
It was a goalie's nightmare in the SJHL Friday night, with 54 goals scored across five games.
In Flin Flon, the La Ronge Ice Wolves got four goals from Mason Bueckert, but it wouldn't be enough as they fell 9-5. The Bombers would get a hat trick and two more assists from Jacob Vockler in the victory.
The Kindersley Klippers were at home to the Nipawin Hawks, and a flurry of goals in the first period helped guide the visitors to a 7-1 win. Evan Forrest and Braxton Buckberger scored twice for Nipawin.
The Battlefords North Stars were looking to bounce back after an 8-4 loss to the Yorkton Terriers Thursday, and they did so in a big way. Eight different players scored, with Xavier Lacoste tallying twice, as the North Stars picked up a 9-6 victory.
The Notre Dame Hounds travelled to Melfort looking for their first win of the year but came up against a tough Mustangs squad. Eight different players found the twine as the home team picked up an 8-1 win.