Weyburn Red Wings (4-1-0-1) vs. Estevan Bruins (4-1-0-1)
7:30 p.m., Crescent Point Place
When the Weyburn Red Wings take the ice tonight against the Estevan Bruins, it will be much more than a game to decide first place in the Viterra Division. It will also be the first of ten games this season between the two storied rivals.
The Red Wings and Bruins have had similar fortunes so far this season, and their records reflect that. While the Bruins may have put more pucks in the net, the defense of the Red Wings has been tenacious in limiting the goals coming back the other way. As past seasons have shown, though, it could also turn out to be a complete opposite, as records, stats, and most other things can be thrown out the window when Weyburn plays Estevan.
The Weyburn Red Wings boast the best goaltender in the SJHL so far this season. Nathan Hargrave has carried the bulk of the work for the Red Wings, and this has shown with his ability to keep the team in close games. His lone shutout of the season came at the Showcase earlier this week, and his GAA coming into the game tonight is a phenomenal 1.18.
At the other end of the ice, Nathan Alalouf and Nic Tallarico have shared responsibilities in the crease. Alalouf has handled himself well, picking up three wins and a shutout, with a GAA of 1.67, which is also strong. The Bruins have also limited the number of shots against Alalouf to below 30 a game. If the Red Wings can get 40-plus shots on net, fans and players can see if Alalouf is up to the task. Edge: Weyburn
The blue line of the Red Wings has been lauded repeatedly in these previews so far this season. They have been able to make smart plays, and force shots to the outside, and will drop down in front of those shots as well. The defensemen are also adept at playing the puck, and helping to lead the rush. Expect rookies like Devon Becker, Dylan McCabe and Carson Scheschuk to continue to stand out for the Red Wings, as they get their first taste of what can be a fierce rivalry.
The Bruins are relying on a number of rookies for their defensive pairings. With only three players back from last season, it looks like a whole new group, but they have handled themselves well so far. After a trip to Warman for the Showcase, they have had the chance to work on chemistry, and it will be interesting to see how well that bond will carry over in the pairings. The number of rookies, though, will prove to be the difference. Edge: Weyburn.
The Red Wings haven’t been noted for their goal-scoring so far this season, though not for a lack of trying. The team has worked hard to get the wins they have, and that means getting the goals that matter. That trend can be expected to continue. If the Red Wings find themselves trailing, though, look to forward Carson Rose to put the puck in the net, as he has three game tying goals so far in the young season, all coming when Weyburn was facing a 1-0 deficit. Also look for veterans like Ian Parker, and Braden Mellon to gel with new linemates, and start to show their offensive prowess as well.
Talent is a great way to describe the Bruins forwards. With Kaelan Holt leading the way, along with captain Lynnden Pastachak, the Bruins are always a threat to get goals on the board. Matt McNeil, new to the team, is also showing he knows how to contribute offensively. The forwards as a unit, though, can be a liability when it comes to discipline, with three of them, including Pastachak, already in the top five for penalty minutes in this early season. Edge: Estevan (if they stay out of the box)
Now that there are enough games played for trends to start to develop, we can look at the special teams records heading into the game. This is a key part of the play of both teams, and could prove to be a difference maker.
The Red Wings, the least penalized team in the league, have also been excellent at killing penalties when they happen. Weyburn has only allowed three power play goals all season, second only to Kindersley, who astonishingly, hasn’t allowed any. The Bruins have their penalty kill working at 85.2 per cent so far this year.
On the power play, Estevan has been stellar, with the second best in the league at 23.3 per cent. Numbers like that are what coaches want to see during the season, and Estevan will be looking to improve it even from there. Weyburn’s power play is solid, at 14.7 per cent, but compared to Estevan, it is a bit of night and day.
Compared to each other, we could see very few power play goals in the game tonight, while we should expect a few opportunities each way. Edge: Even
The key issue, as it is every time Weyburn and Estevan play, will be discipline. The Red Wings have been good at keeping their composure so far this season, and staying disciplined. For the Bruins, they are one of the most penalized teams in the league, with a number of the calls coming for penalties that carry the possibility of supplementary discipline attached. If the Bruins can stay out of the penalty box, it will make for a tight game, that will entertain the crowds at Crescent Point Place.