The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings picked up two wins on the weekend over the Estevan Bruins. While the wins were significant for the Wings, fans will be talking about how empty nets played a big part in the games for years to come.
Friday night saw the Red Wings in Estevan for a matchup to start off the home-and-home that marked the return from the Christmas break for both teams.
The first period of the game saw the Wings putting all sorts of pressure on the Bruins, but they weren’t able to get anything past rookie netminder Jackson Miller. At the other end, Dazza Mitchell turned away all six of the shots he faced.
The Bruins would be the ones to open the scoring in the second period, however.
The Red Wings were on the power play, but a turnover at the blue line let Estevan’s Kade Runke bury a shorthanded marker past Mitchell just 59 seconds into the period. Then, the home team made it a 2-0 game at the 4:00 mark of the frame when Garett Zasitko scored his first of the season.
The Wings weren’t going to go quietly.
Ty Mason got Weyburn onto the board with 8:24 remaining in the second. His 11th of the season got past Miller, with Ian Maier and Matthew Reidy collecting the assists on the tally.
In the third period, Weyburn pressured to get back even with the Bruins, but it would be Estevan pulling ahead just past the halfway mark. With 8:49 to play in the final period of regulation, Owen Barrow scored his eighth of the season, making it a 3-1 game.
With time running out, Wings head coach Cody Mapes pulled Mitchell from the crease in favour of an extra attacker with just under three minutes to play in the third. The gamble paid off for the Red Wings, as Jackson Hassman scored his 13th goal of the season just seconds after Mitchell reached the bench. The goal to make it 3-2 was assisted by Lucas Jeffreys and Mason.
Still down by one, Mapes called Mitchell to the bench again as the Red Wings had possession in the Bruins zone. The extra skater would come in handy, as Jacob Kalin scored with 57 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game up. Kalin’s 11th of the season was assisted by Blake Norris and Matteo Turrin.
In the three-on-three overtime, Turrin would close out the comeback as he tipped in a shot from Jordan Edwards from the top of the crease. His 4th of the season was also assisted by Kalin.
Riding the high from the win on Friday night, the Red Wings then came back to Crescent Point Place for the rematch with the Bruins Saturday night.
The Wings would come out flying, putting all sorts of pressure on the Bruins early, but they weren’t able to get many shots through the traffic and onto the net. Finally, at the 2:31 mark of the first period, one of the shots got through to Miller, who was making his second start in as many nights. This first shot of the game, from the stick of Ryley Morgan, would get into the back of the net, and Weyburn was up 1-0. Mason and Nolan Henderson had the assists on the goal.
Weyburn would add to the lead just under three minutes later, as Ian Maier scored his first of the campaign at the 5:29 mark of the period. He was assisted on the goal by Morgan and Blake Norris.
Weyburn wasn’t finished scoring, though.
Mason got his second of the weekend with 7:01 to play in the first with a shot from the face-off circle to Miller’s right, making it 3-0. The goal, scored on the power play, was assisted by Hassman and Norris.
The second period would see Weyburn quickly pick up where things left off, as Elijah Anderson scored his sixth of the season at the 5:48 mark, assisted by Blake Betson and Jeffreys. Then Jeffreys scored a goal of his own just over two minutes later. His second of the campaign was assisted by Reidy.
Estevan would finally get on the board in the second, taking advantage of a double minor for high-sticking called against Mi-Kwan Tallman. Estevan head coach Jason Tatarnic opted to pull Miller for the start of the power play, making it a 6-on-4 man advantage, as opposed to 5-on-4.
With the extra skater, the Bruins were able to break Mitchell’s shutout bid as Barrow scored his ninth of the year.
In the third period, the Bruins opted for a rather unorthodox strategy. For much of the first half of the period, Miller was on the bench, and the Estevan crease was empty. Having the extra skater forced the Wings to play defensive hockey.
“We probably had 15-20 minutes of 6-on-5 work, to bend but don’t break,” said Red Wings head coach Cody Mapes after the game Saturday. “Guys were buying in, blocking shots; it didn’t feel like a 5-1 game at that point.”
The Wings would spend much of the period hemmed up in their own end, with Mitchell facing a total of 13 shots in the frame. Then, the puck came free from the Weyburn zone, and Mason jumped on it. With just under six minutes to play, he came in and potted the empty netter for his 13th of the year and second of the game. He was assisted on the goal by Jeffreys.
Things would get a little chippy, as one would expect in a game between the Bruins and Red Wings with a lopsided score.
With just 41 seconds remaining in the game, Robbie Stewart of the Bruins was sent to the box for interference. On the ensuing faceoff, as soon as the puck was dropped, Barrow dropped his gloves and grabbed a hold of Reidy in the faceoff circle, deciding now was the time for a fight whether Reidy wanted it or not.
After things were broken up, and the two were sent to the showers, everyone lined up for a faceoff again. This time, just eight seconds went by before the referees were calling another penalty, this time sending Estevan’s Evan Forrest and Weyburn’s Anderson to the box for slashing.
The officials had a quick chat at the penalty box and decided they weren’t going to deal with any shenanigans, and the score was already set for the game. As a result, they let the clock run out the final 32 seconds, and the teams were sent to the dressing room.
The two wins on the weekend improved the record for the Red Wings to 13-18-0-1 o the season, and they bumped up to second in the Viterra Division, 15 points back of the Bruins but with 6 games in hand. The Wings also moved into the eighth and final playoff spot, one point ahead of the Notre Dame Hounds.
The Wings will now get the chance to open the gap over the Hounds for that spot Tuesday night. They will head to Radville for a neutral site game against Notre Dame. They return to the friendly confines of Crescent Point Place Friday when they host the Battlefords North Stars.