HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt Broncos are hoping in the playoffs they can continue the dominance they have had against the Estevan Bruins.
The sixth-seeded Broncos (35-19-3-1) and the 31-22-3-2 Bruins, the No. 3 seed because they won the Viterra Division, meet in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) quarterfinals. Estevan hosts game one on Friday and game two on Saturday. After taking Sunday off, the teams compete in Humboldt on Monday and Tuesday.
During the regular season, Humboldt won all four of its games against Estevan. The Broncos outscored the Bruins, 19-8, in those games. The Broncos’ power play lit the lamp 25.9 per cent of the time against Estevan.
However, the Bruins seemed to flip a switch after their last loss to Humboldt in Nov. 22. The squad went 18-7-2-2 after that. Both teams had personnel changes since the last time they met.
When asked about the keys to success in the series, Broncos head coach Scott Barney started with discipline.
“You don’t want to be sitting in the penalty box all night,” he said. Obviously, you got to have your special teams ready to go.
“Overall, just having guys focused every shift for 60 minutes is a big key. Not just playing 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there. You need to have everyone focused for every shift. That is a big thing we’ll stress for sure.”
Special teams certainly play a big role. The Bruins were the SJHL’s most penalized team in the regular season with 1,542 penalty minutes. That was 171 more than second-place Melville and 339 more than Humboldt.
Estevan’s Austin King-Cunningham led the SJHL with 235 penalty minutes. Fellow Bruins Bryce Platt, 180 PIMs, and Tristyn DeRoose, 178, also ranked in the top four in the league in penalty minutes.
The Broncos hope the strong crowds that have frequented the Elgar Petersen Arena this season can give them an edge in the post-season.
“The support of the fans in Humboldt has been amazing my whole time I’ve been here,” said third-year forward Derek Patter. “I know I can speak for everyone in the dressing room that playing in front of our fans and big crowds makes things more exciting, especially when the crowd is engaged and ready to cheer us on.”
This season the Broncos have given their fans plenty to cheer about. As a rookie in his 17-year-old season goaltender Rayce Ramsay (.923 save percentage) has been impressive and formed a strong combination in net with 19-year-old Dane Dow (19 wins).
On the backend, Josh Patrician accumulated 39 points, while 18-year-old Chase Felgueiras was part of the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings for the NHL Entry Draft.
Up front, Michael Clarke led the Broncos with 28 goals, 43 assists, and 71 points in 57 games. Dynamic forward Brayden Camrud posted 27 goals and 55 points. Drew Warkentine lit the lamp 24 times in just 33 games.
The Bruins are an experienced crew. Eleven players on the roster were part of the Estevan team that made it all the way to game seven of the SJHL finals last season against Nipawin and fell just short of a championship. Five Bruins have played in the Western Hockey League.
Michael McChesney paced the Bruins in the regular season with had 31 goals and 61 points. Turner Ripplinger and Bryce Platt also each scored more than 20 goals.