A beleagured and banged up Estevan Bruins squad limped their way into the Christmas break with a shootout loss to the rival Yorkton Terriers on December 18. When they return on December 30 against Weyburn, the work will begin anew.
The Bruins, down TJ Irey and Will Koop to injury, will use the time off to get healthy and refocussed after a difficult and road-heavy pre-Christmas schedule. Good news looms for the boys in Black and Gold, however, as they play 13 of their final 21 games at Affinity Place.
"I think everybody is excited to get some time off," said Bruins head coach and GM Chris Lewgood following the loss to Yorkton entering the break. "We've got to come back with a lot hungrier attitude and a lot more jump in our step in the second calendar half."
The Bruins will face divisional opponents in 13 of those 21 games as well, all crucial matchups for a Bruins team trying, on one hand, to catch the Terriers on top of the Viterra Division, but also trying to fight their way out of the survivor series playoff bracket.
"We're going to be a playoff team," Lewgood said. "The key for us now is to be playing good hockey at the right times. If it starts on December 30 and we build from there we'll be fine. It's just a matter of developing the right mindset and being a better hockey team."
Almost half of the team's post-Christmas games will come against Weyburn. Nine of the 21 contests will take place against Weyburn with five at Affinity Place. The Bruins won the opening game of that season series 8-2 in Weyburn.
That game saw the first goal as a Bruin for Devan Harrison. He scored his second in the loss to Yorkton, and he gives the Bruins reason for optimism in the second half.
"I thought he was excellent," said Lewgood of his young defenseman. "I thought he was our best defenseman tonight and defensively he was excellent. Offensively he chipped in with that penalty shot goal. He made good reads all night and all around had a good game"
Harrison joins a blue line that is a clear strength for Estevan, with Johnny Witzke leading all SJHL defensemen in goals with 10 and Jake Heerspink sitting third in points with 26. The Bruins also have some reinforcements on the way with Will Koop due to return against Weyburn.
Outside the division, the Bruins will face the Notre Dame Hounds four times. They will also wrap up their season series against Melfort, Nipawin, Flin Flon, and Battlefords, all on home ice.