After going down 0-2 to the Notre Dame Hounds in their five game series, then falling behind 3-1 in the decisive game five only to emerge victorious, the Estevan Apex Bruins were riding high and full of confidence. They'll need it in their next round, because against all odds their next hill to climb will be even larger.
The Bruins will face the Swift Current Abbey Resources Broncos in the next round of Midget AA playoffs, beginning Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 in Swift Current. The Broncos went undefeated through the regular season, finishing an astounding 36-0, and swept Melville in the first round of the playoffs.
"They're the best of the best," said Bruins head coach Riley Hengen. "We were hoping for an upset maybe in another series or two but in my opinion it doesn't really matter. We were either going to play them this round or in the next round if we're going to advance. If anyone's going to beat those guys we're going to have to take it upon ourselves."
As far as confidence goes, however, the Bruins may be the highest-flying team in the league right now after beating Notre Dame. And according to Hengen, facing that adversity in the early going is well worth it later on.
"It's a big boost for us to get through that round," he said. "Notre Dame played us tough, but those are the series you need going forward to make sure that you're battle tested."
During the year the Bruins played the Broncos close for the most part, including a 3-1 loss at a neutral site game in Carnduff. According to Hengen, the Bruins and Broncos should expect a tight-checking series against each other.
"Team defense has been huge," he said. "It's something we've focussed on all year. We've got a good d-core with six guys we can rely on and two good goalies we can rely on any night. We take care of our end first and as long as we keep the opposition goals against down then we can put pucks in ourselves."
"Their record is impressive but they didn't blow a ton of teams out," he added of his team's opponent. "They have a lot of close games they win. Credit to them for being able to win those games. They definitely have some offensive weapons we need to be aware of."
The first game back in Estevan, game three will be at Affinity Place on Friday, March 8 at 7:30.