'We won this for the city of Estevan': Bruins end 23 year championship drought

The Estevan Bruins captured the SJHL championship for the first time since 1999. (Courtesy: Estevan Bruins)

The Estevan Bruins are the 2022 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) champions after a 2-0 win over the Flin Flon Bombers in game 7.

The seven game series saw neither team able to win on the road and the Bruins tried to use that to their advantage in the final game in Estevan.

“We didn’t want to rely on it but it definitely plays a part when you have two crazy fan bases,” said Bruins captain, Eric Houk. “We have to give credit to Flin Flon, their fans are tough to play in front of but our fans showed up tonight and definitely gave us a boost.”

In the first six games of the series, the Bombers had scored 16 times on their home ice, compared to the Bruins at nine. Flin Flon had also outscored the Bruins 21 to 14.

However goaltender Boston Bilous was unstoppable in the final game and blocked all 30 shots. He earned his second shutout of the series and the playoff Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.

“He’s just a great goaltender and great person. He was excellent for us right from the start of playoffs,” said Head Coach and General Manager, Jason Tatarnic.

“Obviously it felt good, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t but truly you know it could have gone to any one just as much as me,” said Bilous.

In six out of the seven games of the series the team to score first went on to win the game.

The Bruins finally found the back of the net first with a goal from defenceman Kian Calder with just under 15 minutes to go in the second period.

“Just the way we were playing I was confident even after the one goal,” said Tatarnic.

The Bruins would seal the deal with a goal in the third period from the team’s point leader in the playoffs, Olivier Pouliot.

Both teams were looking to end championship droughts. The Flin Flon Bombers have not won since 1993. The Estevan Bruins had not won since 1999.

“It is unreal to end it. We talked to so many people around town about it and we can’t thank everyone enough for their support,” said Houk.

“I truly am so happy we won this for the city of Estevan,” said Bilous.

The season is not over for either team and both will compete in this year’s Centennial Cup. Estevan had already earned their ticket to the cup as the host team which meant the Bombers automatically got a spot as well for making it to the final series against the Bruins.

“As a coaching staff we’ve slowly kind of watched teams and other leagues play just to kind of get a feel,” said Tatarnic. “Next week we’ll kind of start prepping for that and let the guys enjoy this weekend and then we’ll get back to work.”

After a back and forth series the team knows they will have to face off against the Bombers again and will not take the challenge lightly.

“They’re a great team. I give them so much credit, they made this an unreal series but we will have to be ready to go again,” said Bilous.

Ten teams will compete for the Centennial Cup title in Estevan. The tournament begins on May 19 and runs until May 29.