Bron­cos win fi­nal pre­sea­son con­test

The Southwest Booster - - SPORTS - STEVEN MAH SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos are set to open the Western Hockey League reg­u­lar sea­son when they host the Saska­toon Blades on Fri­day.

The de­fend­ing league cham­pi­ons, fea­tur­ing a rel­a­tively new cast of faces, lost their first three games of the pre­sea­son be­fore de­feat­ing the Leth­bridge Hur­ri­canes 5-1 on Satur­day in their only home game to con­clude the pre­sea­son.

New Head Coach and Di­rec­tor of Player Per­son­nel Dean Brock­man said the team would need to make im­prove­ments in all as­pects ahead of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“The struc­ture of the game has to get bet­ter. A lot of lit­tle things, mov­ing the puck quicker, just play­ing at an up­tempo pace, that’s the big­gest thing. They are still kind of in sum­mer mode at times. We just have to keep hound­ing on them.”

“I think we still got lots of work to do in our D zone es­pe­cially. We just have to tighten up and lock down. We just have to learn how to win hockey games just like we did tonight,” added rookie for­ward Matthew Culling.

The Bron­cos opened their fi­nal week­end of the WHL pre­sea­son with a 7-0 road loss to the Leth­bridge Hur­ri­canes on Fri­day.

Keltie Jeri-leon opened the game with a nat­u­ral hat trick and scored the fi­nal goal dur­ing a five-point out­ing.

Dy­lan Cozens scored twice, while Lo­gan Bar­lage also scored against his for­mer team.

Isaac Poulter made 42 saves for the Bron­cos, while Reece Klassen earned the shutout with 18 saves.

Af­ter scor­ing only twice in their first three games, the Bron­cos broke out for five unan­swered goals to con­clude the pre­sea­son with a 5-1 vic­tory over the vis­it­ing Hur­ri­canes on Satur­day.

Rookie Matthew Culling led the Bron­cos with two goals and one as­sist and Poulter made 23 saves in goal.

The Bron­cos were out­shot 12-4 in the open­ing pe­riod and al­lowed the first goal when Ty Pre­fontaine scored on the power play for the Hur­ri­canes.

The Bron­cos spent much of the sec­ond pe­riod on the power play and out­shot the Hur­ri­canes 18-3 in the stanza. They took ad­van­tage of an Alex Cot­ton board­ing ma­jor in the sec­ond pe­riod to score twice to take the lead. New­comer Alec Zawatsky fired home a point shot to open the scor­ing for the Bron­cos and then Ben King scored on a cross-ice pass 56 sec­onds later for his first of the pre­sea­son.

The Bron­cos ce­mented the win with three goals in the third pe­riod to send a crowd of 904 away happy.

Culling added to the lead when he knocked home a re­bound only 32 sec­onds into the fi­nal pe­riod. Tan­ner Nagel scored from his knees on the back­hand to make it 4-1 and then Culling slipped a puck home from in tight to close the scor­ing.

“It was a lot bet­ter,” said Brock­man. “Ob­vi­ously when you lose as bad as we lost you hope for some re­sponse. The first pe­riod didn’t show it, but I thought as the game wore on we got bet­ter and bet­ter and bet­ter.”

Culling fin­ished the game with two goals and one as­sist in his fi­nal chance to im­press the coaches.

“Hon­estly it was not me, but more my team­mates kinda be­ing in the right place at the right time. They were work­ing hard to get me the puck and it just worked out that way, so I’m thank­ful for that.”

Culling was ac­quired in an off­sea­son trade that sent de­fense­men Jac­son Alexan­der to the Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings.

“I was su­per ex­cited,” said the Regina na­tive. “I’ve heard lots of good things from Swift, see­ing that they won it all last year, so it was great to come to a great or­ga­ni­za­tion. I was su­per ex­cited to get things started.”

The Bron­cos were pleased to con­clude the pre­sea­son on a win­ning note.

“It felt great,” said Culling. “We kind of came to­gether as a team and as a whole unit to work harder, talk a lit­tle more, and then get the out­come we got tonight.”

“Yeah we got a lit­tle bit of con­fi­dence go­ing,” added Brock­man. “Cer­tainly for our guys con­fi­dence is a big thing. You’ve got to play with it, if you don’t have it you’re not go­ing to win.”

The Bron­cos will be a vastly dif­fer­ent team on the ice this sea­son with only 10 play­ers on the ros­ter from the cham­pi­onship team as of Mon­day.

“We are go­ing to have the iden­tity that’s created by our team,” said Brock­man. “Yeah you’d like to play a lot dif­fer­ent, but that’s the per­son­nel you have. Over time you cre­ate it more and more as the days go by. As long as we’re work­ing hard I’m happy.”

Among the ma­jor changes will be Joel Hofer tak­ing over the start­ing goal­tender du­ties this sea­son. The St. Louis Blues prospect fin­ished 8-31-1 last sea­son with a 2.61 goals against av­er­age and a 0.914 save per­cent­age.

The Bron­cos will have the added mo­ti­va­tion of see­ing two cham­pi­onship ban­ners raised to the rafters prior to the sea­son opener. The Bron­cos will re­turn the visit to Saska­toon on Satur­day.

“I think it’s self mo­ti­va­tion. Once they see that ban­ner go up, cer­tainly if they’re not mo­ti­vated to play in front of a big crowd that’s tough. It should be easy for them. It’s the next night that you worry about be­cause you’re on the road and there will be a long cer­e­mony there and you just have to stay fo­cused and stay di­aled in,” said Brock­man.

STEVEN MAH/SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos’ over­age for­ward Tan­ner Nagel (left) fired a shot on goal dur­ing a 5-1 win over the Leth­bridge Hur­ri­canes to con­clude the WHL pre­sea­son on Satur­day.

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