Broncos win final preseason contest
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.
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.