Broncos bounce Warriors on the road in Game 7 again
The Swift Current Broncos added a lot of players for their 2018 playoff run.
In Monday’s decisive Game 7 it was their longest-serving players who led the way though to a 6-0 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Broncos had a 3-2 series lead and a two-goal lead at home in Game 6 against Moose Jaw before the Warriors rallied to win in triple-overtime. The Broncos exercised some demons after blowing a two-goal Game 6 lead at home a year ago in the second round to the Regina Pats when they could have closed the series out against the top-ranked team in the WHL.
“I think most of the guys in the room have played in a Game 7,” said Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin. “For the guys who were on the team last year we knew both sides. We wanted the feeling after winning and we got that. There was a motivation for us to bounce back because we did lose in Game 7 last year in the second round. “Personally, that wasn’t going to happen twice.”
The Broncos have played four straight series in the last two seasons that have gone to seven games.
“For some reason we like to play Game 7s, but adversity means nothing for this team,” said Gawdin who had four points Monday. “The way that we can bounce back and fight through adversity is the real reason why we won 6-0 tonight.”
Swift Current will now advance to their first Eastern Conference final since 2001 and face the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The teams made a blockbuster trade mid-season that saw them swap starting goalies, which will add plenty of intrigue to the series.
The Broncos and Warriors were the top two teams in the WHL all season and the loss at Mosaic Place was a tough blow for the regular season champions from Moose Jaw who were also looking to win their first league title. “Going into this season we wanted to do better things. It was our last season and we knew we had a really good team,” said Jayden Halbgewachs from the Warriors who was the WHL scoring champion in his final season. “We showed it throughout the year by finishing first and put- ting two banners up, but to not pull through in the playoffs obviously doesn’t feel good.”
For the second straight year the Broncos earned three of their four wins against Moose Jaw on the road. Not only did the Broncos win three straight in Mosaic Place, but goalie Stuart Skinner shut out the Warriors in each game. “Swift plays well defensively,” Halbgewachs said. “They box out really well and didn’t let us get to the inside. We have to get to the inside to score goals and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that too much in the series.” Skinner and the Broncos defence posted a 1.67 goals-against-average over the seven-game series. “Stu was definitely a big part of it,” said Broncos defenceman Colby Sissons. “We tried to keep them to the outside as best we could and not give them to much space. They’re definitely a high-powered offence. Our team defence was good all series and it paid off tonight.”
The Warriors finished the playoffs with a 3-5 record at home. All five Warriors losses came in regulation. They only lost four games at home in regulation during the 36 games of the regular season.
“We were really resilient and played urgent on the road and we couldn’t match that simple, urgent hockey here at home for some reason,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter. “We got out of character at times and that a bit of it tonight.”
Hunter said it was a night where nothing went right for his team. He felt that was symptomatic of their playoff run in general.
“To win in the playoffs everything has to go right and they didn’t for our team. We had 14 really hard games and we were really banged up. It’s tough to play and have confidence when you’re not 100 per cent and we weren’t,” said Hunter who wouldn’t divulge any of the details on injuries.
“They’re a good team. They were right behind us. They play a totally different style of hockey than we do. It comes down to one game and which team was better. If our team was healthy I would have liked our chances a lot better tonight, but they weren’t. That’s the way that goes.” Both teams came out attacking and instead of the cagey start many expected, both teams generated chances. Sissons opened the scoring with a point shot that took a big deflection off of Jett Woo’s stick and got past Warriors goalie Brody Willms.
The Broncos double their lead with 35.4 seconds left in the first period when Gawdin buried a great Aleksi Heponiemi feed.
“We definitely wanted to get the first one and it helps put them on their heels,” said Sissons after his three-point night. “We never stopped from there. Obviously they had their pushes, but at the end of the day we came out on top.”
Broncos head coach and general manager Emanuel Viveiros felt his team’s ability to score at big moments in Game 7 ended up being the deciding factor. Sissons felt some of that came down to their Game 7 experience.
“It’s huge. Just to be able to stay in the moment and not get too nervous. The fact that we’ve been here before knowing that definitely helps,” Sissons said. Willms made a pair of big early saves in the second period, but couldn’t stop a Tyler Steenbergen rocket 3:22 into the second. Just over a minute later Sissons sprung Gawdin for a breakaway and the Broncos captain put his team up 4-0.
The Broncos earned the game’s first power play of the night in the third period and it only took 20 seconds for Heponiemi to set up Giorgio Estephan up for Swift Current’s fifth goal of the night.
Things went from bad to worse for Moose Jaw when defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus took a wild one-handed slash at Andrew Fyten as he broke in on a breakaway and clipped him on the top of the helmet. Willms stopped Fyten’s chance, but Max Patterson buried the rebound and Schuldhaus was assessed a match penalty.
Skinner made 25 saves to earn the shutout.
Willms made 32 stops in the loss.