Bron­cos bounce War­riors on the road in Game 7 again

Moose Jaw - - Sports - By Matthew Gourlie

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.

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