Bron­cos pre­pare for bat­tle against Tigers

The Southwest Booster - - BOOSTER SPORTS - STEVEN MAH SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos will re­new a fa­mil­iar ri­valry in the open­ing round of the Western Hockey League play­offs when they take on the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Bron­cos will open the play­offs Fri­day and Satur­day in Medicine Hat. Games three and four will be played Tues­day and Wed­nes­day in Swift Cur­rent. Game five, if nec­es­sary, will be Satur­day in Medicine Hat. Game six would be Sun­day in Swift Cur­rent and game seven would be Tues­day back in Medicine Hat. The Bron­cos and Tigers split the four-game sea­son se­ries with each team win­ning on the road and at home. The two teams last met in the play­offs in 2009 when the Tigers elim­i­nated the Bron- cos in seven games from the first round. The Tigers fin­ished seven points ahead of the Bron­cos and won six more games this sea­son to earn home-ice ad­van­tage. The Tigers fin­ished 25-8-2-1 at the Medicine Hat Arena this sea­son.

“It is a very tough rink to play in, es­pe­cially with their crowd, it is go­ing to be loud in there. We have strug­gled in the past few years but we were able to get a win this year which was good,” said Bron­cos’ vet­eran for­ward Coda Gor­don.

“They play their home rink re­ally well,” added Lamb. “It is al­ways a tough time go­ing in there and we have ex­pe­ri­enced that. We have to be re­ally ready, es­pe­cially for that first game, and play them hard. We feel it is go­ing to be a real hard se­ries for us but we are go­ing to be ready.”

The Tigers al­lowed the fourth fewest goals in the WHL this sea­son with 196 goals against, 33 less than the Bron­cos al­lowed. Tigers’ im­port goal­tender Marek Lang­hamer fin­ished sev­enth in the WHL with a 2.58 goals against aver­age.

“Ob­vi­ously they are a re­ally good team,” said Lamb. “What Medicine Hat has is a great work ethic. They have the one line that cre­ates all of their of­fense and has real top end of­fen­sive play­ers. Be­sides that, their D and their goal­tend­ing are a lot bet­ter than what people give them credit for. They are big strong D that can re­ally move the puck and play re­ally well de­fen­sively. Their goal­tender is one of the best in the league. They have a lot of pieces to their team.”

Last year the Bron­cos went into the play­offs as heavy un­der­dogs and their in­ex­pe­ri­ence showed at times when they were elim­i­nated in five games by the Cal­gary Hit­men in the first round.

The Bron­cos have a com­bined 90 games of play­off ex­pe­ri­ence on this year’s ros­ter, led by Andrew John­son, who has played 25 play­off games with the Moose Jaw War­riors and Seat­tle Thun­der­birds.

“Yeah, it is good to have ex­pe­ri­ence and we are def­i­nitely feel­ing more con­fi­dent this year than we did last year. We kind of know what to ex­pect, how we need to play, and what we have to do in the play­offs,” said Gor­don.

Lamb hopes that the ex­pe­ri­ence gained last sea­son pays off against the Tigers.

“Yeah it does. We have more games. Our goal­tend­ing, we have them both back so they went through the sit­u­a­tion. You have to go through the play­offs to re­ally get a feel for the high in­ten­sity, the pres­sure that goes through it and we have some guys who have. Now we are build­ing that foun­da­tion of be­ing a play­off team and it is just some­thing that is an­other part of our build and now we have to keep im­prov­ing and get into these sit­u­a­tions and en­joy them and learn from them and hope­fully win.”

The Tigers’ top line of Cur­tis Valk (92 pts), Trevor Cox (82 pts), and Cole San­ford (73 pts) will be para­mount on the Bron­cos’ minds through­out the se­ries.

“We just need to play them hard,” said Gor­don. “We are go­ing to have to snag one in their barn, so I think that is the big­gest thing is know­ing who we are play­ing against and know­ing who is out there and have ev­ery­one go­ing and ev­ery­one do­ing their part.”

The Bron­cos head into the play­offs a con­fi­dent group af­ter earn­ing 17 of a pos­si­ble 20 points in their fi­nal 10 games to move up the East­ern Con­fer­ence standings.

“I think ev­ery­one is feel­ing good about them­selves,” said Lamb. “We have done a lot of good things, even last night the way we played de­fen­sively in the third pe­riod. When you look at the whole sea­son, our spe­cial teams are re­ally good, they are both in the top 10. We have good pieces to our team, which we have had all year. I think we have played as good as a team the last 10 games as we have all year. There are some spots that you al­ways have to clean up, that’s never go­ing to change, ev­ery team has ar­eas where they have to clean up, but I think we got bet­ter in a lot of ar­eas.”

Lamb and the Bron­cos had five full days off to pre­pare for their play­off op­po­nent.

“You def­i­nitely fo­cus in on all their sys­tems and their play­ers to a man,” said Gor­don. “We have al­ready started talk­ing about and get­ting into things, yeah we are just pre­par­ing a lot more.”

“Yeah you pre­pare a lot dif­fer­ently,” said Lamb of the process that was al­ready well un­der­way Sun­day. “You are pre­par­ing for one team. We are go­ing to meet here in an hour and we are go­ing to go through a lot of things. We are go­ing to go through what the play­offs are all about. We are go­ing to go through play­ers in­di­vid­u­ally, ten­den­cies, and we are re­ally go­ing to get down into the roots of their team and try and get as deep as we can.

“We are go­ing to re­ally en­joy it. We are not a re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced group but we have been there be­fore and it is go­ing to be a good chal­lenge. This is what ev­ery­one plays for, you play for the play­offs. We are go­ing to pre­pare but we are go­ing to en­joy it and have some fun do­ing it,” Lamb added.

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