Saturday, 21 April 2018

Estephan vaults into Broncos’ penthouse with OT winner

Star centre hopes to avoid one specific doghouse in Lethbridge

The Broncos celebrate Giorgio Estephan’s overtime winner.
    SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. – Giorgio Estephan has his figures crossed that he avoids his girlfriend’s doghouse when he returns to Lethbridge.
    On Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 2,890 spectators at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex, Estephan capped a hat trick performance scoring the winning goal for the Swift Current Broncos at the 9:41 mark of overtime in Game 2 of the WHL Eastern Conference championship series.
    The overage star centre tapped home a midrange shot in the extra session from defenceman Sahvan Khaira to give the Broncos a 4-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
    With the win, the Broncos took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.
Giorgio Estephan had a hat trick for the Broncos on Saturday.
    Estephan spent the first four-and-a-half seasons of his WHL career with the Hurricanes, and he came to the Broncos as part of a blockbuster trade on Jan. 9. His girlfriend is from Lethbridge, and the personable Estephan hopes he doesn’t get into trouble for his performance.
    “I hope she is happy,” said Estephan with a chuckle. “She is from Lethbridge, but I mean, she cheers for both teams.
    “She knows a lot of guys on the team too, so she is a good sport for sure.”
    The Edmonton, Alta., product’s overtime marker concluded a classic back-and-forth playoff encounter. The Broncos took a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period, but the Hurricanes rallied to go ahead 3-2 by the end of the second frame.
    Broncos star Finnish import left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi wired home a shot from the slot on the power play to force a 3-3 tie at the 9:23 mark of the third period.
    Early in overtime, Hurricanes defenceman Calen Addison wired a shot off the post the Swift Current goal.
    That set the stage for Estephan to net his winner.
An ice crew member cleans up Giorgio Estephan’s hat trick hats.
    “It was a hard fought game,” said Estephan. “There was definitely times throughout the game where everybody gets frustrated.
    “I think we stuck with our game plan. We stuck with things that were making us good. You could see at times how good we were rolling.
    “It felt pretty good at the end for sure.”
    The Broncos jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period, when Estephan netted his first two goals of the night 55 second apart from each other. He scored the first tally on the power play receiving a pass from Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin across the face of the Lethbridge goal firing the puck into an empty cage.
    On the second goal, Estephan worked a perfect give-and-go with linemate Max Patterson on a rush into the Lethbridge zone to net the second tally.
    The Hurricane stormed back in the second. The visitors picked up their first goal off a positive bounce play, when Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive deflected home a shot off Broncos right-winger Tanner Nagel into the Swift Current net.
The Broncos fans cheer one of their team’s goals on Saturday.
    With 4:09 remaining in the second, standout sophomore right-winger Dylan Cozens was chopped down on a break towards the Swift Current net by Broncos star defenceman Colby Sissons and was awarded a penalty shot. On the penalty shot, Cozens roofed a shot to the top left corner of the Swift Current goal to force a 2-2 tie.
    The Hurricanes pulled ahead 3-2 with 1:17 to play in the second, when 18-year-old centre Jadon Joseph popped home a loose puck during a net scramble.
    That set the stage for Heponiemi to tie things up for the Broncos in the third and for Estephan to win it in overtime.
Dylan Cozens scored on a penalty shot for the Hurricanes.
    “We were playing a good game,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “Obviously, (we had) a slow start, but I thought the second and third period we played really well.
    “OT, we have a lot of chances. It is obviously tough, but there was some questionable calls out there especially at the end. They (the officials) just decided to put the whistles away.”
    Stuart Skinner turned away 36 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Broncos. Logan Flodell stopped 29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Hurricanes.
    Broncos head coach and director of player personnel Manny Viveiros was pleased to see Estephan come through with a big outing.
    “He stepped up, and that is why we brought him in with our club like that,” said Viveiros. “He does a lot of stuff for us. He is a great kid in the room and off the ice.
    “On faceoffs, he makes a big difference. He is a real smart player. He knows where to be in certain times, and I am very happy for him.”
Aleksi Heponiemi (#20) celebrates scoring his third period goal.
    The first two games of the series have hurt the Broncos in the injury department. In their 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Friday, Broncos Russian import defenceman Artyom Minulin left with an injury and didn’t dress for Game 2.
    In the first period of Game 2, Gawdin skated gingerly to the bench after being on the receiving end of a hard hit into the boards from a Hurricanes player and didn’t return to the game. Viveiros didn’t rule out either returning for Game 3.
    The bench boss was pleased his club could find a way to be resilient once again.
    “We were fortunate again to get a win tonight, but that is playoff hockey so I’m certainly not going to apologize for that by any means here,” said Viveiros, who Broncos finished second overall in the WHL in the regular season with a 48-17-5-2 record. “I thought we played well in spurts again this evening.
    “At times, myself, I made some mistakes, and they capitalized on it right away. Our guys worked hard. We’re up with a 2-0 lead, and they come back and get three quick goals on us.
Calen Addison almost scored the OT winner for the Hurricanes.
    “I thought our kids responded after the second period. We got back to playing the way we felt we need to play if we are going to have a chance to win this series here. You get into overtime and anybody can win, and we’re just fortunate enough to get that one extra chance.”
    So far in the post-season, the Hurricanes have won all six contests they have hosted at the Enmax Centre. Kisio likes his team’s chances of getting a win in Game 3.
    “Our group doesn’t lack confidence,” said Kisio, who Hurricanes finished 16th overall in the WHL with a 33-33-6 mark. “We will be fine.
    “We’re going to get back into this series. We’ll go home, and we will get it done.”
The Broncos scramble to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
    Having played at the Enmax Centre for the Hurricanes, Estephan admitted his Broncos are going to be in for a challenge when they take the ice in Lethbridge for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Wednesday.
    “I’ve been there and seen what the crowd is capable of,” said Estephan. “They are going to come out buzzing.
    “We have to be able to handle their pressure especially early on in the game and push back as best we can. We all know they are going to come at us. Why wouldn’t they?
The Broncos celebrate their Game 2 victory over the Hurricanes.
  “They’ve been coming at us all series so far. We just have to be prepared to manager their attack.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to
    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.