Saturday, 19 May 2018

Broncos drop OT heartbreaker at Memorial Cup

Titan might take up villain status at CHL tourney

Giorgio Estephan had a pair of goals on Saturday.
    Swift Current Broncos will have another chance to show off their perseverance after suffering a deflating loss to open play at the Memorial Cup tournament.
    The WHL champions opened the CHL title tournament on Saturday watching leads of 2-1 and 3-2 disappear due to short-handed goals from the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan. The two clubs went to overtime locked in a 3-3 draw.
    At the 2:58 mark of the extra session, Titan defenceman Noah Dobson deflected a centring pass from behind the icing line of the Swift Current zone off a Broncos defender to Acadie-Bathurst left-winger Liam Murphy in front of the Swift Current goal. Murphy directed the puck around the right pad of Broncos star netminder Stuart Skinner into the goal to give the Titan a 4-3 victory before an announced crowd of 6,237 spectators at the 6,484 seat Brandt Centre in Regina.
    While the Titan are known for scoring short-handed goals, it is almost unheard of for the Broncos to give up two short-handed tallies in one game. That ultimately turned out to be the difference that allowed Acadie-Bathurst to pull out victory.
    The Titan scored first on Saturday, when centre Samuel Asselin deflected home a point shot from defenceman Olivier Galipeau at the 8:02 mark of the first period.
    The Broncos stormed back before the opening frame ended. With 7:42 remaining in the first, Broncos star right-winger Tyler Steenbergen deflected home a backhand shot during a net scramble working on a power play to tie things up at 1-1. With 61 seconds to play in the first, Broncos centre Giorgio Estephan took a cross-ice feed from offensive defenceman Colby Sissons and buried a shot to give Swift Current a 2-1 edge.
    Early in the second period, Titan captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel hit Steenbergen from the side and sent the Sylvan Lake, Alta., product flying awkwardly into the boards.
Colby Sissons had a key assist for the Broncos.
    Steenbergen was assisted off the ice by Broncos athletic trainer Jamie LeBlanc and did not return to the contest.
    Max Patterson finished the game playing on the Broncos top line with captain Glenn Gawdin at centre and Finnish import Aleksi Heponiemi at left wing.
    Still, the Broncos seemed to be control and were working on a power play late in the frame. With 1:53 remaining in the second, Truchon-Viel chipped the puck out of his own zone up the boards to spring Asselin on a short-handed breakaway. Asselin tucked home a shot between Skinners legs to tie things up at 2-2.
    Swift Current quickly answered back at even strength. Working down low in front of the Acadie-Bathurst goal, Estephan backhanded home the rebound of his own shot to give the Broncos a 3-2 lead with 48.5 seconds to play in the second. He had an assist on the Broncos first goal for a three-point night.
    If there were any thoughts that Estephan’s second goal might hold up as the winner, those thoughts changed at the 5:51 mark of the third with the Broncos working another power play. An errant Swift Current pass sprung the Titan on the rare three-on-one short-handed break.
    Titan defenceman Adam Holwell drove hard to the net and knocked home the rebound of a shot from Acadie-Bathurst centre German Rubtsov to force a 3-3 tie. That set the stage for Murphy’s overtime winner.
    Skinner turned away 35 shots to take the setback in goal for the Broncos. Evan Fitzpatrick stopped 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Titan.
    The Broncos had some missed opportunities where they could have taken better control of the contest. Leading 2-1 early in the second, Steenbergen fired a shot off the crossbar before leaving the contest due to injury.
    Shortly after the start of the third with the Broncos holding a 3-2 edge, Gawdin had a breakaway, and he was turned away on his first shot and on a rebound chance by Fitzpatrick.
Tyler Steenbergen left Saturday’s game after being injured on a hit.
    The Titan played with good speed and skill and also brought a real pest type edge to their game trying to get under the collective skins of the Broncos players. It was the type of edge that would be loved by those that are fans of the Titan and would be hated by those that were fans of the Titan’s opponents.
    Asselin, a 19-year-old who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 181 pounds, resembled former NHL great Theo Fleury, who was also a former star of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, during Saturday’s game. Fleury was well-known for putting up points and stirring up tensions on the ice.
    Due to the fact the Memorial Cup is a neutral tournament, it is unlikely the host Regina Pats will be able to bring back Senator Denise Batters to play “Pop Goes the Weasel,” when Asselin takes the ice to play the Regina squad. In the late 1980s, Batters was a Pats organist and played that very tune when Fleury would step on the Brandt Centre ice surface as a member of the Warriors.
    The round robin portion of the Memorial Cup continues on Sunday, when the Titan battle the Pats at 5 p.m. at the Brandt Centre in a clash of 1-0 teams.

Silvertips overagers gave their all to Everett

Matt Fonteyne graduated as a standout leader for the Silvertips.
    When the Everett Silvertips fell in the WHL Championship series, it brought an end of an era for the club.
    On Sunday at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current, the Silvertips fell 3-0 in Game 6 of the WHL title series to the host Broncos before a sellout crowd of 2,890 spectators. The Broncos took the best-of-seven set 4-2.
    The loss brought an end to the major junior careers of Silvertips overagers Matt Fonteyne, Patrick Bajkov and Kevin Davis. All three were drafted by the Silvertips and spent their entire WHL careers in Everett playing there for five complete seasons.
    The trio helped Everett finish third overall in the WHL with a 47-20-2-3 record. They were key players in the Silvertips run to the WHL Championship series for the first time since the club’s inaugural campaign in 2003-04.
    In the process, the Silvertips advanced past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Patrick Bajkov led the Silvertips in regular season scoring this past season.
    Thanks to the work of that trio, the Silvertips still have never missed the playoffs during the franchise’s 15 seasons of existence.
    Fonteyne, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds, was selected in the third round and 66th overall by the Silvertips in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. The strong two-way centre was the team’s captain this past season, where he appeared in all 72 regular season games netting 35 goals, 53 assists and a plus-27 rating in the plus-minus department. During his career with the Silvertips, Fonteyne, who is from Wetaskiwin, Alta., appeared in 340 regular season games piling up 82 goals, 127 assists and a plus-42 rating.
    Bajkov, who stands 6-feet and weighs 185 pounds, was selected in the sixth round and 128th overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, and the skilled right-winger was the Silvertips leading scorer this past season appearing in all of the team’s 72 regular season games collecting 33 goals, 67 assists and a plus-19 rating. During his career with the Silvertips, Bajkov, who is from Nanaimo, B.C., appeared in 342 regular season games collecting 112 goals, 176 assists and a plus-44 rating.
Kevin Davis became a standout offensive-defenceman with the Silvertips.
    Davis, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds, was selected in the first round and 11th overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, and he developed into a sound offensive-defenceman. He led all Silvertips defencemen in scoring this past season appearing in 71 regular season games piling up 10 goals, 55 assists and a plus-29 rating. During his career with the Silvertips, Davis, who is from Kamloops, B.C., appeared in 347 regular season games collecting 26 goals, 148 assists and a plus-42 rating.
    Being based in an area covering teams in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, I don’t get to deal with clubs from the Western Conference often, where the Silvertips play out of. During the course of the WHL Championship series, I was pretty impressed with how the Silvertips overagers carried themselves, and you could tell they cared about their team. It makes you wish you could have dealt with them more.
    Here is hoping Fonteyne, Bajkov and Davis all have the best of luck as they move on to the next steps of their lives.

Getting first win key at Memorial Cup, other notes

Jake Leschyshyn and the Pats are sitting pretty at 1-0 at the Memorial Cup.
    So far at the Memorial Cup, the QMJHL champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the host Regina Pats are sitting pretty.
    Both teams won their opening games at the 100th Memorial Cup tournament, which is a big thing with the way the four-team tournament in structured. The four clubs play each other in a round robin, which means each team will play three games at this stage of the event.
    As soon as a team wins a game, the club is guaranteed to play at least a standings tiebreaker contest in the playoff round. For the competing clubs, a win helps remove the anxiety of knowing if you will be playing after Wednesday. When a team gets eliminated from the event, the eliminated squad packs up and immediately departs for home and doesn’t stay to watch the rest of the tourney.
    Due to the fact this event feature three league championship teams and a sound host squad, it is hard for a club to work its way back, if it falls to 0-2. A lot of emotional energy along with physical energy gets burned pulling out of a hole that is 0-2.
    The Titan and Pats are both 1-0 and play each other on Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Brandt Centre. The winner will be guaranteed a berth into Friday’s semifinal game.
    The WHL champion Swift Current Broncos and the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs are both 0-1 and play each other on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Brandt Centre. The winning club in that contest will lock up a berth in at least a tiebreaking game, while the losing club will fall to 0-2 and need to win out to stay alive at the event.
  • The 100th edition of the Memorial Cup has some pretty cool honourary captains in Dennis Sobchuk and Guy Lafleur. Sobchuk was a star centre on the Regina Pats 1974 Memorial Cup championship team,  and he went on to play 348 regular season games in the now defunct WHA and 35 contests in the NHL. Lafleur helped the Quebec Remparts win the Memorial Cup in 1971 and he achieved star status in the NHL playing on five Stanley Cup winning teams with the Montreal Canadiens. Legendary Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster and former Boston Bruins head coach Don Cherry is honourary chairman of the Memorial Cup.
  • The Pats are auctioning of the special jerseys they wore for Friday’s opening game of the Memorial Cup. The jerseys paid tribute to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, which was a privately funded regiment founded at the outbreak of the First World War. The Pats were named after the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Proceeds from the auction go to support the Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund. The bids close on May 28 at 9 p.m. eastern time. Those looking to take part in the auction can do so by clicking here.
  • It seems like a lot of people are showing up as empty seats during the first two games of the Memorial Cup. Attendance was announced at 5,678 on Friday night and 6,237 on Saturday night at the 6,484 seat facility. It is possible a lot of people no showed as part of corporate ticket packages. There has been a lot of social media and sports talk radio chatter about how ticket prices are too high. Tournament ticket packages were on sale for $700 to $750 for the general public, which was an increased from the $595 at last year’s tournament in Windsor. Ticket packages for next year’s tournament in Halifax are pegged at $320 for season ticket holders, which is the lowest price to attend the Memorial Cup in years. Former Halifax Mooseheads play-by-play voice John Moore trumpeted next year’s Memorial Cup ticket prices in a tweet.

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