Friday, 4 May 2018

Silvertips slip past Broncos 2-1 in WHL title series opener

The Silvertips celebrate a game winning goal from Connor Dewar, centre.
    SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - The slimmest of margins made the difference in the opening game of the WHL Championship series.
    With his Everett Silvertips locked in a 1-1 tie with the host Swift Current Broncos, Silvertips left-winger Connor Dewar tipped home a point shot from Czech import defenceman Ondrej Vala at the 1:49 mark of the third period to put the visitors up 2-1. 
    Everett proceeded to shut things down defensively for most of the remainder of the frame to take the opening game of the WHL title series by that one-goal margin before a sellout crowd of 2,890 spectators on Friday night at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex.
    The win marked the first time the Silvertips have earned a victory in the WHL Championship series. They made their only other appearance in the WHL title series during their inaugural campaign and were swept away in the best-of-seven set 4-0 by the Medicine Hat Tigers in May of 2004.
Connor Dewar scored the winning goal for the Silvertips on Friday.
    Following Friday’s tilt, no one on Everett’s side were thinking of any milestones. Dewar just wanted his third period tally could hold up to be the decisive marker.
    “I was just hoping it would hold up and be a winning goal by the end of the game,” said Dewar. “I think it helped us get going.
    “We had a couple of more good shots after that where it didn’t go in. We just tried to minimize their chances by maximizing ours.”
    The Broncos are making their first appearance in the WHL Final since they last won the league title back in 1993. The opening result was a heartbreaker for the host side.
    Veteran 19-year-old netminder Stuart Skinner had a strong outing making 23 saves in the Swift Current goal. He just couldn’t react to the change of direction of the puck on Dewar’s tipped home goal.
Goalie Stuart Skinner makes one of his 23 saves in goal for the Broncos.
    “It was kind of just a bad bounce I think,” said Skinner. “They just shot it, and it was going up pretty high.
    “It was a high tip. If he was closer to the net, it would have been a high stick. I saw it going up, so I tried to get my body in front of it.
    “He tipped it, and it went down. It was kind of a tough one for me.”
    The Broncos hit the ice for Friday’s encounter behind a raucous crowd that often drowned out the building’s public address announcer.
    The Silvertips quieted the host team’s supporters with a power-play goal at the 14:43 mark of the opening frame, when star overage right-winger Patrick Bajkov took the puck at the left side of the Broncos net, skated across the face of the goal and tucked home the puck behind Skinner.
Aleksi Heponiemi scored for the Broncos in the second period.
    The Swift Current faithful got re-energized at the 11:26 mark of the second, when Finnish import left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi tipped home a mid-range shot from centre Matteo Gennaro to tie things up at 1-1. The goal came on the Broncos’ 24th shot on goal.
    After Everett went ahead 2-1, the Broncos didn’t really have a quality chance to net the equalizer until late in the third. Swift Current forced a turnover in the Silvertips zone, and Gennaro found himself alone in front of the Everett goal. He tried to roof a shot top corner only to be robbed by the glove hand of Silvertips star netminder Carter Hart.
    Hart made 34 stops to pick up the win in goal for the Silvertips, who are 8-0 on the road in this year’s post-season. Star right-winger Garrett Pilon had assists on both Everett goals.
    “I thought we did a really good job being in the first game here on the road in this building that is really tough to play in,” said Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams. “We got a great power-play goal to start us off.
The Broncos fans cheer a goal from Aleksi Heponiemi.
    “We came into the second, and I probably thought the ice tilted there in favour of Swift Current. What I was really proud of was our response in the third. We started playing the way we should play.”
    Broncos head coach and director of player personnel Manny Viveiros said the tight encounter he expected materialized.
    “Everett did a real good job today here making it real difficult for us to get to their net front area,” said Viveiros. “They defended very well.
    “I thought both teams played very well tonight. I thought the goaltenders were very, very good for both teams. They (the Silvertips) were everything that comes as advertised tonight.
Patrick Bajkov scored the Silvertips first goal on Friday.
    “They are a team that battles real hard for loose pucks, especially in their zone, along the walls and especially in front of their net. We have to do a better job tomorrow as far as getting to the net a lot more and making sure we get our shots through to the net. I was very happy with our effort.”
    Heponiemi thought his Broncos could do a better job of getting pucks to the net.
    “They were blocking shots, and that is part of playoffs,” said Heponiemi. “We just have to play like real quick and just get pucks through.”
    Hart was pleased with how his Silvertips teammates played in front of him.
    “I felt really good in the net,” said Hart. “We did a really good job of limiting their chances to the outside.
    “We did a really good job the whole game of our D-zone coverage. I got a lot of key (shot) blocks during the year. Guys were just laying their bodies on the line to get the blocks.”
Silvertips goalie Carter Hart (#70) holds off the Broncos traffic.
    The 19-year-old, who backstopped Canada to a gold medal victory at the last World Juniors, gave praise to the Broncos fans for the support they showed their team.
    “It is good to see the support that Swift Current is getting here,” said Hart. “It is one of the smaller markets in the CHL, so it is really cool to see all the people come out and support their team and how passionate they are.
    “I think it energizes both teams. It is fun to play in these environments and play in these kind of games. Seeing how many people were here during warmups and how important it is to this city, it is cool.”
The Silvertips celebrate their Game 1 victory over the Broncos.
    Game 2 of the best-of-seven WHL title series is slated for Saturday at 7 p.m. local time at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex.

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