Swift Current advances to WHL Eastern Conference title series
|The Broncos celebrate captain Glenn Gawdin’s second goal on Monday.|
MOOSE JAW, Sask. – The heart and soul members of the Swift Current Broncos bucked the Moose Jaw Warriors into the off-season.
The Broncos big line of captain Glenn Gawdin, Tyler Steenbergen and Aleksi Heponiemi along with veteran defenceman Colby Sissons combined for four goals and seven assists to help their side dump the Warriors 6-0 in Game 7 of a WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series before 4,765 spectators at Mosaic Place.
The victory on Monday night allowed the Broncos to take the best-of-seven series between the two powerhouse clubs 4-3.
Moose Jaw finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings with a 52-15-2-3 record, while Swift Current was second overall with a 48-17-5-2 mark. Both clubs enter this series having won their respective first round series in seven games.
|Warriors D Josh Brook (#2) check Broncos LW Aleksi Heponiemi (#20).|
Swift Current advances to the WHL Eastern Conference championship series for the first time since 2001, and Broncos head coach and general manager Manny Viveiros was pleased with what his team was able to accomplish.
“We’re ecstatic, (and) we feel like we are fortunate also too,” said Viveiros. “I am very proud of our kids.
“Game 6, I thought we played really well, and obviously, we played a real good game tonight too. I have to give credit to Moose Jaw to come back and win Game 6. Tonight is one of those things that we scored at the right time.
|Colby Sissons scored the Broncos first goal.|
Backed by a rink packed mainly with their home fans, the Warriors had chances early to take the lead. Overage right-winger Brayden Burke was denied on a shot from in front of the Broncos goal and Moose Jaw rearguard Josh Brook was turned away on a close in chance.
Following those opportunities by the Warriors, the Broncos took a 1-0 lead, when Sissons slipped home a point shot through a screen at the 12:45 mark of the opening frame. With 35.4 seconds to play in the first, Heponiemi fed a perfect pass to Gawdin in front of the Moose Jaw goal, and he wired home a shot to give the visitors a 2-0 edge.
Early in the second, the Broncos ensured the final outcome wouldn’t be in doubt. Just 3:22 into the frame, Steenbergen entered the Moose Jaw zone on a rush down the right wing and wired a wrist shot past Warriors goaltender Brody Willms to give the visitors a 3-0 edge.
Just 78 seconds later, Sissons sprung Gawdin on a breakaway into the Warriors zone with a pass through centre ice, and the overage centre tucked home his second goal of the contest on a backhand shot to give Swift Current a 4-0 lead.
|Brayden Burke had an early chance to score for the Warriors.|
“They might have been louder than the Moose Jaw fans at times,” said Gawdin, who had two assists to go with his two goals. “That is just what our fans are all about.
“At home, it has been nuts. They are our backbone throughout the whole year.”
In the third, Heponiemi and Gawdin set up overage winger Giorgio Estephan for a power play goal, and Max Patterson added an even-strength marker a short time later to round out the scoring in the contest.
“We played a great game,” said Estephan. “Overall, I think it kind of proves to our team that even though adversity and losing a big game like we did in Game 6 to come back and put up a game like we did today is pretty good.”
Stuart Skinner turned away 25 shots to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Broncos. Swift Current won three out of the four games of the series played in Moose Jaw and Skinner had shutouts in each of those wins.
|Tyler Steenbergen had a goal for the Broncos on Monday.|
“I’m so thankful that I have this group of guys. We’re a family out there. I love it.”
Willms turned away 32 shots to take the loss in goal for the Warriors. Veteran Warriors defenceman Brandon Schuldhaus, who will enter his overage year next season, was kicked out of the game after the Broncos scored their sixth goal having received a match penalty for attempting to injure after slashing Broncos centre Andrew Fyten in the head.
The slash occurred when Fyten drove to the Moose Jaw net and fired a shot on goal, and his rebounded was potted home by Patterson.
The WHL office will review the penalty involving Schuldhaus for a possible suspension to start off the 2018-19 regular season.
|A group of Broncos fans cheer on their team.|
“It takes everything to fall into place,” said Hunter. “Everything has to go right to win in the playoffs, and it didn’t for us.
“We had a lot of guys injured. A lot of guys played injured. We weren’t 100 per cent, and that was the tough part of it.”
Viveiros marvel at the work of his club’s top forward line of Gawdin, Steenbergen and Heponiemi.
|Giorgio Estephan had a third period goal for the Broncos.|
“I said listen you guys have been doing it all year for us, and you have to lead the way for us not just offensively but defensively and all areas of the ice. I said you will play a lot.
“They welcomed that challenge, and that is why they are a pretty dynamic group not just from their offensive side of it. As far as their leadership and their will to win, those kids really want to win. It rubs off on everybody.”
The Broncos will face the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship series, and Game 1 set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current.
who were 33-33-6 in the regular season, are appearing in the Eastern Conference
Championship series for the second straight year having bowed out in six games
to the Regina Pats last year.
|The Broncos celebrate their Game 7 series win.|
Lethbridge eliminated the Red Deer Rebels in five games in the first round and took out the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games in the other Eastern Conference semifinal series. Viveiros believes his team is in for another tough set of games.
“They’re going to say we are the favourites because of the regular season,” said Viveiros. “It is what it is, and we are OK with that. We can live with that.
|The Broncos and Warriors shake hands after Monday’s game.|
“Every series has its own individual story. We’ll see how that plays out starting on Friday night.”
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