The final decision has been made. The Swift Current Broncos are getting ready for round two and the Regina Pats now have a few weeks off to rest and recuperate before they host the Memorial Cup tournament.
Going into this game, it was an evenly-matched back and forth series throughout six games. It had all the elements of great junior hockey; physicality, consistency, skill, and effort. Every player had their good moments and their not-so-good moments. As much as fans would love to see their team sweep a series, nothing compares to a tension-filled seven-game series.
And tension was the word of the evening from beginning to end. In a series plagued by penalties on both sides, which, at times, have decided the outcome of the game, Game 7 was the polar opposite. The referees seemingly put away the whistles during this game. Clipping penalties, hooking penalties, lots of tripping penalties, none of them were called except for a tripping infraction on Estephan in the third period.
Artyom Minulin and Jesse Gabrielle both played in this game, but neither player looked as though they were playing at full strength. At times they each looked sluggish and fell behind the play in front of them. Later in the game, Minulin took a blocked shot off his skate which probably didn’t help him to feel better if he was playing hurt.
Things didn’t look good for Swift Current in the beginning. Regina dominated the first period with faster speed, better passing, and finally the first goal of the game. A Liam Schioler shot at the blue line made its way to Cameron Hebig, who kicked the puck in. After a quick review, it was deemed a good goal because Hebig was outside of the crease and the Regina Pats were up 1-0. With the shots on goal 13-5 in favour of Regina, Swift Current finally got their chance. Glenn Gawdin passed to Tyler Steenbergen, who buried it behind Ryan Kubic to tie the game after 20 minutes.
The second period was all about quality over quantity. With bodies flying all over the ice, both teams were throwing big hits and taking big hits. Regina had more chances on net, but Swift Current got more quality shots on Kubic. One such shot was when Giorgio Estephan made a gutsy pass right in front of the Pats net to Max Patterson who buried another for Swift Current. With life back in the home team, the tension mounted as the Broncos tried to defend their 2-1 lead as well as create some offensive plays that would give them some insurance. Captain, Glenn Gawdin would take it upon himself to get things done and notch another goal for the Broncos. But the Pats weren’t going out that easy. On a pass from Josh Mahura, Robbie Holmes slapped one home to come within one goal of the Broncos. The score was 3-2 for the Broncos after 40 minutes.
The third period was the height of intensity between these teams as Swift Current attempted to maintain their lead and Regina tried to tie the game. The first penalty of the game was handed out in the third period as Beck Malenstyn was called for tripping in the neutral zone. It was the biggest penalty kill in the series that set the tone for the rest of the game and, eventually, won the game for the Broncos. Stuart Skinner was at his best through the penalty kill and he gave Swift Current hope as the clock ticked down. In the last few minutes of the game, Regina played desperate hockey, attempting to set up plays, only to be turned away by the Swift Current blue-liners and Stuart Skinner. And the Broncos defence sacrificed everything in front of Skinner to retain their lead. And it paid off. The Swift Current Broncos won 3-2.
The Pats now have a few weeks to rest and recuperate before hosting the Memorial Cup tournament in Regina. The Swift Current Broncos will move onto the next round, where they will face the winner of Moose Jaw Warriors vs. Prince Albert Raiders.
The Regina Pats put up a good fight during this series. Ryan Kubic was the hero of the first round for Regina while the Pats depth lended a hand to them forcing seven games. The Sam Steel, Cameron Hebig duo was a powerhouse of offense while their solid defence denied a lot of chances by Swift Current.
Sam Steel played a fast-paced, feisty series. His speed and hunger for plays was the backbone to the Pats success in three games. And with a wingman like Cameron Hebig, Steel notched 11 points (one goal and ten assists) through this round and Hebig earned eight points (six goals and two assists). Matt Bradley also stood out for the Pats with his leadership skills and depth on offence. He earned three points throughout the series, including one goal and two assists. But the hero for the Regina Pats was Ryan Kubic. With rumours flying that Max Paddock was hurt, Kubic was stellar in net for Regina. He tracked the puck like a pro on almost every play, his positioning in net was solid, and he rarely faltered. Ending this series with a save percentage of 0.891 and a GAA of 3.08 is nothing to be disappointed about. Kubic has a bright future ahead of him.
But in the end, the Swift Current Broncos reigned supreme because of the substantial defensive skill from Colby Sissons (one goal, four assists), Sahvan Khaira (one goal), Josh Anderson (one assist), and Noah King. Up front, Glenn Gawdin (five goals, six assists), Tyler Steenbergen (the series points leader with six goals and six assists), Beck Malenstyn (one goal), Giorgio Estephan (one goal, four assists), and Matteo Gennaro (two goals, one assist) created offence that Swift Current banked on at the trade deadline to win. With Stuart Skinner (GAA 2.76, save percentage 0.926) solid in net, the Broncos put up a fight, winning battle after battle to stay alive. Eventually those battles led to their seventh game with to move onto the next round.
At times, Swift Current looked a little disorganized and couldn’t claw their way out of the hole that they dug for themselves. They need to learn to reset and get back in the game for the next round. The Broncos play their best hockey when they can set the pace of the game. And they’ll need to learn how to do that quickly because whether they play the Prince Albert Raiders or the Moose Jaw Warriors, the next battle will be a tough one.