Tyler Lowey / Darwin Knelsen

WHL Eastern Conference Final preview: Swift Current Broncos vs Lethbridge Hurricanes

The Swift Current Broncos will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final. Although this may not be the most anticipated matchup of the playoffs, it has the potential to be a great series. Both teams have two of the most talented goalies in the WHL and the offensive depth that has helped them to get to the third round of the post-season.

Stuart Skinner from the Swift Current Broncos turns aside a shot by Edmonton’s Nick Bowman.(Andy Devlin photo)

The regular season worked out in the Broncos favour, with a record of 3-1. The Hurricanes didn’t win against Swift Current until after the trade deadline. Which made for the story of the season.

In a blockbuster trade year for the Swift Current Broncos, Manny Viveiros traded some young players to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for some veteran players in hopes of making a deep playoff run. This trade saw the exit of Logan Barlage, Owen Blocker, Matthew Stanley, and, surprisingly, goaltender Logan Flodell from Swift Current in exchange for Giorgio Estephan, Tanner Nagel, and goalie Stuart Skinner. Since then, Estephan and Nagel have beefed up the Broncos offensive depth while Barlage and Flodell have progressed in their roles for the Hurricanes. It’s poetic that Logan Flodell and Stuart Skinner will now meet in this round of the playoffs.

The playoff stats leaderboard is full of Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes players. Brad Morrison is the points leader with 29 points in 10 games. Glenn Gawdin sits in fifth place with 20 points. Morrison is in second place in the goals category with 12 while Tyler Steenbergen is in fourth with 10 goals. Aleksi Heponiemi owns first place in assists with 18 and Morrison is at a close second place with 17. In power play goals, Matteo Gennaro sits atop that category with six and Jordy Bellerive is in second with five. Glenn Gawdin also made the list, sitting in third position with five power play goals. Heponiemi has the most power play assists (11) while Morrison sits in second place with 10 and Calen Addison is in third place with eight.

Matteo Gennarro (Andy Devlin)

This is truly a story of two netminders. Being two of the most influential goalies in the league, there’s no surprise that Logan Flodell and Stuart Skinner are scattered all over the goalie leaderboard. Flodell has earned fourth place in goals against average (2.77), fourth place in save percentage (0.910), second place in wins (8), and third place in shutouts (2). Skinner, as well, has had an impact, notching second place in goals against average (2.07), second place in save percentage (0.934), third place in wins (8), and first place in shutouts (4). This series will be a battle of the goaltenders.

Colby Sissons (photo-Andy Devlin)

Along with the goalies potentially being the biggest impact on this series, there are others that will be important this round. Colby Sissons has been a forceful offensive-defenseman for the Swift Current Broncos from the beginning of his career. He has a powerful shot from the blue line and he’s also a defensive leader for his team. Josh Anderson, who recently signed with the Colorado Avalanche, is a dependable stay-at-home defenseman. His solid play in front of Stuart Skinner will be important to taking away opportunities from the opposition. Kaden Elder, one of the most consistent and dependable players on the Broncos, brings energy and stamina to every game. Not only is his offensive positioning well thought out, he’s also an influential player in front of the home net by blocking shots and adding another level of defense. Depth on defense will be the key to the Swift Current Broncos coming out victorious.

The Hurricanes will hit the Broncos hard with their impressive offence. Brad Morrison has been one of the best forwards in the playoffs so far with 12 goals, 17 assists, totalling 29 points in 10 games. His speed is an asset and his puck possession will stifle the opposition. Jordy Bellerive has 18 points in 10 games. An offensive threat on the power play, Bellerive adds depth to an already stacked forward core. On defense, Calen Addison adds to the strong Hurricanes power play. He’s solid on the blue line and contributes to important plays. Taylor Ross is another blue line asset for Lethbridge, especially during the penalty-kill. He’s first on the leaderboard for short-handed goals (2), and he’s earned eight goals and seven assists in 10 games during playoffs. With that kind of offensive depth, goaltending will be the key to the Lethbridge Hurricanes winning this series.

 It all starts on Friday, April 20th, in Swift Current at the Credit Union iPlex, where the Broncos will host the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first two games of the Eastern Conference series.

-Swift Current Broncos beat writer Traci Kay

Game Visitor Home Date Time
1 Lethbridge @ Swift Current Friday, April 20 7:00
2 Lethbridge @ Swift Current Saturday, April 21 7:00
3 Swift Current @ Lethbridge Tuesday, April 24 7:00
4 Swift Current @ Lethbridge Wednesday, April 25 7:00
5 * Lethbridge @ Swift Current Saturday, April 28 7:00
6 * Swift Current @ Lethbridge Monday, April 30 7:00
7 * Lethbridge @ Swift Current Tuesday, May 1 7:00

* If necessary

-Schedule from WHL.ca

photo-Doug Wyrostok

-Lethbridge Hurricanes beat writer Doug Wyrostok:

Welcome to round three and the revisiting of The Trade. Of course, that is the trade deadline deal that sent goalie Stuart Skinner, overage forward Giorgio Estephan and depth forward Tanner Nagel to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for goalie Logan Flodell, forwards Logan Barlage and Owen Blocker, defenseman Matthew Stanley and a host of draft picks.

Now those players look to take each other on in the WHL Eastern Conference final.

How the Hurricanes got here
The Hurricanes have breezed through the first two rounds, besting the Red Deer Rebels and Brandon Wheat Kings in five games each.

Leading the way has been 20-year-old Brad Morrison, who leads the WHL playoffs with 29 points (12 goal 19 assists).

Logan Flodell (photo Doug Wyrostok)

Chipping in has been captain Jordy Bellerive (8 goals 10 assists) and Taylor Ross ( 8 goals 7 assists) and a host of other Hurricanes who have provided a well rounded offence through two playoff rounds.

Stellar in net has been Flodell, who’s 2.77 GAA puts him third in the playoffs.

How they can win
The Hurricanes need to keep scoring. Morrison has set a blistering pace and the rest of the team needs to do their part to keep the offence humming.

The Canes power play has been lethal through two rounds and will need to stay potent against the Broncos, as they need to take advantage of every opportunity.

Flodell has been rock solid between the pipes and he will need to continue that. He’s played as if he has something to prove since being moved at the deadline and this is his opportunity to shine against his former mates.

Lethbridge needs to stay away from the story lines that this match up provides and just play their game. Coach Brent Kisio has given them a solid blueprint to follow and the team just needs to execute at all levels to knock off the powerful Broncos.

 

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