For the third time in the history of the Swift Current Broncos, they have won the WHL Championship. After being held off in Game 5, the Broncos found the confines of the Credit Union i-plex ever so friendly and shut down the Everett Silvertips 3-0, winning the WHL Championship series 4-2, capturing the Ed Chynoweth Cup and advancing to their third Memorial Cup.
With another sellout crowd of 2,890 being ever so important, the Broncos took an early lead on the power play and added to that in the last minute of the first period. They never looked back as they their goaltender Stuart Skinner turned away all 31 shots he saw en route to his sixth shutout in the postseason and second of the series.
With the goalie at the other end of the ice taking home every accolade he could have won in the WHL this year, the WHL Championship was all about Skinner.
While the Broncos won the WHL in both 1989 and 1993, this title is the first outside of the tenure of former coach Graham James and has to feel great for the city of around 16,000 residents. The championship is also the first won by a team from the province of Saskatchewan since 1993 as well.
Swift Current will now journey just about two hours away to Regina where they will partake in the Memorial Cup as the representatives of the WHL.
Everett stymied three different U.S. Division opponents on their way to the final but found their best players shut down by the strong defense of the Broncos and Skinner. Garett Pilon, who came into the series with 11 goals, failed to find the mark. Patrick Bajkov, who had 13 markers coming in, ended the series with just one.
The Broncos gave the Silvertips a taste of their own medicine on Sunday evening as they threw themselves in front of countless shots and aided Skinner in seeing any shots that did find their way on net.
A good early start was key for Swift Current, as their raucous crowd was into it from puck drop and never got out of it.
After Bajkov took a slashing penalty 6:20, in Swift Current used a tic-tac-toe passing play on the power play to set up Giorgio Estephan in front.
The goal was his 13th of the playoff and second of the series.
Then with only 0.6 seconds left in the first Aleksi Heponiemi scored off a feed from Sahvan Khaira and the Broncos were up 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Everett got things going in the second and ended up out shooting Swift Current 25-14 over the last 40 minutes, but they simply could not get a puck by the Broncos defense and their netminder.
Beck Malenstyn finished off the Silvertips with an empty-net-goal with seven seconds remaining. By that point the broadcasters were having trouble hearing each other over the sellout crowd.
Everett now sees the graduation of possibly their best overage group in franchise history with Bajkov, Matt Fonteyne and Kevin Davis moving on. Also, Pilon (Washington Capitals), Ondrej Vala (Dallas Stars) and Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) have all likely played their last games in the WHL as they have signed NHL contracts and will thus play professionally as 20-year-olds.
The MVP of the WHL playoffs was awarded to Captain Glenn Gawdin, who had 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points.
Lethbridge’s Brad Morrison actually ended up leading the WHL in playoff scoring with 37 points, despite not playing in the final.
Hart stopped 22-of-24 in the game and 158-of-172 in the series.
Skinner gave up 11 goals on 208 shots in the series.
-Swift Current will play their first game in the Memorial Cup on Saturday, May 19th against the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
-Regina, the host team, will play first on Friday against the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
-The Broncos were led in shots by Gawdin’s five, while Everett’s shot leaders were Riley Sutter and Connor Dewar – both with five.
-Sutter was 15-of-31 at the face off dot, while Fonteyne went 11-for-23 and Reece Vitelli was 1-for-10.
-Swift Current had Gawdin go 13-for-21, Estephan go 12-for-21 and Matteo Gennaro go 12-for-23.