SWIFT CURRENT – “All in all, I guess you get two points on the trip…not the way you wanted them. Maybe we deserved to win (Wednesday) and maybe we weren’t deserving of a point (Tuesday in Moose Jaw). I guess it all evens out.”
That was Saskatoon Blades’ Head Coach Dean Brockman following a 5-4 shootout loss to the Swift Current Broncos.
On Tuesday, the Bridge City Bunch stormed back from a 6-2 deficit to force overtime, only to fall 7-6 to the Moose Jaw Warriors. On Wednesday, the blue and gold jumped out to period leads of 3-0 and 4-1, but surrendered three unanswered goals in the third to Swift Current, on the way to having their winless streak extended to four games. That was confirmed when Logan Barlage of the Broncos beat fellow 16-year-old Nolan Maier with a backhand shot high into the Saskatoon net in Round 4 of the shootout.
Speedy Creek surprised many by starting 17-year-old rookie Joel Hofer in goal instead of 20-year-old former Blade Logan Flodell. The latter would come in at 2:37 of the second period following Alec Zawatsky’s tally, giving the Bridge City Bunch the 4-1 lead on only 15 shots on goal.
However, the Broncos caught fire in the third period thanks to back-to-back goals from captain Glenn Gawdin and an equalizer from Russian defenceman Artyom Minulin with 2:09 remaining in regulation and Flodell on the bench for an extra attacker.
Caleb Fantillo, Michael Farren and Cam Hebig also tallied for Saskatoon (8-12-2-1). Connor Chaulk notched the other goal for Swift Current, who improve to 16-5-1 and sit five points back of Moose Jaw for the East Division and Eastern Conference lead. The Broncos out-shot the Blades 36-32 as Maier made 32 saves, but was denied his first WHL victory in his fourth start.
The Bridge City Bunch return home to host Brandon Friday. It will mark the third-straight game this week that they face a team listed in the weekly CHL Top 10. The Wheat Kings sit 10thth with the Warriors in second and Swift Current sixth.
Pacman Points – WHL points leader Aleksi Heponiemi picked up three assists Wednesday, giving him 57 points, including 41 helpers for the season. However, the Finnish forward’s biggest contribution was scoring a shootout goal to finish Round 3 and force extra shots after Kirby Dach had given the Blades the lead in the shootout.
Rookie Saskatoon defenceman Randen Schmidt recorded his second consecutive two assist game. The 17-year-old Regina product was playing in his sixth WHL game after being called up from the Regina Pat-Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League. He will stay with the Bridge City Bunch for the remainder of the season.
Swift Current was 1-for-4 on the power play while the Blades finished 0-for-2 on the man advantage.
Saskatoon were without 19-year-old goaltender Ryan Kubic for a second straight game with an upper body injury suffered Saturday in Moose Jaw. Centre Logan Christensen continues to be sidelined by an upper body injury. Both are expected to board the bus Sunday when the Bridge City Bunch departs on their biennial U.S. Division road trip. Defenceman Seth Bafaro, along with forwards Tyler Lees and Dryden Michaud were healthy scratches.
The Broncos had four coaches decisions for healthy scratches; defencemen Jake Hobson and Matthew Stanley plus forwards Quinton Waitzner and Owen Blocker.
Swift Current won 38 of 66 faceoffs with captain Gawdin leading the way by capturing possession for his team on 17 of 29 draws. Dach was tops for the Blue and Gold, winning eight of 17 trips to the dot.
The busiest individual shooter overall was Gawdin for the Broncos with six shots while defenceman Sahvan Khaira had five. Five different Blades players managed four shots on goal.