After ending the regular season as bitter rivals, the Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats were ready for battle. The regular season stats don’t matter anymore. The regular season win record doesn’t mean much. And both teams were ready for a new battle on ice in this first game of round one.
As Manny Viveiros explained earlier in the day during an interview with Ryan Switzer, he’s expecting a “high-tempo, highly skilled” series, “not as chippy as the last two regular seasons games.” And he was right. When asked by Ryan Switzer if the group was healthy, Manny Viveiros acknowledged, “absolutely. Yeah, we’re good. We’re good to go.”
As well as a healthy crew, the Broncos have added prospects Ben King from the Okanagan Rockets and goalie Isaac Poulter from the Rink Academy Prep. King is a right-shot forward who has earned 13 goals and 21 assists in 34 games this season in British Columbia. Poulter, the six-foot, 165-pound goaltender who is originally from Winnipeg, Mb, has some impressive goalie stats with a GAA of 1.68, a save percentage of 0.938, and four shutouts this season.
Let the battle begin. Fans were a sea of blue and green at the iPlex in Swift Current before game one of the first round of playoffs against the Regina Pats. The Bronco fever was palpable.
Newly called-up Ben King and Isaac Poulter sat this one out along with Andrew Fyten (suspension), Quinton Waitzner, and Connor Horning. In net for Swift Current was Stuart Skinner. Defending Skinner on the blue line were Josh Anderson and Artyom Minulin. Starters up front were Kaden Elder, Beck Malenstyn, and Matteo Gennaro.
In goal for Regina was Ryan Kubic with Libor Hajek and and Cale Fleury on the blue line. Up front, Nick Henry, Sam Steel, and Matt Bradley took the opening faceoff. Scratches for the visiting team were Jonas Harkins, Duncan Pierce, Logan Nijhoff, Parker Gavlas, Jesse Gabrielle and Max Paddock.
It wasn’t the first period that most were expecting. A lot of people expected a continuation of the last two regular season games, but it wasn’t so in the first 20 minutes. Although there were penalties, the nastiness than plagued these teams in the regular season was left in the dressing room. Josh Anderson and Sam Steel exchanged a couple shots in the Broncos end zone after icing was called immediately after the face-off and there were a few good hits. But it didn’t get much rougher than that. Both teams played a good, clean, self-controlled period of hockey. That didn’t mean that no one was hurt in the process. Mackenzie Wight left the ice when he blocked a shot on Skinner. He seemed to be favouring his right foot. Swift Current would retaliate with the opening goal seconds later. With four shots on net, Beck Malenstyn slapped one home to give the Broncos a 1-0 advantage midway through the period.
Regina would fight back with some big, clean hits, notably one from Tanner Sidaway that sent Artyom Minulin to the bench in some discomfort. But that first goal gave Swift Current momentum and they capitalized on it. Colby Sissons took Cameron Hebig off the puck in the Broncos zone with a huge hit and then Tanner Nagel would throw his body around and take away chances for the Pats. Glenn Gawdin would shove Brady Pouteau into the end boards and Pouteau would throw a couple punches as the refs tried to break them apart. And then the penalties started. After a scuffle in front of the Regina net with Aleksi Heponiemi and Kole Gable, Bryce Platt took a roughing penalty and the home team capitalized with a goal by Tyler Steenbergen. With a 2-0 advantage, both teams would see a lot of the penalty box. Sam Steel got an unsportsmanlike misconduct along with Giorgio Estephan. Gawdin was taken off for interference. And soon after the Gawdin penalty expired, he landed back in the box again along with Oksanen for roughing. During another power play, Broncos forward Matteo Gennaro would deflect a shot by Sissons and the home team led 3-0 after 20 minutes.
The second period was the Stuart Skinner show. The Pats offence fought back with big chances on the Broncos net, but Skinner was in playoff form as he stonewalled every shot they took. Regina was clearly the dominant team in the middle frame, taking over the shots on net 18-13. Kaden Elder took a couple of awkward hits into the boards. Then Emil Oksanen took down Matteo Gennaro in the neutral zone, turning over possession to the visiting team. With a little bit more effort in the last half of the period, Swift Current generated some chances, but couldn’t capitalize on Kubic. The score remained 3-0 for the Broncos but the shots on net were 22-16 in favour of Regina.
The final period opened with a nasty cross check on Glenn Gawdin by Aaron Hyman, who took a two minute penalty right off the hop. But Tyler Steenbergen would negate that penalty and force four on four hockey because of a hooking penalty. Noah King had a stellar chance on net, but Ryan Kubic wouldn’t allow it. Again, Regina put on the pressure. Stuart Skinner stepped up by tracking the puck through all kinds of traffic. The Pats set up plays, took their time, and generated chances. But Skinner was the hero again for Swift Current. Momentum shifted later in the period as the Broncos had a few good shots on the Regina goal. Kubic denied Colby Sissons with a huge save that gave the visiting team some hope. But with Tyler Steenbergen left alone in front of the Regina net, that hope dwindled for a moment until Kubic stepped up to save yet another big goal. Glenn Gawdin would get a breakaway chance, but Cale Fleury would catch up to him in front of the net and take away his shot. After both teams played a full 60 minutes, not letting off the pressure very often, it was Skinner and the Swift Current Broncos that came out victorious in the first game with a score of 3-0.
Both teams return to the iPlex ice again tomorrow night for game two of this series.