Road to the Memorial Cup: Broncos take 2-1 lead in WHL Championship Series
Oh. My. Gawdin.
Never has a truer phrase been spoken.
Glenn Gawdin – captain of the Swift Current Broncos – struck three times, including a short-handed, game-tying effort in the third period followed by the overtime winner, as the Broncos claimed a 3-2 victory over the Everett Silvertips in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven 2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series.
“Glenn has been our guy all year, throughout the whole season and at different times,” said Manny Viveiros, head coach of the Broncos. “He’s always stepped up for us. That’s what we expect from him.
“I thought tonight was a game that was our best game of the series, the way we played. We played real fast, got in on the forecheck and did a lot of good things. Everett played well, too, there’s no question about it.
“We’re certainly pleased with the win. It’s a fine line right now as far as winning and losing. We’re fortunate we’re getting that extra goal at the right time.”
Only 2:40 worth of extra time had elapsed before Gawdin – a prospect of the Calgary Flames – struck a dagger through Carter Hart and the Silvertips.
Taking a pass from New Jersey Devils prospect Colby Sissons, Gawdin turned in the left circle and snapped a quick shot short side past the blocker of Hart, completing the hat trick and a second consecutive overtime comeback for Swift Current.
“It feels good,” Gawdin said of scoring the overtime winner in Game 3. “I’m happy we got the win. But we need two more [wins].
“For me, it’s about trying to get [the shot] off quick. [Hart] is a good goalie and he doesn’t get beat too often. Great plays from my linemates and teammates as well… They made good feeds to me.”
On this night, overtime wouldn’t have been possible if not for an extraordinary extra effort from the Broncos captain.
Trailing 2-1 with time winding down in the third period, the situation looked dire for Swift Current after veteran forward Matteo Gennaro was flagged for high sticking with 4:36 to go in regulation. Despite being short a skater, the Broncos pressed the issue looking for the equalizer.
Breaking through the slot, Washington Capitals prospect Beck Malenstyn shipped the puck over to Gawdin whose first attempt was turned aside. As he was knocked to the ice in search of a rebound, the captain swatted a second-effort try past Hart, tying the game 2-2 with a short-handed marker and only 3:16 remaining on the regulation clock.
Both teams traded quality opportunities over the final few shifts of the third period, with neither able to break through and for the second consecutive evening, overtime was required, ensuring a third consecutive one-goal game in the 2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series.
“We’re back to one shot come overtime and [the Broncos] got it on us,” said Dennis Williams, head coach of the Silvertips. “We kind of did it to ourselves. They were quicker to puck touches in both situations. Obviously, Gawdin had a great game, scored all three and was a difference-maker out there.
“We kind of did it to ourselves, especially the short-handed goal. Their four guys outworked our five. When that happens, you’re probably not going to win too many hockey games. Credit to them, two games in a row. We knew they would never quit, but they had the upper hand on us.
“That’s hockey. We’ve got to get over it and get ready for Game 4.”
While the overtime comeback served as a bit of déjà vu on this night, the start of the game provided a change of pace as Swift Current opened the scoring for the first time in the series.
Florida Panthers prospect Aleksi Heponiemi cruised in over the blueline, cutting to the slot before dropping a pass for – you guessed it – Gawdin, who wired a wrist shot past the blocker of Hart, giving the visitors a 1-0 advantage with 5:16 to play in the first period.
The Silvertips didn’t waste any time replying. Exactly one minute after the Broncos jumped ahead, 2018 NHL Draft prospect Riley Sutter went to the front of the net, redirecting a Kevin Davis point shot past a helpless Stuart Skinner, evening the affair at 1-1.
With only two goals between the two squads in the opening 20 minutes, the goaltending duel was once again in full force on Tuesday as Hart and Skinner traded admirable saves.
With 10:29 to go in the first period, Washington Capitals prospect Garrett Pilon cut to the high slot off the left wing, firing a quick snap in on Skinner, who was his usual razor-sharp self, snaring the puck with the glove hand and keeping the game square.
Two shifts later, Skinner came up big again. This time around, he swallowed up a wrist shot from Silvertips captain Matt Fonteyne, who let loose from high in the slot with 8:31 to go in the first period.
Next up, Malenstyn came close with a solid opportunity low in the slot as he knocked a bouncing puck off the left pad of Hart with 8:19 to go.
It didn’t stop there as the two teams continued exchanging chances. On the next shift, Connor Dewar sent a long, low shot towards the net. With plenty of bodies muddying the waters in front of Skinner, the rubber rang off the iron, but came straight back out 7:30 into the proceedings.
The Broncos came close to beating Hart once again with 1:44 to go in the first period. Ever the crafty playmaker, Heponiemi dropped a pass once again, this time for Sissons, who redirected it into the glove of Hart, who calmly snatched up the opportunity.
On the following shift, the Silvertips made good on their next go around the Swift Current cage. Fonteyne, who had been stymied earlier in the period, worked his way behind the net before swinging the puck towards the crease. Taking a bounce in tight, the puck somehow found a hole in Skinner, trickling across the line for a 2-1 Silvertips lead after 20 minutes of play.
“Whenever you’re playing a big goalie like Skinner, he’s a big goalie and he moves well,” Fonteyne said. “He’s WHL Goalie of the Month for a reason. Whenever you’re playing a guy like that, you want to filter in as many pucks on net as you can and get bodies there.
“When you get late into the season and the post-season, no shot is a bad shot.”
Perhaps the best chance of the second period came with approximately 7:20 to go. Off a turnover, the puck came to Pilon at the backdoor, who one-timed a shot high. But with a strong right-to-left push, Skinner stretched out getting just a piece of the puck to redirect it high over the bar.
“It’s a mental battle for sure,” said Skinner – a prospect of the Edmonton Oilers – regarding remaining focused and bouncing back from strange bounces.
“It’s all about how you rebound – get control in the net and get control in my mind. I don’t want to be dwelling on the fact I let in a couple goals or didn’t come up with a couple saves. My mental rebound has been good so far. I’ve been able to reset. I have a lot of faith in my teammates, too, that if I shut the door for the rest of the game, they’re going to pop a couple in. My job is to give our team a chance to win and I’m really grateful it worked both nights.”
After no scoring in the middle period, the two teams headed into the final 20 minutes of regulation separated by only one goal, the Silvertips ahead 2-1.
The Broncos came within inches of tying the affair just past the midpoint of the third period. With 8:55 on the clock, Malenstyn burst across the blueline, ringing a hot shot off the joint of the cross bar in behind the glove hand of Hart.
After Gawdin had tied the game, Malenstyn – a prospect of the Washington Capitals – continued to create havoc in the Everett end of the rink. With 1:27 on the clock, the winger burned down the right side, cutting hard to the net and nearly wrapping the puck home. Moments later, the Silvertips went in 2-on-1, but Fonteyne had his stick lifted at the last second, negating the opportunity.
By the end of the evening, Skinner had collected 37 saves and second-star honours, behind Gawdin and his offensively dominant hat-trick performance. With 29 saves, Hart – a prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers – was given third-star recognition.
Sissons chipped in with two helpers from the Swift Current blueline and Jake Christiansen did the same from the Everett backend.
There will be no rest for these two Clubs as Game 4 of the best-of-seven Rogers WHL Championship Series goes Wednesday, May 9 at 7:05 p.m. PT from the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
Game 4 of the 2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 (7:05 p.m. PT) at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. Fans can tune in via WHLLive.com. The winner of the 2018 #WHLChampionship Series will go on to represent the WHL at the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup in Regina, Sask., from May 17 to 27.