Logan Flodell made 40 saves to beat his former team as the Lethbridge Hurricanes topped the Swift Current Broncos 5-2 tonight.
Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner and Tanner Nagel were honoured by their old team before the game, but the mutual appreciation ended there as Lethbridge outworked the Broncos for most of the night.
“They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Broncos Associate Coach Ryan Smith of his group as a whole. “I don't think a team that's trying to get first place, trying to hold a top ten in the country, makes a bunch of changes to get stronger can play games like this. This is not acceptable by us. It shouldn't be accepted in that room.”
The Hurricanes were the better team early taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Igor Merezkho and Jordy Bellerive while outshooting the Broncos 18-6.
“We took this game for granted for some reason and it showed from the start right through the finish,” Smith said. “They were the better team they deserved the two points. They were first to pucks, they shot the puck, they finished checks and they were the better team tonight. I'm not sure what was going on with our group. Real disappointed with the approach the game and that carried on to the game itself. The result is not a mystery.”
The second period was close with Swift Current getting the edge 13-10 in shots, but unable to break through on Flodell. The Broncos' penalty kill let them down getting scored on three times in a row including twice in the second period on screen shots by Tate Olson and Keltie Jeri-Leon.
“It's a veteran team now,” Smith said. “We have a lot of veteran guys who have been in games like this before. You have to hope in that room that a few of them step up and take charge... It sure didn't transpire on the ice. We lost a ton of draws, we got beat on the wall, we didn't go to the dirty areas (and) Flodell saw all sorts of pucks. It was from start to finish not a good effort for us.”
Frustrations boiled over as former Broncos defenceman Matthew Stanley squared off against Josh Anderson in a spirited second period fight.
Swift Current came out with some fire in the third period and quickly closed the gap to 4-1 as Estephan scored against his old team in his return to Lethbridge on a hard shot from the top left circle.
The Broncos put the pressure on for the rest of the period and pulled Skinner with four minutes to go in the game. They got another goal when Glenn Gawdin deflected in a Colby Sissons point shot, but that was as close as it would get.
Swift Current had some other very good chances before Ty Prefontaine finished the game with an empty-net goal.
Flodell was very strong in the third making 21 saves on 23 Broncos shots.
Special teams heavily favoured Lethbridge as they went 3 for 5 on the power play and Swift Current was held to 1 for 3. A usually strong team in the face-off dot, the Broncos lost that battle 39-32 tonight.
“All they did was shoot,” Smith said. “Even at the end they had a power play in the last minute and they got four shots away. Our power play let us down early in the game and theirs didn't. The game was won and lost in the tight areas and they were better than us.”
It was also the first game against their old team for Hurricanes forwards Logan Barlage and Owen Blocker. Barlage played significant minutes including extensive time on both special teams units.
Swift Current was without Aleksi Heponiemi, Sahvan Khaira and Kaden Elder due to injury. They won't play in Cranbrook, but Head Coach/Director of Player Personnel Manny Viveiros said he expects they will be ready next Friday.
The game was a bit of a missed opportunity for Swift Current as Moose Jaw lost 3-1 to Red Deer and the Broncos remain five points back of the Warriors for top spot in the WHL.
Kootenay hosts Swift Current on Saturday night in a game where the Broncos expect an improved effort.
“I would be very disappointed if we didn't come out with at least the effort tomorrow,” Smith said. “If you're effort is there you can't fault guys for trying, but tonight the effort wasn't there.”
You can listen to that game live on The Eagle 94.1 FM with Robertson Family Group Swift Current Broncos Hockey at 7:30pm.