Broncos Buck Blades Late

PHOTO COURTESY: Steve Hiscock

The Blades wrapped up their wild season-series with the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday night and the two team’s might have saved the best for last. The back and forth game was ended late in the 3rd period when Broncos captain Colby Cave netted a powerplay tally to send his team home with a 6-5 win, despite a great effort from hometown kid MacKenzie Johnston and his Blades teammates.

With 16 year old Brandon Kegler between the pipes, making his first ever WHL start for Saskatoon, the Blades went on the hunt for early offence and found it in Swift Current. Ryan Graham scored his 14th goal of the season only 54 seconds into the game after a scrambled draw in the Broncos zone. Graham was able to find the puck beside the net and fire it home, unassisted to make it 1-0. That lead was doubled to 2-0 only 24 seconds later when Graham Millar found a puck behind the cage and wrapped it around the net, past Eetu Laurikainen for his 6th of the season. The Broncos then went to the powerplay, looking to cut into the lead. The best chance of that man-advantage came off the stick of Julius Honka as the rookie defenceman unloaded a one-timer that was turned aside by Kegler, marking his 5th save of the first 4:56. The Broncos kept that pace up, eventually generating 10 shots in the opening 9:42. But while the Broncos got the majority of the chances, the Blades were busy taking advantage of theirs. The lead was extended to 3-0 at 11:29 when a blast by Swift Current product MacKenzie Johnston was tipped in by Graham, marking his second of the night and 15th of the year. But the Broncos would have an answer this time around after the 3-0 goal chased Laurikainen, who was replaced by Landon Bow. Former Blade Nathan Burns finished off his own rebound from in front after Colby Cave threw the puck on the cage at 14:30, with Burns netting his 25th to make it 3-1. Saskatoon looked to make it 4-1 with 1:44 to play, with Connor Sanvido tipping in a shot from Jordan Thomson. But after a short video review, it was determined that the former Bronco tipped the biscuit in with a high stick. It was a 3-1 game through 20 minutes, with Kegler stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced.

 

The Blades started the second period the way they started the first as they got a goal in the opening minute. It was once again the hometown kid getting involved as MacKenzie Johnston saw his point shot beat Bow clean from the point through a screen, making it 4-1. But the Broncos would put on a surge after falling down by a trio of goals. At 3:51 Jay Merkley would take a feed in the slot and cut to his backhand, finishing off the play to make it a 4-2 game. Glenn Gawdin would then tally his 9th of the year at 5:40, making it a 4-3 game with Tanner LeSann and Andrew Johnson picking up the assists. The comeback would then be made complete at 9:44 when Graham Black would keep and fire on a 2 on 1 rush, beating Kegler for his 34th of the season to tie the game up at 4. But the Broncos wouldn’t stop there. Jake DeBrusk would go hard to the cage at 11:10, taking a feed from Merkley and deflecting home his 15th to make it a 5-4 game as they led for the first time in the game. Saskatoon would generate some nice pressure late in the period with a good cycle from the 4th line and a late spinning chance from Nikita Scherbak, but couldn’t find the back of the cage. The Broncos 4 goals in the frame would give them a 5-4 lead through 40 minutes of play.

 

The trend of the Blades scoring in the opening minute of a period would stay true to start the final 20 minutes in Swift Current. This time it was Cory Millette who got involved in the act as he raced to a loose puck at the bottom of the left circle in the Broncos zone and wired the puck shortside over the shoulder of Bow and under the bar to make it 5-5 only 10 seconds into the period. Thomson and Sanvido assisted on the 16th goal of the year for Millette. Saskatoon then had a chance to regain the lead as they went to the PP for the second time of the game. But, the Broncos were able to bare down and tighten up, preventing Saskatoon from getting a shot on the early-period man advantage. But, Saskatoon wouldn’t be discouraged as the grinding 3rd line went to work just past the 7 minute mark of the frame. Logan Harland would center to Nick Zajac who would crash the net, but wouldn’t be able to squeeze the puck in as Bow would keep it out. The Broncos then had their own surge. With 8:45 to play in the third Glenn Gawdin took a chance and fired the puck on net from a tough angle, but Kegler would hold his post and keep the young forward from netting his second of the night. The team’s would trade chances over the next few minutes, but both goalies had buckled down and wouldn’t give an inch. But then the scales would tip in the Broncos favour. Jordan Thomson was whistled for holding, sending Swift Current to their 3rd PP of the game with 1:24 remaining. After a flurry of chances and subsequent stops by Kegler, the Broncos would take the lead for good. Colby Cave would take a feed from Graham Black with 21 seconds remaining in the game and fire the puck home from the slot. His 32nd of the season was the nail in the coffin for Saskatoon as a last-second push by the Blades wouldn’t result in a tying goal. The final was 6-5 for the home team. Jake DeBrusk was named as the first star in the game, with MacKenzie Johnston taking home second star.

The Blades will finish the season this weekend with their annual home and home with Prince Albert. The final game of the year goes on Saturday night at home against the Raiders and the Blades have a very special prize up for grabs. The Blades will be chasing a WHL record as the 50-50 jackpot for the game will be starting at $50,000 as soon as the doors open. The pot has potential to hit $200,000 so you want to be in the building for your chance at the big prize.

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