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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 07:15

Power outage for Broncos' offence...no, now it's back

Written by  Brad Brown
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In the beginning there were goals. Then there weren’t.


Then there were again, and then there weren’t again.
And then … well, you get the idea.
For all the areas the Swift Current Broncos have excelled in this year – goaltending (fourth), team defence (sixth), power play (fifth), penalty kill (fifth) – their offence has remained a riddle wrapped in a mystery trapped in an enigma.
Seventeen times this season they have been held to one goal. Three other times they’ve been shut out entirely.
In the other 43 games they’ve averaged 3.76 goals per game, on pace with conference leaders like Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon.
That puzzle cost the Broncos two games last weekend to the Medicine Hat Tigers before they found the solution Sunday in a 6-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Credit Union iplex.
Colby Cave and Graham Black scored twice each in the win, while Eetu Laurikainen stopped 22 of 23 shots in the Swift Current net.
“We’ve been so close the last couple nights and … we all want to make the playoffs so everyone just beared down a bit more and we started putting in the chances that we probably should have the last couple of games,” Black said after Sunday’s game.
Feb. 22 Swift Current fell 2-1 in a listless opener to its home-and-home with the Tigers, before getting shut out 2-0 Saturday in Medicine Hat to cap a string of five games in which the Broncos scored all of six goals.
The Tigers ranked 11th in team save percentage and 15th in goals allowed per game after the weekend set.
“That’s been … the consistent thing we’re having a hard time with is scoring goals,” said Broncos head coach Mark Lamb. “The way our team game is, the way our special team is, the way our defence is, it’s very, very solid. We can compete every night.
“It’s that timely goal scoring that’s really our Achilles heel and it’s something that we’ve fought all year long and it’s still haunting us right now.”
Entering Wednesday’s return match in Brandon, the Broncos (29-27-3-4) were seventh in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one up on the Kootenay Ice for eighth and four back of the Tigers for sixth.
Lamb has been open about the fact that this year’s Broncos are not blessed with an abundance of natural goal scorers. (Adam Lowry’s team-leading 40 matches the combined total of the team’s next two leading goal getters.)
But Black, second on the team with 22 goals, believes the solution can still be found within. Specifically, by putting more bodies between the puck and the place it is supposed to go.
“There’s always times when you can drive the net a little bit harder,” he said. “We’ve been focused on driving the far post and it worked tonight for us.
“We had a couple rebound goals and a couple deflections so we just need to get more traffic in front of the net and that’s something you can practice in practice as well.”
Swift Current continues its penultimate road trip of the season tonight in Calgary and Saturday in Red Deer before returning home to Prince Albert and Moose Jaw on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Broncos then hit the road for three more games before closing the regular season at home March 16 against the Regina Pats.

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