Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:34

That’s more like it: Broncos scorers back on scoresheet

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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And suddenly there was hope.


If you still had any questions about what was previously ailing the Swift Current Broncos, you’d have seen no sign of it Tuesday.
The Broncos made a statement Tuesday at the Credit Union iplex, scoring four times in the third period to rally for a 4-3 win over the WHL’s Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Broncos trailed 2-0 entering the third and 3-1 with seven minutes to play. Then things got silly.
Nathan Burns buried his 24th of the season and eighth as a Bronco to make it 3-2. Twenty-three seconds later it was Colby Cave with his 31st of the year, prompting Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal to call a timeout.
That settled his troops down for about three-and-a-half minutes until Jay Merkley scored the game winner.
The home team won all four games in this year’s season series between Edmonton and Swift Current.
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It was the third straight win for the Broncos (34-24-3-6) who remain stuck in sixth place, but are now just one point behind the fifth-place Kootenay Ice, six up on the stumbling seventh-place Brandon Wheat Kings and entered Wednesday’s action just three points behind the East Division-leading Regina Pats with five games to play.
Any combination of two Broncos wins or Prince Albert/Red Deer losses will clinch Swift Current a playoff spot for the second straight season. As things stand today they can realistically expect to finish second, fifth or sixth in the conference, though only first and third are mathematically ruled out for Swift Current heading into tonight’s shenanigans.
The Broncos hadn’t won three straight games since Nov. 30-Dec. 6.
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Last week I wrote about how the Broncos’ come-from-behind win over Red Deer could signify a turning point for the club down the stretch after a mediocre three months.
Since that win, they are 4-0-1-0.
The good news of course is that they’ve gained 11 of a possible 12 points in their last six games (nine of 10 post-Rebels), all but assuring them of a second straight year in the playoffs.
The grain of salt is that one of those wins saw them blow a three-goal lead against the worst team in the league before sealing the win and another came in a shootout. Saturday they beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 7-4 and Sunday claimed a 4-3 shootout win over the Wheat Kings to wrap up their final three-in-three stretch of the season.
But they've also beaten some tough teams along the way (Regina, Brandon, Edmonton) and most importantly appear to have rebuilt their confidence and work ethic at the most important time of the season.
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It’s shown up on the ice and in the standings, but also on the scoresheet where, with five games to play, the Broncos’ best players have undoubtedly been their best players.
Burns has 11 points in his last eight games. Cave has six in his last five, Merkley eight in his last six, Graham Black 12 in his last six and Jake DeBrusk seven in his last five.
Julius Honka even scored twice Saturday after scoring just two goals in his previous 20 games combined.
One pleasant surprise has been the emergence of Andrew Johnson, who has scored six goals in his last six games after being held to five in his first 61.
Eight different players have assisted on those goals, including one from goalie Eetu Laurikainen, and two were scored unassisted.
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Of note in the Brandon game were two goals scored by Jayce Hawryluk and an assist by John Quenneville, the Wheat Kings’ two standout sophomores. Both were taken by Brandon in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.
That year the Broncos owned five of the first 46 picks, overlooking Hawryluk with each of their first three and Quenneville with each of their first five.
This year, Hawryluk is leading Brandon in scoring while Quenneville is third in the team’s scoring derby. Hawryluk had eight points in six games against Swift Current this season while Quenneville had six points in eight head-to-head matchups.
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The Broncos are on the road in Red Deer tonight and Lethbridge on Saturday.
They’ll return home Wednesday to face Saskatoon and March 14 to host the Moose Jaw Warriors before wrapping up the regular season the next night in Moose Jaw.

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