Wednesday, 19 March 2014 11:38

Tigers/Broncos has some history, for McEwen, even more

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard’s Eye View
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Nathan Burns vs. Saskatoon March 12. Nathan Burns vs. Saskatoon March 12.

It’s been said that time heals all wounds, and Brad McEwen insists it’s true.

But he wouldn’t mind watching his team open a brand new one either.
“Ten years is a long time and those feelings are kind of long gone and moved on,” said the Medicine Hat Tigers’ assistant general manager, who was fired by the Swift Current Broncos in 2004 and joined the Tigers in 2007 after a layover in Lethbridge. “I still have a place with Swift Current and the Broncos still mean a lot to me.
“That said, I’d like nothing more than to have a great series, and at the end of the day come out on top.”
Friday, the Broncos and Tigers will meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 when they open their WHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series in Medicine Hat.
McEwen was an assistant coach, assistant general manager, head coach and general manager with the Broncos from 1998-2004.
He was fired after back-to-back first-round playoff losses to the Tigers, and resurfaced three years later on the other side of what was then one of the WHL’s hottest rivalries.
The feud may have died down in recent years (at least on the ice, to say nothing of the teams’ respective fan bases) but McEwen expects that will probably change in a hurry.
“We’re a little bit of a contrast in styles,” he said. “They’re probably a bit bigger up front, they’re a hard team to play against and they’re physical. We’re built more for speed and quickness and attacking the puck so the series will be interesting because of styles the teams play. We’re at different ends of the spectrum to some degree ... we’re not too far apart in points, the season series was even and it’s going to be a great series.”
The Broncos of course won’t be satisfied with a merely “great” series. The club hasn’t won a playoff series of any kind since 2008, a series against the Tigers since 1996-97 and has won just four games in the four series against Medicine Hat since.
“For me, it’s your last kick at the can so, first of all, your last year in the league you want to make it into the playoffs then once you make it into playoffs you obviously want to go out with a bang,” said over-age forward Nathan Burns, one of three Broncos (along with Andrew Johnson and Stephen Shmoorkoff) to have ever been part of a team that won a WHL playoff series.
In just 28 games with the team, Burns has seen the Broncos at their worst and, if not at, then near their best.
He was acquired New Year’s Day from Saskatoon in a successful bid to upgrade the Broncos’ top six forward group, just as Swift Current was getting set to lose nine of its next 14 games.
He left a Feb. 15 game against Regina injured, but returned after a three-game absence for the final 10 games of the season, with the Broncos winning eight of them.
“We’re definitely heading into the playoffs on a good note,” said Burns, who put up 34 points post-trade and finished among the league’s Top 30 scorers overall. “If you look at our past 10 games, you can look at our record and it explains how we’re playing right now. The biggest thing is that we’re winning in different ways.
“We’ve got a good vibe in the dressing room right now and we almost know we’re going to win, and I think you need that going into playoffs.”

Watch for ...
1. A goaltending clinic. Only once during their season series did either team manage fewer than 33 shots on net, yet the four games only averaged 6.25 goals per — well under the league-wide average of 6.68 goals per game.
2. Black magic. Graham Black — the Broncos’ leading scorer — had four goals and two assists against the Tigers this year, including a hat trick Jan. 31. He also ended the season on an 11-game point scoring streak, racking up five goals and 16 assists along the way.
3. The new kid on the block. Medicine Hat winger Cole Sanford filled in admirably when Hunter Shinkaruk was lost for the season, improving from two goals in 2012-13 to 33 goals this season. He scored five of those against the Broncos, more than any other Tiger.

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