Saturday, November 24, 2007

Brandon Recap / Elkhorn Afternoon

Well, what can I say about last night’s game in Brandon? Great start, great finish, but in the end the Wheat Kings outpaced the Broncos 7-6 in a wild affair filled with numerous scoring chances at both ends.

The Broncos got out to their best start of the season with a pair of goals just 4:29 in from Dale Wiese and Zack Smith. At the radio time-out midway through the 1st period the Broncos had yet to surrender a shot on goal and were in control.

That is until Del Cowan’s top circle blast down the left wing zinged over the ear of Ian Curtis and dented the twine top corner on Brandon’s very first shot on goal. Brayden Schenn scored moments later on Brandon’s 2nd shot and we were back to square one.

A Brandon crossbar and then a Tyler Dittmer goal in the slot off the rush gave Brandon the lead 3-2. It also spelled the end of the night for Ian Curtis in the Broncos goal who was replaced with 2:35 to play in the period by Travis Yonkman.

Looking back, the turning point came on a Matt Tassone major penalty for boarding on Sanfred King late in the 2nd period. The hit in front of the Wheat Kings bench appeared not to be major penalty status to me. A penalty yes, a major not a chance. I could read the lips of Brandon’s assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk “stay down, stay down, stay down”. King was ok. He remained on the bench and did return.

Tassone’s hit was being reviewed by the WHL office today. No word on a suspension but the going rate for the type of infraction is one game.

Brandon scored two more on the five minute powerplay and led 7-4 after two periods. Eric Doyle blasted home a one-timer on a 5-on-3 advantage to make in only the three goal gap before the period closed.

The first half of the third was slow and chances on both ends were few. – a real change of pace from the opening two periods. The Broncos pulled within two goals with four and a half minutes to play when Dale Wiese tipped home his 2nd of the game on the point shot from Eric Doyle.

After Wiese drew a penalty in the late stages of the game, the Broncos pulled the goaltender for the six on four advantage and promptly narrowed the gap on a goal by Zack Smith in the slot with 1:28 to play.

A mad scramble and a goal post from Dale Wiese in the dying seconds was as close as the Broncos would come to force overtime. A great try, but it still goes down as another key divisional loss in the end.

The Broncos outchanced Brandon in the end in the run and gun type affair but Brandon finished off most of their opportunities showing great skill. Brandon’s Brayden Schenn is the best 16 year-old to come into the league since…..? I’m having trouble answering that one but it’s been awhile. He finished the night with two goals and two assists. He will be an NHL first rounder next year and is the cream of the crop in his very talented age group across the WHL. Brandon got him 9th overall in the 2006 bantam draft.

The team stayed the night and departed for Moose Jaw at noon.

The Elkhorn Experience.

Quite a treat for the guys on the way to Moose Jaw today. We stopped at Elkhorn, MB, a tiny bordertown along the Trans Canada highway for the pre-game meal. It’s a stop several teams are doing and now I see why.

No restaurant on this stop; we sat down in the middle of the lobby of the town’s rink and were treated to a great meal and small town hospitality at it’s finest. To make the experience even better, an Atom hockey tournament was going on and young autograph seekers were everywhere.

Homemade soup, corn, mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing were on the menu this day which is the Elkhorn specialty. It reminded me of hockey in my hometown and got me thinking many years back to that time.

Even a young voice over the p.a. system was announcing the goals and assists… that very well could have been me 15 years ago. Broncos athletic therapist Paul Ayotte laughed out loud when I referred to the announcer as a “a young Jon Keen”.

A poster sized picture of former Bronco Sheldon Kennedy dawns the wood panel wall of the lobby. “To my friends in Elkhorn, all the best, Sheldon Kennedy” was the writing in the corner of the framed picture.

It was a setting I don’t think too many Broncos have experienced before. Zack Smith would be the only player from a small town that would have grown up in a rink like that. It was hockey at the grassroots level and put things really into perspective. The guys sat around and watched the atom game that was underway. Dale Wiese and Spencer McAvoy were glued to the action and had some laughs. Spence was comparing his turnover that led to a breakaway Wednesday in Prince Albert to one that just happened on the Elkhorn ice. The goalie flopped to his knees and made a big save on the wobbly wrister from 8 feet.

The local senior team, the Elkhorn Canadiens would have a game later that night. I wish I could have stayed for that one.

It was great.

Broncos and Moose Jaw tonight, pre-game show at 6:30, play-by-play at 7pm.


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