The Broncos made the winding trek to Cranbrook following a 5-3 win in Lethbridge last night and now prepare for the streaking Kootenay Ice.
The Ice have points in nine straight games. The Broncos have points in 7 straight and have picked up at least a point in 18 of their last 20 outings.
It was sure nice to crack open the door of the stuffy bus and take in some mountain air upon a 2am arrival to the Cranbrook Rec Plex to unload the gear. Just hours earlier the Ice used home ice to pound the Red Deer Rebels 8-2 in a victory which has now lifted them into a position to have home ice advantage in the opening round of playoffs.
The Broncos are calling last night's win in Lethbridge the biggest win of the season as they kept pace with another Regina win while gaining two points on both Moose Jaw and Brandon.
Regina's victory was no surprise but I would say the Moose Jaw and Brandon losses were. There hasn't been much help to be had lately. The Broncos faced the daunting task of trying to make up ground against a pretty explosive Hurricanes squad knowing full well that Regina, MJ and Brandon were all taking on non-playoff teams.
To the game itself....
A small smattering of Bronco fans directly across from my broadcast location were kept entertained thanks to four unanswered goals to close off the 1st period and extending into the early 2nd.
Levi Nelson was at his best scoring a pair of goals with a new look line featuring Erik Felde and Keegan Dansereau. Felde taking the spot of Matt Tassone who sat out the game with injury.
Zack Smith scored a squeaker from "his spot" (outside wrister from along the boards) while Cody Eakin provided a highlight reel goal as he chipped the puck between two Lethbridge defenseman, split them and then beat goaltender Michael Maniago on the backhand five-hole. Sometimes I have to remind myself this kid is only 16. He's a beauty.
Dale Wiese added a PP marker in his 1st game back after missing 10 with a shoulder injury. As Tim Kehler pointed out in our post-game show... "how nice is it to have big #23 back in the line-up?"
Travis Yonkman made some big saves along the way. None bigger than a penalty shot stop on the dangerous Zach Boychuk midway thru the 3rd period to preserve the Broncos 5-3 lead. He would finish the night with 26 saves for his 29th win of the season.
The Hurricanes held a closed door meeting post-game that lasted well into our departure from the Enmax Center. The local media lock-out will reportedly cost them a $500 for failing to make players available. It was their 3rd loss in a row and the mini-slump has allowed other teams like Kootenay and Medicine Hat to provide some pressure from behind in the standings. Kootenay actually jumped a point ahead of the 'Canes for 3rd in the Conference with their win over Red Deer.
The Broncos remain three points back of Regina with four games to play for the division lead with both teams in action tonight. In fact all 22 WHL teams are on the ice later.
With a week to go in the season the Broncos playoff picture is still very muddy. They could still play one of either Calgary, Regina, Kootenay, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw or Brandon in the opening round of playoffs. Ridiculous but exciting.
We're on the air with the pre-game show at 7:30pm. Former Bronco and Toronto Maple Leaf Jeremy Williams will be our guest. We'll talk about his new NHL record among other things and find out how J-dub is doing with the big club.
Time to get some of the aforementioned mountain air....