Thanks in part to a three-game Medicine Hat Tigers losing streak, the Broncos only need to win one of their final three games or have Kootenay/Medicine Hat lose once to clinch home ice advantage.
Kootenay's sweep of the Medicine Hat Tigers in a weekend home-and-home set actually makes the Ice more of a threat to the Broncos gaining home ice advantage in the opening round.
It's much easier if you can actually see what I'm talking about:
Broncos - 80pts - three games remaining (Brandon, Regina, Regina)
Medicine Hat - 77pts - two games remaining (Red Deer, Calgary)
Kootenay - 76 points - three games remaining (Edmonton, Lethbridge, Lethbridge)
If The Broncos end up tied in points with either Medicine Hat or Kootenay, the Broncos would have the tie-breaker because of the fact they have more wins.
That means the Broncos only need one point to keep Medicine Hat behind them and two points to keep Kootenay behind them.
There has been a lot of talk about a Broncos/Medicine Hat opening round but now it only appears to be about a 50/50 chance of happening. The Ice has won three in a row while the Tigers' three game skid has made the Broncos and Ice in the opening round a legitimate possibility.
Cody Eakin ended up with the winning goal in a 4-3 Broncos loss in Red Deer Saturday night. Yes, for the 2nd time in two years, the Broncos scored an "own" goal with the goalie pulled.
Down 3-2 with a powerplay and the goalie pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage, the Broncos had 1:04 on the clock to press for the tying goal. After gaining the puck and moving it around, a Cody Eakin pass to John Negrin at the right point hopped over Negrin's stick and rolled all the way down the ice and into the Broncos net.
To add another dagger to that goal, the Broncos scored with 37 seconds left on the PP to make the own goal the game winner.
It was a tough loss but the Broncos knew going in it would be tough with only nine forwards dressed due to injury or sickness. To be fair, the Rebels were missing some key players up front too.
The Broncos didn't give up much in the final period allowing only 10 shots on goal through the final 40 minutes.
The Broncos drove the last 50 kms through a blizzard on the way into Red Deer and knew road conditions wouldn't be favourable after the game.
After making some phone calls and checking online, the Broncos decided to stay the night in Red Deer rather than drive home after the game. It marks the first time the Broncos have been storm-stayed in a city in the last seven years if I can recall.
It was the right call. The ditches down Highway #2 south were lined with vehicles and semis when we got on the road this morning.
The team arrived home mid-afternoon after taking it slow on the way back.
Matt Tassone returned back to Swift Current with the team but will head back home to Edmonton area for his Tuesday shoulder surgery.
The Broncos play in Brandon Wednesday before finishing up the weekend with a home-and-home set with the Regina Pats on the weekend. I hope to have Matt on the pre-game show Wednesday to talk about his surgery and what lies ahead for the Broncos power-forward.