Revenge was sweet for the Swift Current Broncos in the first round of the 2018 playoffs. Last year, the Regina Pats eliminated the Broncos from the 2017 Eastern Conference semi-final. With a little help from goalie Stuart Skinner, the Broncos took advantage of their second chance this year. They eliminated the Pats in a dramatic Game 7 by a final score of 3-2. Regina will get a second chance when they host the Memorial Cup in May.
Goalie Stuart Skinner Shines
The first round was merely a warm-up for the Broncos. The second round against the East Division Champion Moose Jaw Warriors was the showstopper. Broncos goalie Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers) was the primary power source. He recorded three shutouts to propel the Broncos to the Eastern Conference Final. Skinner wasn’t the only superstar as Matteo Gennaro had a hat trick in Game 4, which the Broncos won in double overtime.
Moose Jaw didn’t go down without a fight. The Warriors forced Game 7 with a triple overtime 3-2 win in Game 6. It had all the makings of another epic overtime thriller that never materialized. The Broncos dominated the Warriors with a 6-0 win.
Hurricanes Blow Through Rounds 1 and 2
The Lethbridge Hurricanes also dominated their first and second round opponents. First, they dispatched the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels are a perennially good team, but they barely stood a chance in the first round. Lethbridge opened the series with a 6-0 shutout of the Rebels. The Hurricanes were on the verge of a sweep before Red Deer showed signs of life with a 5-3 comeback. The Rebels resurgence was short-lived, as the Hurricanes closed out the series with a 6-4 win.
Moving on to round two, the Hurricanes eliminated the Brandon Wheat Kings in similar fashion. The Wheaties are one of the Eastern Conference’s most consistently winning teams. Two seasons ago, they represented the WHL at the 2016 Memorial Cup.
Only four years ago, the Lethbridge Hurricanes were living a nightmare. They undertook a massive overhaul and finished first in the Central Division last year. The Hurricanes made it all the way to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, where they fell to the Regina Pats. The history make this a highly-anticipated series. Swift Current may be the darling here, but don’t count Lethbridge out just yet.
The Eastern Conference Final begins this Friday in Swift Current.
Writing’s on the Wall
This particular conference final is fate and the writing was on the wall at the WHL trade deadline. The Hurricanes traded Stuart Skinner, Captain Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel to the Broncos on January 9. In return, they received Logan Flodell, Logan Barlage, Owen Blocker, Matthew Stanley, a first and third-round pick in the 2020 Bantam Draft and a conditional pick in 2021.
Which team will get their payoff in the Eastern Conference final? In 2014, the Lethbridge Hurricanes were quite literally circling the drain. We all felt for them. Their comeback to championship form is proof that anything is possible. But the Swift Current Broncos have been dominant all season long.
Players to Watch
Swift Current Broncos: Skinner, obviously. Also on top of their game are Colby Sissons, Giorgio Estephan, Glenn Gawdin, Alexsi Heponiemi and obviously, Matteo Gennaro. He’s probably not going to see a lot of action this year, but backup goalie Joel Hofer made the NHL Central Scouting final draft rankings, where he’s ranked seventh among goaltenders.
Lethbridge Hurricanes: Logan Flodell, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive, Calen Addison, Brad Morrison and Dylan Cozens. Flodell is in his final year of eligiblity with the WHL. Undrafted by the NHL, Flodell’s performance in the playoffs may be his ticket to a free agency signing.
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