© Steven Mah
2013/14 Swift Current Broncos
The Swift Current Broncos will have a steep hill to climb in their opening round best-of-seven playoff series after losing 4-2 to the host Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday. The Broncos now trail the series two games to zero heading back to their home rink for games three and four.
Special teams were the difference as the Tigers scored twice on the powerplay and the Broncos finished zero-for-four on the man-advantage.
The Broncos made a spirited comeback in the third period to tie the game but Chad Butcher scored the game winner for a second straight game with 7:49 left in regulation.
The game was scoreless after one period as both teams were unable to capitalize on goalmouth scrambles.
The Tigers took control of the contest in the second period with two powerplay goals. Tommy Vannelli opened the scoring 3:30 into the middle stanza when he scored with one second left on a man-advantage. The St. Louis Blues draft pick has his first goal of the playoffs after scoring 14 from the blueline during the regular season.
Miles Koules made it 2-0 when he scored at the tail end of a lengthy two-man advantage for a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. It was the second career playoff goal for the Tigers’ 25-goal man from Los Angeles in his second WHL season.
Jake DeBrusk got the Broncos on the board with 12:02 left in the third period when he fired from a bad angle and scored passed a surprised Marek Langhamer to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Nathan Burns tied it at 2-2 2:27 later when DeBrusk found him high in the slot and he beat an off-balance Langhamer to the short side with 9:25 left in regulation.
The Tigers replied 1:36 later when Butcher scored on a cross-ice pass from Markus Eisenschmid that left Broncos’ goaltender Eetu Laurkainen with no chance to get across the crease in time. Trevor Cox added an empty net goal with 2.4 seconds left on the clock to close the scoring.
“It’s disappointing that it takes us that long doing the little things like shooting the puck.” said Broncos’ Head Coach and General Manager Mark Lamb. “I thought we had some real good chances of outnumbered chances but we tried to get too cute. We are in playoffs now, you just can’t play like that, you have got to get it there.”
He said there was little consolation in their comeback attempt.
“Our team has been known to come back but in the playoffs that doesn’t happen very often, it is tight checking out there. You can be proud that we came back for a little bit but we have to win a hockey game. There is no tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what the score is, you have to win hockey games and coming back and tying it and letting them win doesn’t make it feel any better.”
Laurikainen suffered the loss with 32 saves on 35 shots as he kept the Broncos in the game as they searched for their offensive touch. Langhamer earned the win with 34 saves, none better than a blocker save off of Colby Cave after the Broncos’ captain had gotten behind the Tigers’ defense with 8:50 left in the second period.
"Yeah it was a good effort by us in the third period but when it comes to playoffs it doesn't matter how close games are, you still lose and you are still down two nothing in the series," said Burns after the game. "There are no shootouts in the playoffs and I think we need to know that. Yeah we came close but we need to put in that extra effort."
The series will resume Tuesday and Wednesday in Swift Current for games three and four. The Broncos finished with a 23-8-1-4 record at the Credit Union iplex this season.
"Yeah we will go look at some film and we will take positives out of the game and we will look at the negatives. Come playoff time it is a short memory and even though we are down 2-0 we are still going back to our home arena. I think we all know that it is another barn that not too many teams enjoy playing in."