Their rematch was anything but similar.
The Swift Current Broncos edged the Prince Albert Raiders 3-2 in a shootout Friday night in Western Hockey League action, erasing any remnants of the 5-1 beatdown the Raiders inflicted on them three weeks ago.
Unlike that Nov. 3 game when the Broncos seemingly abandoned their offensive prowess in favour of penalties and scrapping, on Friday they stuck to their systems, erased a two-goal deficit and pushed the contest to extra time, eventually winning in the shootout.
Their efforts were due in part to team captain Glenn Gawdin, who scored two regulation goals and one in the shootout.
Following their game plan was a focal point for his team, the 20-year-old said.
“Especially on the road against a team like that – they play pretty well in this building. Down 2-0, we just kept with our systems, stuck with it and it worked.”
After 25 minutes of play, the Raiders were riding a two-goal lead, thanks to scores from Cole Fonstad and Jordy Stallard in the first and second periods, respectively.
At 14:17 of the second period, Gawdin cut the Raider’s lead in half after tipping a shot from linemate Aleksi Heponiemi past Prince Albert goalie Ian Scott.
Then at 10:21 in the third period, he tied the game at 2-2.
The puck bounced high into the rafters of the Art Hauser Centre after deflecting off Sean Montgomery’s stick; Gawdin eyed and caught the black rubber, put it down at the faceoff dot and snapped it past Scott’s glove for the goal.
After a scoreless overtime that saw the Raiders kill off a penalty and withstand the Broncos’ four shots, the game went to the shootout.
Stallard and Fonstad were blanked by Swift Current goalie Logan Foldell on their attempts; Tyler Steenbergen and Gawdin converted their attempts, winning the best-of-three shootout 2-0 and thus the game 3-2.
The contest was a tight one through all three periods; each team played disciplined hockey, using its speed and set-up play in the offensive zone to shoot on Scott and Flodell; Scott stopped 32 of 36 shots he faced, while Flodell stopped 31 of 33 (shootout attempts included).
The Raiders and the Broncos each incurred only three penalties – a far cry from the 21 total infractions in the Nov. 3 game.
The Raiders’ defence entered the game knowing they’d have to focus on shutting down the Broncos’ top line of Gawdin, Heponiemi and Steenbergen, who are the top three point scorers in the WHL.
Gawdin, who recently signed an entry level contract with the NHL’s Calgary Flames, said Prince Albert’s defence was largely successful in that regard.
“They do a good job at team defence. Everywhere you go, they kind of take away a lot of time and space which is obviously key in games like this … for them, that’s a good thing in their favour. But for us, we just kind of try to find a way to break that down.”
Raiders defenceman Brayden Pachal said his unit was effective, for the most part.
“I think our defensive core shut them down. I mean that top line has been tearing up the league still, so that’s a key to our game plan against them.
“I think we did pretty well shutting them down, but they got a few, and that cost us the game, I guess.”
The Swift Current trio combined for three points and fourteen shots in the game.
Pachal was particularly impressed with his team’s ability to kill off a two-minute Curtis Miske penalty in overtime.
“When it’s four-on-three (against) four of the top guys in the league, I think it was huge. I think it gained us a lot of momentum for the rest of overtime … so it’s unfortunate that we lost this game, but I think we played very well.”
Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was equally optimistic about the game, pointing out that his team still earned a point from the shootout loss.
“Their big guys got all the goals for them, and that was the difference in the game.
“I thought our game was good, I thought our energy was good. I thought for most of the game we carried the play and probably were the better team.”
The Raiders (9-10-3-1) will now travel to Moose Jaw to play the Warriors (19-5-0-0) on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Swift Current (17-5-1-0) will host the Brandon Wheat Kings (14-7-0-1), also on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The four East division teams play in what’s arguably the top division of the WHL right now; among the 12-team Eastern conference, five of the division’s teams (including these four) are in the top-eight spots.