Broncos prove hard to break

By Jeff Bromley
For what it’s worth, Game One of the WHL’s Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Kootenay ICE and the Swift Current Broncos was probably one of the most technically perfect games the ICE have played this season which showed on the scoreboard as a 7-1 shellacking by the ICE. That of course was only one win of a best of seven series and last time I looked, it took four wins to dispose of an opponent. The Kootenay ICE might have lost track of that theory for game two of the series the following evening at the Rec./Plex and it showed in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Broncos that evened the series at a game a piece.

If the 7-1 ICE victory in Game one of the series was an exhibition of everything that can go right for a hockey club, game two was its Bizzarro equivalent on the effort scale and Kootenay ICE Head Coach Ryan McGill was none too happy about it. “From a Coach’s standpoint and I’ll know that the players will agree, we didn’t show up tonight,” said a visibly annoyed Ryan McGill. “We had a lack of respect for B.J. Boxma and the Swift Current Broncos and they played a patient hockey game and it showed in the third period.”

Whereas in Friday night’s contest the ICE seemingly had everything going their way from the bounces to the spectacular goal-tending provided by Dan Blackburn and a hat-trick by Marek Svatos. Saturday’s return bill contained nothing of the night before, with the notable exception of Dan Blackburn doing his best contortionist imitation to foil the Bronco’s attack until the 13:39 mark of the third period when Speedy Creek agitator Tim Smith wired a bullet over the shoulder of Blackburn to tie the game. Shortly thereafter the Broncos smelled blood and capitalized on a Layne Ulmer shot that was deflected by Tim Smith and got through Blackburn on the short side. For the Broncos, patience and getting through the high frustration levels provided by Dan Blackburn were keys to the victory. “At the start of the third period they had some chances and B.J. came up big for us,” said Bronco’s Coach and G.M. Brad McEwen. “We tried to preach to be patience, get the pucks to the net, make sure we don’t give them another one and I thought we did a reasonably good job of that.”

On the Kootenay side of the ledger the lack of quality chances was the order of the evening and when the ICE decided to use their high-speed forecheck to generate some offense at the beginning of third frame, they ran into their former teammate B.J. Boxma who had a score to settle from the off-night before in which the Edson, Alta. native was pulled after five goals in favor of rookie Todd Ford. Boxma’s stellar play to keep the ICE from extending their 1-0 lead seemed to give life to the Bronco’s and deflate the ICE’ spirits. Frustration for the ICE shouldn’t be counted as a factor however as to be frustrated a club has to generate chances and be turned away. For Coach McGill those chances only happened at one point in the hockey game. “It’s only frustrating because it’s the third period,” said McGill. “Let’s do that in the first period. If we do that and he plays like that the whole game then you can understand the frustration but we didn’t put any rubber on him in the first period where we had six shots. We let him get into a groove and he got comfortable.”

Comfort and complacency won’t be an option for the ICE as the series switches back to Swift Current for games three and four. Looking to regain home-ice advantage, game five will go on Friday (tonight) at the Rec./Plex. Game time is 7:00 P.M.

Quick Hits
– The number one line of DeCecco, Blatny and Stoll has been snake-bit in the first two games of the series with a combined total of four points with Stoll not garnering a point in the series so far. The slack has been picked up by the second line of Jaffray, Svatos and Beechey getting the lion’s share of the points. If the ICE are to be successful that number one line has to start scoring again…. Coach McGill isn’t worried about being out-shot two nights in a row at home. “I saw one shot on net go up on the clock tonight when they dumped it in from center. It was a flip shot and it almost hit the clock and they counted it as a shot on goal. It’s not frustrating because I’m not sure if they know in our building what a shot is. They’ll figure it out eventually.”