The Swift Current Broncos and Moose Jaw Warriors went to overtime for a second straight game, but it was Matteo Gennaro who completed his hat trick with 1:46 left in the second overtime period to lift the Broncos to a 3-2 win.
Gennaro fired a puck into the top corner from the slot to bring the Broncos even with the Moose Jaw Warriors at two games apiece in the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference best-of-seven semi-final.
“I don’t really have any words,” said an emotional Gennaro, who lost his friend Stephen Wack in the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash on Friday. “I just know I had an angel watching over me tonight. Yeah it was pretty special to be a part of. I am speechless really.”
“I think that we went through some extreme adversity today. We didn’t really feel like the calls were going our way. We had countless opportunities to score in OT. I’m just proud of the group. We’re just persistent. I think we just weren’t going to be denied tonight. I am extremely proud of the group of guys we have. Yeah that was a huge game. We needed that for sure,” Gennaro added.
The Broncos took the early lead when Gennaro knocked home a rebound only eight seconds into the Broncos first power play opportunity with 5:33 left in the first period.
The Warriors tied the game midway through the second period when Tanner Jeannot scored from a bad angle with a delayed penalty coming up. Jett Woo gave the Warriors their first lead when he threw a puck on net from the half wall that found its way into the top corner.
“We had a really good talk after the second period. I did most of the talking,” said Viveiros. “The kids knew right away that we had to come back and respond and we responded right away.”
Gennaro notched his second goal of the game early in the third period past a screen to tie the game 2-2 as the two teams headed for overtime for a second straight night at the Innovation Credit Union iplex in Swift Current.
The Broncos were outshot 9-5 in the first overtime period but they nearly ended it twice in the final minute with quality scoring chances from Gennaro and Artyom Minulin. Beck Malenstyn hit the post early in the second overtime period as it appeared that fate was not with the Broncos on the night before Gennaro ended the game.
“I was so elated,” said Broncos head coach Manny Viveiros. “We had some really good looks in the overtime and just couldn’t bury it. At the end I was just very happy. I thought he had an outstanding game tonight. He went against the other team’s top line almost every shift and obviously scored a big goal like that. I am really happy with the way we played, the kids worked hard. I thought we didn’t play well in the second period, but we did play a good first, third, fourth, and a fifth.”
Stuart Skinner earned the win with 51 saves. Brody Willms took the loss with 39 saves on 42 shots.
Game five will be Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Moose Jaw.