The Swift Current Broncos were eliminated from the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup with a 6-5 loss to the host Regina Pats on Wednesday to finish without a win in three attempts at the tournament.
Nick Henry scored three goals and Sam Steel added five assists to lead the Pats past the Broncos, who had eliminated them in the opening round of the WHL playoffs on April 2.
The Broncos looked down and out on numerous occasions but fought their back to make a game of it at every turn.
“It’s tough,” said Gawdin after the season-ending loss. “We were close. I think it showed a lot about our character of our team. We didn’t quit for a second. Just the ways thing went in this game it was a lot of ups and downs, but I thought we stuck with it and we were that close.”
Both teams had early scoring chances and power play opportunities in the first period, but it was Nick Henry who opened the scoring 7:36 into the game with a power play one-timer from the face-off dot. The Broncos had a golden opportunity with 7:18 left when Andrew Fyten’s tip went off the post and then somehow stayed out of the open net.
The two teams combined for five goals during a wild second period as the Pats opened up a 4-2 lead with three goals of their own. The two teams scored five goals in only 7:06 in the second half of the period.
Cameron Hebig gave the Pats a 2-0 lead when he tipped home a puck from in tight on the powerplay. Glenn Gawdin replied with a bad angle goal for the Broncos, but Henry restored the two-goal lead with a shorthanded goal, the third the Broncos have allowed in the tournament.
Beck Malenstyn knocked home a goal on the same power play, but Henry scored 1:03 later to restore the Pats two-goal lead while completing his hat trick.
Bryce Platt scored a goal on a two-on-one midway through the period to make it 5-3 Regina. Aleksi Heponiemi fired home a goal to get the Broncos within two goals with 5:38 left on the clock.
The Broncos pulled Stuart Skinner with 3:43 left on the clock and it paid off when Giorgio Estephan scored with 2:45 left.
The Broncos took a too many men penalty late while trying to get the extra attacker on and it was costly as Libor Hajek scored with 1:37 left on the clock.
The Broncos got a late power play and made it a one-goal game once again when Artyom Minulin scored to make the score 6-5.
Stuart Skinner took the loss with 23 saves, while Max Paddock made 23 saves in the win.
The win moved the Pats to 2-1, creating a three-way tie for top spot. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan will go straight to Sunday’s championship game, while the Pats finished second and will take on Hamilton in Friday’s semi-final.
The Broncos lost three one-goal games at the Memorial Cup, but it won’t erase the memories of a WHL championship for the Broncos.
“Our relentlessness and never giving up,” said Gawdin when asked what he was most proud about. “Facing two elimination games in the playoffs, playing two of our best games. Even tonight too, I thought we played pretty well. They got a couple bounces that obviously went in, but we didn’t quit. That’s just kind of the guys and the team that we have.”
“It’s been incredible,” added overage forward Matteo Gennaro. “I can’t really put it into words. We’ve gone through so much. It’s one of the closest teams I’ve ever been a part of. We all have such a good bond. Just a special group of guys. It’s been a great final year of junior for me.”
“To be honest with you guys, I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life,” added Skinner. “Going to Swift Current, getting the brothers that I have in that room, the family, all the laughs, all the smiles that I get going to the rink every single day. I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. The season might be over and might be saying goodbye to a few guys, but we’re always going to stay in contact and we’re going to be family for life now.”