The preparations are already underway for the Swift Current Broncos as they enter the WHL playoffs
Broncos vs Tigers
The Swift Current Broncos will renew a familiar rivalry in the opening round of the Western Hockey League playoffs when they take on the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Broncos will open the playoffs Friday and Saturday in Medicine Hat. Games three and four will be played Tuesday and Wednesday in Swift Current. Game five, if necessary, will be Saturday in Medicine Hat. Game six would be Sunday in Swift Current and game seven would be Tuesday back in Medicine Hat.
The Broncos and Tigers split the four-game season series with each team winning on the road and at home. The two teams last met in the playoffs in 2009 when the Tigers eliminated the Broncos in seven games from the first round.
The Tigers finished seven points ahead of the Broncos and won six more games this season to earn home-ice advantage. The Tigers finished 25-8-2-1 at the Medicine Hat Arena this season.
“It is a very tough rink to play in, especially with their crowd, it is going to be loud in there. We have struggled in the past few years but we were able to get a win this year which was good,” said Broncos’ veteran forward Coda Gordon.
“They play their home rink really well,” added Lamb. “It is always a tough time going in there and we have experienced that. We have to be really ready, especially for that first game, and play them hard. We feel it is going to be a real hard series for us but we are going to be ready.”
The Tigers allowed the fourth fewest goals in the WHL this season with 196 goals against, 33 less than the Broncos allowed. Tigers’ import goaltender Marek Langhamer finished seventh in the WHL with a 2.58 goals against average.
“Obviously they are a really good team,” said Lamb. “What Medicine Hat has is a great work ethic. They have the one line that creates all of their offense and has real top end offensive players. Besides that, their D and their goaltending are a lot better than what people give them credit for. They are big strong D that can really move the puck and play really well defensively. Their goaltender is one of the best in the league. They have a lot of pieces to their team.”
Last year the Broncos went into the playoffs as heavy underdogs and their inexperience showed at times when they were eliminated in five games by the Calgary Hitmen in the first round.
The Broncos have a combined 90 games of playoff experience on this year’s roster, led by Andrew Johnson, who has played 25 playoff games with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Seattle Thunderbirds.
“Yeah it is good to have experience and we are definitely feeling more confident this year than we did last year. We kind of know what to expect, how we need to play, and what we have to do in the playoffs,” said Gordon.
Lamb hopes that the experience gained last season pays off against the Tigers.
“Yeah it does. We have more games. Our goaltending, we have them both back so they went through the situation. You have to go through the playoffs to really get a feel for the high intensity, the pressure that goes through it and we have some guys who have. Now we are building that foundation of being a playoff team and it is just something that is another part of our build and now we have to keep improving and get into these situations and enjoy them and learn from them and hopefully win.”
The Tigers’ top line of Curtis Valk (92 pts), Trevor Cox (82 pts), and Cole Sanford (73 pts) will be paramount on the Broncos’ minds throughout the series.
“We just need to play them hard,” said Gordon. “We are going to have to snag one in their barn, so I think that is the biggest thing is knowing who we are playing against and knowing who is out there and have everyone going and everyone doing their part.”
The Broncos head into the playoffs a confident group after earning 17 of a possible 20 points in their final 10 games to move up the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think everyone is feeling good about themselves,” said Lamb. “We have done a lot of good things, even last night the way we played defensively in the third period. When you look at the whole season, our special teams are really good, they are both in the top 10. We have good pieces to our team, which we have had all year. I think we have played as good as a team the last 10 games as we have all year. There are some spots that you always have to clean up, that’s never going to change, every team has areas where they have to clean up, but I think we got better in a lot of areas.”
Lamb and the Broncos had five full days off to prepare for their playoff opponent.
“You definitely focus in on all their systems and their players to a man,” said Gordon. “We have already started talking about and getting into things, yeah we are just preparing a lot more.”
“Yeah you prepare a lot differently,” said Lamb of the process that was already well underway Sunday. “You are preparing for one team. We are going to meet here in an hour and we are going to go through a lot of things. We are going to go through what the playoffs are all about. We are going to go through players individually, tendencies, and we are really going to get down into the roots of their team and try and get as deep as we can.
“We are going to really enjoy it. We are not a really experienced group but we have been there before and it is going to be a good challenge. This is what everyone plays for, you play for the playoffs. We are going to prepare but we are going to enjoy it and have some fun doing it,” Lamb added.