Home ice continues to be the deciding factor in the best-of-seven opening round Western Hockey League playoff series between the Swift Current Broncos and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Medicine Hat won game five 4-1 at home Saturday to take a 3-2 series lead with all five games won by the host team. Trevor Cox was the difference with two goals and an assist for the Tigers to give him nine points in the series.
"They beat us on the rush," said Broncos coach Mark Lamb after the game. "That's how they score goals and what they are is how they beat us."
The Broncos came out flying in the first period and out-shot the Tigers 18-11 but the game remained scoreless heading into the second period.
The Tigers opened the scoring 7:29 into the second period when a Cox shot from the slot was blocked by Julius Honka but he slid home the puck after it came right back to him.
The Tigers nearly stretched it to a two-goal lead in the final minute but Eetu Laurikainen stopped Miles Koules on a breakaway.
Chad Butcher scored his third goal of the series when he beat Laurikaienn 2:26 into the third period to continue his breakout performance. He collected a Cox pass and deked Laurikainen before slipping the puck five-hole.
Cox made it 3-0 only 1:04 later when he beat Laurikainen high with a puck off the bar and in.
Nathan Burns got the Broncos on the board with 9:42 left in the third during a well executed powerplay. Burns tapped a Graham Black cross-crease feed off the post and then shoveled home the puck as it lay on the goal line to cut the deficit to two goals with his third goal of the playoffs. Cole Sanford added an empty net goal with less than two seconds left on the clock to close the scoring.
"It was another real good hockey game," said Lamb. "I thought we battled hard, but we need some guys to score some goals for us. We have some guys that haven't got on the board. Their best players are beating us, no doubt about it. That first line is the difference and we have to find a way to counter that."
Laurikainen took the loss with 39 saves. Marek Langhamer earned the win with 45 saves. The Broncos had their share of chances on Langhamer, none better than a shorthanded rebound effort from Dillon Heatherington, but Langhamer was there to maintain the Tigers' 3-0 lead.
The series returns to Swift Current on Sunday where game six will be played before another sold out crowd at the Credit Union iplex at 7 p.m. as the Broncos will put their season on the line.
Lamb said the Broncos didn't have time to dwell on the loss.
"This game is another game. We are in the playoffs and we have played well. We need some efforts from some other guys."