With the second round of the 2017 Western Hockey League Playoffs set to begin Thursday, April 6, WHL.ca provides a look in at each of the four head-to-head matchups across the league.
What fans can expect is a general introduction to the two teams, coupled with vital statistics and keys to the series. In our player-specific sections, we will highlight Players to Watch that do not serve as the usual suspects – the best of the supporting cast or perhaps the darkhorse playoff warrior.
Finally, we close each of our series previews with a quick look to the past for a brief historical take on the rivalry that exists – or stands to develop.
In our first of four second-round playoff previews, we examine an all-Saskatchewan battle between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos.
The Swift Current Broncos simply outworked and outhustled the Moose Jaw Warriors in a seven-game saga to score a first-round upset – albeit not the most surprising upset of the opening round of the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
If the Speedy Creek boys hope to pull off a monumental upset against the top-ranked Regina Pats in the second round of the WHL post-season dance, they will have to bring that same sort of moxy… and then some.
This is the first time since 2008 that the upstart Broncos have made an appearance in the second round of the WHL Playoffs, so you know the energy is pumping in Speedy Creek. Backed by the championship-calibre goaltending of Jordan Papirny and paced by the furious goal-scoring of Tyler Steenbergen, the Broncos are making a strong case for darkhorse status early in the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
On the other side of things, no one is underestimating or questioning the Regina Pats. Winners of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as WHL Regular Season Champions, the Pats swept the wild-card Calgary Hitmen in four games after closing out the main campaign with eight consecutive victories. Quick math equates to a 12-game run of wins for the high-powered Pats – a team oozing an embarrassing wealth of offensive talent and depth throughout its lineup.
In eight regular-season meetings between the two East Division rivals, the Pats went 7-0-1-0, including a pair of big home-ice wins – 8-1 on Dec. 9 and 7-0 on Feb. 24.
A total of 24 points separated these two teams at the conclusion of the WHL regular season with the Pats (52-12-7-1) perched atop the league standings with 112 points, while the Broncos (39-23-4-6) finished third in the East Division with 88 points. That being said, both clubs played well down the stretch with the Pats going 8-2-0-0 and the Broncos registering a mark of 7-3-0-0 through their final 10 regular-season outings.
— #WHLPlayoffs (@TheWHL) April 6, 2017
Game 1 – Swift Current Broncos at Regina Pats – Thursday, April 6 – 7 p.m. MT
Game 2 – Swift Current Broncos at Regina Pats – Friday, April 7 – 7 p.m MT
Game 3 – Regina Pats at Swift Current Broncos – Monday, April 10 – 7 p.m. MT
Game 4 – Regina Pats at Swift Current Broncos – Tuesday, April 11 – 7 p.m. MT
*Game 5 – Swift Current Broncos at Regina Pats – Friday, April 14 – 7 p.m. MT
*Game 6 – Regina Pats at Swift Current Broncos – Saturday, April 15 – 7 p.m. MT
*Game 7 – Swift Current Broncos at Regina Pats – Monday, April 17 – 7 p.m. MT
Dec. 4 – Regina (6) at Swift Current (3)
Dec. 9 – Swift Current (1) at Regina (8)
Jan. 21 – Regina (6) at Swift Current (5)
Feb. 15 – Regina (2) at Swift Current (0)
Feb. 24 – Swift Current (0) at Regina (7)
Feb. 26 – Swift Current (5) at Regina (4) – OT
March 8 – Regina (4) at Swift Current (2)
March 15 – Swift Current (2) at Regina (6)
|Regina Pats||vs.||Swift Current Broncos|
|52-12-7-1 (112 points)||Record||39-23-4-6 (88 points)|
|First – East||Division Standing||Third – East|
|353 (First)||Goals For||247 (10th)|
|211 (Sixth)||Goals Against||239 (Ninth)|
|31.5% (First)||Power Play||21.7% (10th)|
|81.4% (Seventh)||Penalty Kill||72.7% (21st)|
|Eliminated in Second Round||2015-16 Playoffs||Did not qualify|
|Sam Steel – 50-81—131||Leading Scorer||Tyler Steenbergen – 51-39—90|
|Adam Brooks – 43-87—130||Second Leading Scorer||Aleksi Heponiemi – 28-58—86|
|Dawson Leedahl – 35-54—89||Third Leading Scorer||Ryley Lindgren – 27-47—74|
|Sam Steel – 50 goals||Top Goal Scorer||Tyler Steenbergen – 51 goals|
|Connor Hobbs – 31-54—85||Top Scoring Defenceman||Artyom Minulin – 8-42—50|
(33-8-5-1, 2.64, .911, 5 SO)
|Top Goaltender||Jordan Papirny
(21-18-1-2, 3.21, .907)
|2-0||Playoffs – Home Record||1-2|
|2-0||Playoffs – Road Record||3-1|
|20 (5.0/game)||Playoffs – Goals For||19 (2.71/game)|
|6 (1.5/game)||Playoffs – Goals Against||15 (2.14/game)|
|57.1% (First)||Playoffs – Power Play||20.0% (11th)|
|81.2% (Fourth)||Playoffs – Penalty Kill||88.5% (Third)|
|Sam Steel – 4-6—10||Playoffs – Leading Scorer||Tyler Steenbergen – 6-2—8|
(4-0, 1.50, .947)
|Playoffs – Top Goaltender||Jordan Papirny
(4-3, 2.02, .947, SO)
Key to the Series – Regina Pats
Solve Jordan Papirny: The soon-to-be 21-year-old product of Edmonton is enjoying an exceptional start to the 2017 WHL Playoffs. His big-game experience was on full display in the first round and was perhaps the biggest contributing factor to the ousting of the Moose Jaw Warriors. If Papirny can steal a game or two for the Broncos, the Pats could find themselves in trouble very quickly.
Key to the Series – Swift Current Broncos
Tyler Steenbergen: The 19-year-old product of Sylvan Lake, Alta., is the WHL’s active leading goal-scorer in the 2017 WHL Playoffs with six tallies after the Red Deer Rebels, along with Brandon Hagel (seven) and Lane Zablocki (six), were eliminated in Game 7 of their first-round series Tuesday night in Lethbridge. Steenbergen finished the 2016-17 campaign tied atop the WHL scoring charts with 51 strikes and hasn’t missed a beat since shifting into post-season gear. If the Broncos are to find a way past the Pats, Steenbergen will need to continue lighting the lamp at a torrid rate.
Forward to Watch – Regina Pats
LW Austin Wagner (3-0—3): The 19-year-old out of Calgary, who recently signed his entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings, kills with his speed. As a responsible two-way presence for the Pats, his quick feet and acceleration make him a dangerous presence on special teams. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound winger burned the Calgary Hitmen in the first round with all three of his goals coming via special teams – two on the power play and one short-handed. He is off to a strong start in the post-season after tallying 30 goals and 66 points in 64 regular season outings.
Forward to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
C Ryley Lindgren (5-3—8): Cast off by the Lethbridge Hurricanes prior to the WHL Trade Deadline, the 21-year-old product of East St. Paul, Man., has been nothing short of an impact player since landing in Speedy Creek. While opponents worry about containing Tyler Steenbergen and Aleksi Heponiemi, Lindgren has made his money getting dirty in and around the crease, not shy to go to tough spots in the offensive end to make things happen. He was a consistent presence in the Broncos’ seven-game series win over the Moose Jaw Warriors, which included a hat-trick performance in Game 5. Lindgren’s 74 points (27G-47A) through 72 regular season outings prove he knows how to get it done on offense.
Defenceman to Watch – Regina Pats
Chase Harrison (0-2—2): Every team needs an anchor on its blueline and the 20-year-old product of Winnipeg provides exactly that for the Pats. He might not be flashy like Connor Hobbs or shifty like Josh Mahura, but make no mistake, Harrison is a vital piece to the Pats defence. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he plays a safe game and takes care of his own end of the rink. He will be vital to containing the likes of Steenbergen, Heponiemi, Lindgren and Pederson. Harrison logged 48 points (6G-42A) and a plus-50 rating in 67 games this season.
Defenceman to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
Colby Sissons (2-0—2): The 19-year-old product of Edmonton got the soring started in Game 7 as he helped the Broncos past the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round of the WHL Playoffs. His ability to shut down the defensive end while also contributing on offense is a big reason why he earned a free-agent contract with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils this past fall. Sissons posted a career-high 28 points (6G-22A) along with a plus-11 rating in 63 contests this regular season.
Goaltender to Watch – Regina Pats
Tyler Brown (4 GP, 4-0, 1.50 GAA, .947 SV%): The 20-year-old product of Winnipeg had some ups and downs throughout the regular season, but he was steady down the stretch and throughout a four-game sweep of the Calgary Hitmen to open the 2017 WHL Playoffs. His 1.50 GAA leads the WHL playoff picture and his .947 SV% is tied with Jordan Papirny for top spot as well. While the Hitmen did what they could to test the veteran puckstopper, chances are good the Broncos will have much more to throw at him.
Goaltender to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
Jordan Papirny (7 GP, 4-3, 2.02 GAA, .947 SV%, SO): He went all the way to the 2016 WHL Championship and in Round 1 he put on a fantastic display, proving why the Broncos went out to acquire his services at the WHL Trade Deadline in January. While Tyler Steenbergen was hot, one might argue Papirny was the key to victory in the first round for the Broncos as he stymied the Moose Jaw Warriors from start to finish. The challenge becomes greater in the second round as the high-flying offense of the Regina Pats will send wave after wave at the 20-year-old product of Edmonton.
Playoff History – Regina Pats
In the 2016 WHL Playoffs, the upstart Pats shocked the Central Division-champion Lethbridge Hurricanes, skating to a five-game series win in the first round before eventually bowing out in a seven-game loss to the Red Deer Rebels in the second round. It was a simple sign of what head coach John Paddock was building in the Queen City and his master plan has come to fruition in fiery fashion this season.
Canada’s oldest major junior hockey team owns two WHL Championship titles – 1974 and 1980. Regina also won the Memorial Cup in 1974.
Set to host the CHL’s 100th Memorial Cup festivities in 2018, will the Pats provide themselves an opportunity to defend on home ice by winning it all in 2017?
Playoff History – Swift Current Broncos
The Swift Current Broncos have won two WHL Championships (1993, 1989) during their time in Saskatchewan, plus one other while the franchise was located in Lethbridge (1983). After missing out on the 2016 WHL Playoffs, the Broncos are back and have advanced to the second round for the first time since 2008 when they dropped a six-game series to the Calgary Hitmen. The last time the Broncos advanced to the Eastern Conference final was 2001, which resulted in a six-game defeat at the hands of the Red Deer Rebels. The last time Swift Current appeared in the WHL Championship was back in 1993 when they knocked off the Portland Winterhawks in a thrilling seven-game victory.
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Swift Current/Lethbridge Broncos and Regina Pats
2014-15: Regina Pats defeat Swift Current Broncos 4-0 in Eastern Conference first round
2007-08: Swift Current Broncos defeat Regina Pats 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round
2006-07: Regina Pats defeat Swift Current Broncos 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round
1992-93: Swift Current Broncos defeat Regina Pats 4-0 in Eastern Conference final
1989-90: Regina Pats defeat Swift Current Broncos 3-1 in Eastern Division first round
1987-88: Swift Current Broncos defeat Regina Pats 3-1 in Eastern Division first round
1985-86: Lethbridge Broncos (1-9-0) and Regina Pats (1-9-0) are eliminated in Eastern Division round-robin
1981-82: Regina Pats defeat Lethbridge Broncos 4-3 in Eastern Conference final
1979-80: Regina Pats defeat Lethbridge Broncos 4-0 in East Division first round
1974-75: Regina Pats defeat Lethbridge Broncos 4-2 in Eastern Division semifinal
1973-74: Regina Pats defeat Swift Current Broncos 4-2 in Eastern Division final