With the second round of the 2018 WHL Playoffs set to begin Friday, April 6, WHL.ca provides a look in at each of the four head-to-head matchups across the league.
With a general introduction, vital statistics and keys to the series, we’ve got everything you need to know heading into the 2018 WHL Playoffs. While the usual suspects are known, our ‘Players to Watch’ section will take a deeper dive into some of the supporting characters set to take on a big role in the post-season.
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 ignite.
In our second of four second round 2018 WHL Playoffs previews, we examine the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos.
Last year, the upstart Swift Current Broncos met with the Moose Jaw Warriors to open the 2017 WHL Playoffs. Veteran goaltender Jordan Papirny, a trade-deadline acquisitions by the Broncos, guided Swift Current to a seven-game upset of Zach Sawchenko and the Warriors.
Fast forward to 2018 and once again, the Broncos and Warriors meet in post-season play. While no one is sleeping on either of these teams – the Warriors are the second-ranked team in the CHL and the Broncos are the fourth-ranked – we once again find ourselves looking in on a series that pits the Broncos as an underdog to the high-powered Warriors.
Realistically though, there is no heavy favourite here.
The Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy-winning Warriors finished the regular season with 109 points (52-15-2-3), edging out the Broncos and their 103 points (48-17-5-2) for the East Division crown as well.
The first round of the 2018 WHL Playoffs served to battle test both of the East Division’s heaviest hitters.
Taking on the wild-card seed Prince Albert Raiders, the Warriors required seven nail-biting games to advance to the second round. The seventh and deciding contest saw Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Brayden Burke secure the series-winning marker with a power-play effort that came during the third period with only 3:50 to go in regulation.
Meanwhile, the Broncos went seven games deep with the Regina Pats. In another one-goal game, the Broncos received a goal and an assist from each of Tyler Steenbergen and Glenn Gawdin to score a 3-2 victory. Goaltender Stuart Skinner held off a feverish third-period push that saw Regina outshoot Swift Current by a 14-4 margin.
What comes in Round 2 remains to be seen – but there’s no doubt these two powerhouses are set to entertain WHL fans across the region.
Game 1 – Friday, April 6 – Mosaic Place – Moose Jaw – 7 p.m. MT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 7 – Mosaic Place – Moose Jaw – 7 p.m. MT
Game 3 – Tuesday, April 10 – Innovation Credit Union i-Plex – Swift Current – 7 p.m. MT
Game 4 – Wednesday, April 11 – Innovation Credit Union i-Plex – Swift Current – 7 p.m. MT
Game 5* – Friday, April 13 – Mosaic Place – Moose Jaw – 7 p.m. MT
Game 6* – Saturday, April 14 – Innovation Credit Union i-Plex – 7 p.m. MT
Game 7* – Monday, April 16 – Mosaic Place – Moose Jaw – 7 p.m. MT
Goaltending: We know they can score in bunches. There’s absolutely no question there. But what has been missing thus far is consistent goaltending from Brody Willms. He was good enough to go 4-3 in the first round and get the Warriors past the Raiders, but the offensive guns of the Broncos are going to provide an even greater challenge in Round 2. With a 3.73 GAA and .866 SV% in the post-season, Willms has fought off pucks and spit out rebounds at inopportune times. He will need to be better if Moose Jaw hopes to corral the likes of Glenn Gawdin, Aleksi Heponiemi and Tyler Steenbergen.
Key to the Series – Swift Current Broncos
Win on the road: The Broncos enjoyed home-ice advantage against the Regina Pats during Round 1, but they won’t have the same luxury during the second round. In three road games against the Pats, the Broncos went 1-2. The regular season saw Swift Current go 20-11-4-1 on the road, so they know how to do it, they just have to execute when the stakes are high against one of the top Clubs in the country. Moose Jaw went 29-4-2-1 at home during the regular season and is 2-2 at Mosaic Place so far in the post-season.
Forward to Watch – Moose Jaw Warriors
LW Tanner Jeannot (0-3–3): Fresh off signing a free agent, entry-level contract with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the Warriors will need Jeannot to find a little more offense come Round 2. He kills penalties, works on the power play and lines up against the opposition’s top guns at even strength, so there’s no questioning the 21-year-old’s contributions in all facets of the game. After posting 80 points (40G-40A), Moose Jaw will need a little more of that jam to help take some pressure off Jayden Halbgewachs, Brayden Burke and Justin Almeida.
Forward to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
RW Max Patterson (2-1–3): An off-season acquisition from the Kootenay ICE, the 6-foot-5, 202-pound product of Kamloops, B.C. has enviable size and can make life difficult for opposing defenders when he uses it in front of the net. The 17-year-old forward registered career highs in points (24), goals (9) and assists (15) during his first year in Speedy Creek, and he has performed admirably in a supporting role so far during the 2018 WHL Playoffs.
Defenceman to Watch – Moose Jaw Warriors
Oleg Sosunov (0-0–0): Speaking of sizeable bodies, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t leave much room for opposition forwards to work with when he is on the ice. Considerably mobile for a man his size, Sosunov has an incredible wingspan and covers plenty of space defensively. On top of it, he doesn’t mind occasionally jumping into the rush on offense, evidenced by the 26 points (7G-19A) he posted during the regular season.
Defenceman to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
Josh Anderson (0-1–1): At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he’s a big customer on the backend. With 289 minutes in penalties over 206 career regular season games, he can be nasty. With 15 games of WHL Playoffs experience, he’s got veteran poise. Acquired by the Broncos ahead of the 2018 WHL Trade Deadline and having recently signed with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, Anderson is – literally – a big part of the Broncos blueline brigade. He is in your face and doesn’t give much in his own end of the rink.
Goaltender to Watch – Moose Jaw Warriors
Brody Willms (7 GP, 4-3, 3.73 GAA, .866 SV%): They’re aren’t ideal numbers and they’re a bit of a far cry from what he managed during the regular season (37-11-2-2, 3.00 GAA, .898 SV%) but let’s not forget – the first round of the 2018 WHL Playoffs was the first post-season go for the 19-year-old product of Coquitlam, B.C. Having had time to get the jitters out, expect much better performance from Willms in Round 2.
Goaltender to Watch – Swift Current Broncos
Stuart Skinner (7 GP, 4-3, 2.76 GAA, .926 SV%, SO): If there’s one area the Broncos have remarkably outperformed the Warriors so far this post-season, it is between the pipes. Skinner, a prospect of the Edmonton Oilers, is putting together an incredible body of work so far, with numbers that blow away his regular season resume (30-21-3-1, 3.07 GAA, .905 SV%, 6 SO). With 31 career WHL Playoffs appearances, the 19-year-old product of Edmonton has a great deal of experience and has finally exorcised the demon known as the Regina Pats, having been previously eliminated by the Queen City crew in the 2016 and 2017 WHL Playoffs.
Playoff History – Swift Current Broncos
In 2017, the upstart Broncos knocked off the Moose Jaw Warriors in the opening round of action before jumping out in front of the Pats by a 3-1 margin – putting a serious scare into the 2016-17 regular season champs – before eventually bowing out. Having owned the 2017-18 regular season series with Regina, the Broncos will be looking for more when the 2018 WHL Playoffs open. There’s been a long WHL Championship drought in Saskatchewan – 25 years long, in fact. Interestingly enough, the last Saskatchewan-based WHL Club to win the WHL title was the Swift Current Broncos back in 1993. There’s a very real chance that drought could end in 2018 and don’t be surprised if the Broncos are the ones to do it.
Playoff History – Moose Jaw Warriors
Having just won the franchise’s first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as WHL Regular Season Champions, the Warriors will now look to embark on a journey to their first Ed Chynoweth Cup. Sure, the 1967 Moose Jaw Canucks were WHL Champions, but that falls in a different franchise line than today’s Warriors. The last time the Warriors advanced to an Eastern Conference Championship came during the 2012 WHL Playoffs, where they fell in five games to the Edmonton Oil Kings – eventual WHL Champions. The last WHL Championship appearance for the Warriors came in 2006, where they were swept in four games by the Vancouver Giants. After scoring a franchise-first regular season title, can the Warriors double dip and bring home a franchise-first Ed Chynoweth Cup?
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Swift Current/Lethbridge Broncos and Moose Jaw/Winnipeg Warriors/Canucks
2016-17: Swift Current Broncos defeat Moose Jaw Warriors 4-3 in Eastern Conference first round
1998-99: Moose Jaw Warriors defeat Swift Current Broncos 4-2 in Eastern Conference first round
1990-91: Moose Jaw Warriors defeat Swift Current Broncos 3-0 in Eastern Division first round
1988-89: Swift Current Broncos defeat Moose Jaw Warriors 4-0 in Eastern Conference semifinal
1985-86: Moose Jaw Warriors (4-6-0) advance as Lethbridge Broncos (1-9-0) are eliminated in Eastern Division round-robin
1982-83: Lethbridge Broncos defeat Winnipeg Warriors 3-0 in Eastern Division first round