Lethbridge Hurricanes (2) at Swift Current Broncos (3)
Swift Current leads series 1-0
Game 2: Saturday, April 21 – Innovation Credit Union i-Plex, Swift Current, Sask. – 7:00 p.m. MT
Advantage Swift Current Broncos.
The Broncos won their first Eastern Conference Championship game since April 24, 2001 Friday night in front of their fans at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the 2018 WHL Playoffs, firing the puck past his former teammate Logan Flodell with 8:49 to go in the contest to make the final 3-2 score.
Before that, things looked good, then shaky for the Broncos as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second, only to see it evaporate it the third.
First, as he was coming back out from behind his net, Flodell tripped and fell down. In that split second, Kole Gable found Max Patterson with a perfect pass in the slot that the Kamloops, B.C. product converted on for his fourth of the post-season. Just shy of seven minutes later, Giorgio Estephan struck against his former team as the Broncos forward entered the zone with the puck, dished it over to Heponiemi, who eventually found a way to get it back to Estephan, who then buried his fifth of the playoffs.
The Hurricanes would have a response in the third though. First, former Broncos defenceman Matthew Stanley picked up the loose puck after it was poked off a teammate’s stick and wired it on net past Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers) to get the visitors on the board. Just 3:19 later, 2018 NHL Draft prospect Calen Addison tied up the game on a Hurricanes’ power play on one of his patented shots from the point found a way through traffic.
Heponiemi and the Broncos would have the last laugh though, beating Flodell weak side on a shot with a screen to score the decisive goal in the opening game of the series.
Skinner and Flodell did steal the show in the first between two offensively-talented teams, stopping all 28 combined shots. Skinner finished with 39 saves and the win. Flodell had 27 saves and took the loss.
Tyler Steenbergen (Arizona Coyotes) had a pair of assists while Heponiemi had a goal and an assist. Gable and captain Glenn Gawdin (Calgary Flames) each had a single assist in the win.
Taylor Ross and Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive (Pittsburgh Penguins) each had a pair of assists in the contest.
Friday’s game marked the first time in the 2018 WHL Playoffs that leading scorer Brad Morrison had been held off the score sheet in a contest, ending his point streak at 10 games.
Tri-City Americans (2) at Everett Silvertips (3)
Everett leads series 1-0
Game 2: Saturday, April 21 – Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
A pair of goals from Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) and a 24-save performance from Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) powered the the Everett Silvertips to a Game One victory Friday against the Tri-City Americans.
The Silvertips jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, lost it early in the second, but regained it near the end of the period, then shut down the game in the third to secure the victory.
It was an early start to the party for the Silvertips as Pilon scored 65 seconds in to give Everett their first lead of the series. Taking a pass from Connor Dewar, Pilon sprinted up the wing on an odd-man rush and elected to shoot, the right option as he beat Patrick Dea for the Silvertips’ first goal of the series.
Roughly 11 minutes later, Dewar found himself on the score sheet with the Silvertips, capitalizing on a turnover in the Americans’ zone and then scoring from a near-impossible angle to double the home side’s lead.
The Americans would strike back in the second though with their top two offensive leaders beating Hart. First Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes) took a pass out into the slot from Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) and beat Hart to get the Americans’ on the board just 47 seconds into the middle period.
Minutes later with the Americans on the power play, captain Michael Rasmussen (Detroit Red Wings) challenged Hart for the puck behind the net, escaped with it and beat Hart to the opposite post on the wrap-around attempt, knotting the game at two goals each.
It would deter the Silvertips though, who’d strike for the winning goal late in the second. 2018 NHL Draft prospect Riley Sutter flipped the puck over to Pilon, who sniped his second of the game past Dea from in-tight.
Hart would stop all eight shots from the Americans in the third to fend off the visitors while Dea turned aside a similar number of shots to keep his team within a goal down the stretch. Dea stopped 30 of 33 in the loss.
Sutter had a pair of assists for the Silvertips’ third multi-point game of the night while Sean Richards picked up a single assist to factor into the victory as well.
#WHLPlayoffs schedule for Saturday, April 21
Game 2 – Lethbridge Hurricanes at Swift Current Broncos – 7:00 p.m. MT (SC leads 1-0)
Game 2 – Tri-City Americans at Everett Silvertips – 7:05 p.m. PT (EVT leads 1-0)