Friday, October 18, 2013

Game 10 Preview: Portland vs. Swift Current

Portland (5-3-0-1, 11 points, 6th in Western Conference, 4th in U.S. Division) vs. Swift Current (6-4-0-1, 13 pts, 3rd in Eastern Conference, 2nd in East Division).

Last Year's MVP: Lowry
Swift Current Last Year:
-The Broncos, in their 4 seasons under Coach Mark Lamb, made the playoffs, for only the 2nd time. They were carried to a 36-29-3-4 record by Captain and WHL MVP: 19 year old Adam Lowry and his 88 points. Lowry, a big 6'5" 205 lb Forward, was also 3rd on the Broncos in Penalty Minutes with 105. He really set the pace for the large and physical Broncos, whose top 14 scorers last year were 6 foor or taller. The Broncos ended the season 6th in the Eastern Conference and 3rd in the East Division behind Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Finnish import netminder Eetu Laurikainen had a solid rookie season, getting into 60 regular season games and posting a 2.40 GAA and a .922 save %. Though they lost in 5 games to 3rd seeded Calgary, the Broncos never lost by more than 2 goals and 2 of the games went to over-time.

This Season:
-The Broncos have been up and down so far this season, opening with consecutive victories over Regina, then dropping consecutive games, before reeling off 3 more straight wins. They are 0-1 so far in their 5 game U.S. Division trip, dropping a game 5-1 to Spokane Wednesday night.

-The loss of MVP Lowry to the AHL (St. John's IceCaps) is a big one, as he was their most consistent player last season. They also lost two 1992 born Forwards: Ryan Moser (40 pts) and former Thunderbird: Chance Lund (29 pts). They also traded 1994 born Levi Bews (36 pts) to Vancouver in the off-season. The questions up front were some pretty large ones up front, until, unexpectedly 1993 born Graham Black (50 pts), was sent back by the New Jersey Devils. Black joined 2013 Calgary Flames 6th round draft pick: Coda Gordon (59 pts) and draft year Forward Colby Cave (41 pts) as the top returning scorers for the Broncos. Former Lethbridge Hurricane: Jay Merkley (30 total pts last year) is also expected to add some scoring depth, along with recently acquired 1993 born Connor Snavido (odd man out among the 20's for Seattle). 1994 born Andrew Johnson was also acquired in the trade with Seattle.

So far this year, Gordon (14 pts), Cave (13) and Black (10) have done as expected and led the way in scoring for the Forwards. Sanvido (9) and Merkely round out the top 5 point getters, so far, for Swift Current Forwards.

-Another big loss for the Broncos from last year was 1993 born Reece Scarlett (49 pts), who is now in the AHL with New Jersey' affiliate: Albany. Also, lost was stalwart Defenseman Richard Nedomlel (AHL) and 1992 born Dalton Reum. It was expected to be a very young group for the Broncos, with a lot being hoped for out of top NHL prospects: 1995 born Brycen Martin and Finnish import Julius Honka. 2013 2nd round Columbis draft pick Dillon Heatherington was also expected to play a pivotal role on the blue line.

Cut to this year: both Honka (leading the team with 15 pts) and Martin (6 pts) are moving up the draft board and dawing scouts to the Credit Untion iPlex in droves. Honka was even named the CHL star of the week for the first week of the season. Heatherington (7 pts) has played well also and should be one to watch out for as a future NHLer. 1995 born: Brett Lernout and Bobby Zinkan are among the team leaders in penalty minutes.

-Laurikainen got in 60 of a possible of 72 games last season as a 19 year old and somehow was not drafted, despite putting up solid numbers. Laurikainen's last shot to get noticed is this year as he is 20. So far he has posted a 2.74 GAA and a .919 save % behind a Defense that probably will take some time in learnign their defensive resposibilities. Backing up Eetu is 1995 born Landon Bow (3 Games Played: 2.33 GAA and a .903 Save %). I doubt he will press for many starts, as Laurikainen is the x factor for how far thsi team will make it this season.

Tonight's Game:
-Swift Current is going into the first of 3 straight games on the I-5 corridor (Saturday in Seattle and Sunday in Everett) and needs to get some jump early or they will be in for a long weekend.
-Portland gets another look at a top 10 Bantam Draft Pick from 2012, as #5 pick: Forward Glenn Gawdin comes in with S.C. Previously, Portland has seen Matthew Barzal (#1), Jansen Harkins (#2), Brad Morrison (#7) and Nick Merkley (#9).
-Last year Portland took down Swift Current 6-3 in the last game of their Eastern Conference swing.
-Portland has faced Swift Current 3 times in the playoffs (all WHL Finals) and has lost all 3 times: 1983 (Broncos were playing in Lethbridge), 1989 (Swift Current went on to win the Memorial Cup) and 1993.
-Swift Current has lost by 3 or more goals 3 times already this season.
-The Broncos have been Jekyll and Hyde so far offensively as they have scored 5 or more goals 5 times, but have also been held to 1 goal 3 times.
-Portland would really like to win this one, as they start a 5 game trip on Saturday.
-With 2 points last night, Nic Petan cracked the top 6 in WHL scoring with 18 points.
-Petan still strails Oliver Bjorkstrand for the team lead by one point.
-Swift Current really struggled with the speed of Spokane's top line on Wednesday and Portland hopes to cintinue that trend with theirs tonight.
-A good fight from the last time the Broncos came to Portland in 2011:

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