Warriors vs Broncos: Series Breakdown
I would imagine that most people following the Warriors expected they would come up against Swift Current, in a seven game series, at one point or another in the playoffs. I suppose now is as good a time as any.
The two squads have been the top teams in the league since very early on in the season; and they've had some good battles between each other, as well. They split the season series 4-4, each team showing itself to be more than capable of beating the other.
They also met last year in round one of the playoffs, where the Broncos took the hard fought series in game seven.
On paper, it lines up to be a hell of a series, with serious Memorial Cup implications on the line.
Both teams were forced to play seven games in order to get to where they are now; but the key difference is that Swift Current was playing the Regina Pats, who are built to contend; whereas the Warriors foe, the Prince Albert Raiders barely squeaked into the playoffs as the bottom wildcard and weren't really considered a threat, even by their own die hard fans. The Warriors were supposed to get through the Raiders quickly (I predicted a sweep), allowing them time to rest; and the Broncos were supposed to battle the Pats and show up for the Warriors series a little worse for the wear. That never happened though. Prince Albert turned out to be a lot tougher than anticipated. The Warriors first advantage was squandered.
Now they will have to win a series without the benefit of any outside factors.
Let's get into the position-by-position breakdown.
Both teams can score. That's a given. The Broncos have a slight edge in front line offence, but the Warriors have the advantage in depth.
Jayden Halbgewachs and Brayden Burke were fantastic all season, but Halbgewachs hasn't really been all that hot in the post-season, putting up only four points in seven games. Brett Howden and Tanner Jeannot have had their own struggles too.
Swift Current's gunners; Glenn Gawdin, Aleksi Heponiemi and Tyler Steenbergen had no problem finding the net against Regina. Between the three of them they scored 33 points. But outside of those three, the next highest point-getter they had in round one was a Defenceman, Colby Sissons.
The Broncos have second line scoring in Giorgio Estephan, Max Patterson and Gennaro Matteo; but it's not nearly as good as what the Warriors can do with Brett Howden and Justin Almeida.
It's hard to give the offensive edge to anyone at this point.
Each team's D is fronted by a power play monster, who can move the puck and create offence. Both Kale Clague and Colby Sissons had 71 points on the season. But Clague had the big game experience that should make him slightly more valuable in a tough series.
Josh Brook has been great lately too, and he played well in round one. The Warriors' physical presence in Brandon Schuldhaus and Oleg Sosunov make them a uniquely intimidating opponent for anybody.
Artyom Minulin and Sahvan Khaira are pretty formidable Broncos, as well. But the Warriors win the D game with depth. Jett Woo and Dmitri Zaitsev are top line defenders, often playing as third liners. This is an advantage Swift Current doesn't have.
Let's be real, aside from the one shutout, Brody Willms was horrible in round 1. So horrible that a lot of people were talking about how the team should use backup Adam Evanoff instead. Stuart Skinner, for the Broncos, had some issues too, but was still much more reliable than Willms.
If Willms plays against Swift Current like he did against Prince Albert, the series will be over quickly. This team has far too much fire-power to think a shaken goaltender will be succesful against them.
I'll give the edge in goaltending to Swift Current.
It pains me to do this, but I have to take Swift Current to win this series. The Warriors weren't impressive in round 1. They didn't play like a Memorial Cup caliber team. Now, that's not to say Swift Current did either, but they certainly played better than Moose Jaw.
Moose Jaw will act, at times, like the best team in the WHL, but at other times they will act like they did against Prince Albert; and that's all the space the Broncos need.
Swift Current in 6