Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Moose Jaw Warriors 4 at Swift Current Broncos 5 (SO) - February 20, 2012



Happy Family Day! Yep, some provinces in Canada have what is known as Family Day (it's Louis Riel day in Manitoba) which meant a Monday afternoon tilt in Swift Current giving us enough time to get to Winnipeg for a game on Tuesday night.

Credit Union iPlex



Located two kilometers south of the TransCanada Highway just off Highway 4, the Credit Union iPlex is an older venue that has recently undergone renovations to make it one of junior hockey's better spots. It was built in 1967 which is when the Broncos began play in the WHL, and new seats were added along with an additional ice rink and a curling rink in 2007.


As is usually the case with junior hockey rinks in the WHL, parking here is free and plentiful. Tickets are $17 and I'd recommend the top rows along the boards as the best option. There is a standing area above the seating bowl on both sides of the rink. The team offers Two Two Twosdays where tickets are only $2 as are burgers and sodas, a great deal if you are fortunate enough to be in town on a Tuesday.


As you enter the barn (an apt name as the roof resembles that of a barn), you will find yourself in the lobby area which is where the main concession stand is located. The usual fare is found here, I tried the chicken strips which were a bargain at $5, coming with five strips, make sure to ask for the sauce though. Many fans spend the game standing in the lobby as you can get great views right at the glass behind one of the goals, as you can see above.

At the other end of the rink are the suites (white boxes below) and behind these is another concession that sells ice cream.


Financial problems forced the club to move to Lethbridge in 1974, where they stayed for 12 years before the town raised enough cash to buy back the team and return them to Swift Current. Behind the suites you can find pictures of each Broncos team from their second coming in 1986.

That year was marked by tragedy when the team bus crashed as it left the town for a road trip, killing four players. There is a memorial banner inside the rink as well as a plaque in the lobby, and the team jersey sports a patch with a four-leaf clover enclosing the four numbers.


Sadly for the town, that was not the only terrible event to befall the Broncos. Graham James, now a convicted sexual predator, was their coach from 1986-94 and was abusing several of his players. The story is very well known in Canada and is a truly disgusting tale that cannot be ignored as James is in those team pictures and a commemorative plaque. There has not been much media coverage south of the border, but this older ESPN article by Gare Joyce covers both subjects in detail and is a good if rather depressing read.

Despite all the tragedy, the team recovered to win the Memorial Cup just two seasons later, before the James mess became public knowledge.



The team warms up to very loud music and then skates out onto the ice through a small inflated log cabin, called "The Stable", which is also the name of the team store. The scoreboard is very small due to the limited space in the roof, and doesn't carry live action or highlights, instead cycling through the same four ads.


Overall, I really enjoyed watching the game here. There are great sightlines and good fans and costs are reasonable. The tragedy is not forgotten and though some say more can be done to remember those 4 who died over 25 years ago, I think the banner and plaque are enough. Rather, I think the team needs to remove the presence of a convicted pedophile from the arena, his name and picture are far too prevalent.


The Game


The Moose Jaw Warriors are the Broncos' nearest rivals, lying just 2 hours east. These two teams have played six times already this season, with the Warriors winning four. Moose Jaw has two first-round picks from the 2010 NHL Draft, with Dylan McIlrath of the Rangers (10th overall, above) and Quinton Howden of the Panthers (25th, below) who are both finishing their junior careers this season. The Warriors are a strong team, lying second in the east while the Broncos were tenth and well out of the playoffs.



McIlrath took an early penalty and Swift Current capitalized when Brad Hoban converted on a give-and-go, beating Warriors' goalie Spencer Tremblay from the slot. Moose Jaw matched that just a minute later when newcomer Cam Braes scored a beauty on a rapid wraparound.



That pattern repeated itself three more times, with the home team scoring only to have the Warriors fight back to tie within a few minutes. Below is Graeme Craig's PP goal that made it 3-2 at the midway point of the second period.


Kenton Miller was the star for the visitors, scoring two and assisting on Howden's game-tying goal in the third. After that, Broncos' keeper Jon Groenheyde made some great saves to preserve the tie, including an unbelievable stop on another wraparound (check around 2:05 in the highlights, which are of very poor quality).


Overtime solved nothing so we went to a shootout. Hoban went first and scored on a backhand deke (below). For once, Moose Jaw had no answer, as Braes, Miller, and Howden all missed and Swift Current took the game.



This was one of the best junior games I've witnessed, with both teams playing hard for the entire game, some great goals, even better saves, and a home team win. I'll be seeing these two teams again in Moose Jaw on Saturday, one day after I see the Warriors in Regina and I can only hope those games are as exciting as this one.

Notes

While I was touring the rink to take some pics, Dumpster, one of the mascots, took my seat and chatted with Sharpy.



Next Up

We are in Winnipeg now, where the Jets take on Philly tonight. Check back for a recap of that one.

Best,

Sean

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