Kaden Elder scored 2:11 into overtime as the Swift Current Broncos beat the Saskatoon Blades 3-2 on the 30th anniversary of the tragic bus crash that killed four members of the 1986-87 team.
He said they were thinking of Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff tonight.
"It's just crazy sometimes you don't know when things can happen,” Elder said. “We felt really special to be a part of this moment today. We for sure played for those men in the game today.”
For Elder it was his 8th of the season off the a nice assist from Aleksi Heponiemi. The 18-year-old found a hole in front of Saskatoon goaltender Brock Hamm and Heponiemi found him.
“Heponiemi came off the way and kind of went to the high circle,” Elder said. “I just found an opening towards the net and he laid it out there for me. I made (Hamm) bite on it and slid it five-hole.”
The win moved Swift Current to within a single point of Moose Jaw for second place in the WHL East Division after the Warriors fell 4-3 to Brandon in overtime.
“It was a big win,” said Broncos associate coach Ryan Smith. “I thought it was a pretty good game. Both teams played hard in the tough areas. There was some scoring chances and both goalies were pretty good. The result was pretty fair an overtime game. I liked a lot of things we did and we needed to clean up some areas.”
Swift Current had some good chances early before Josh Paterson struck on a Saskatoon power play to give them momentum in the first period. The Bladed added to that lead when Lukus MacKenzie converted a nice Logan Christensen pass on a quick release midway through the second period.
That's when the Broncos pushed back. Arthur Miller had a strong shift on the forecheck to draw an interference penalty and Max Lajoie converted the power play only ten seconds later.
“Miller was really good on that shift,” Smith said. “That turns the game around. We get a power play, it takes us ten seconds to score and now it's from a 2-0 feeling a lot of pressure to 2-1 and we're feeling good back in the game.”
Kole Gable then converted a 2 on 1 to tie the game shortly after. Tanner Mole got his first career point with an assist on the play. Gable now has 8 points in 17 games since joining the Broncos. He only had a goal in 8 games for Edmonton this season.
“He's a gamer,” Smith said. “He plays hard and he plays the right way. He's bounced around the lineup, played centre, played some power play for us and he's kind of a utility guy. His energy is good. A real hard shot. That's how you shoot to score. He puts the work in and it's paying off.”
The Blades tried to make it hard on the Broncos to use their speed all night. That included a tight third period where the clubs combined for only nine shots.
“They got in our way and they made us go the long route,” Smith said. “At blue lines their D did a good job stepping up when we chipped it by them. The word on the street is probably to slow us down we've got some speedy guys who can make you pay. I think we handled it well we kept getting pucks deep. I didn't mind our game we didn't turn it over.”
Elder then finished the game quickly in overtime. Elder now has 11 points in his last 14 games and is well above his career highs in all categories.
“I just became more confident,” Elder said. “I'm just sticking to the game plan. I'm doing defence first and the offensive chances will come with skilled players like Lane (Pederson) and (Ryan Graham). If I just do my job and they do their jobs we're going to get a lot of points.”
The win wrapped up a day that started with the unveiling of a new monument to the four Broncos who lost their lives in the 1968 bus crash. The Broncos attended that ceremony and then were part of a pre-game tribute as well.
“It's a real emotional day for a lot of people,” Smith said. “It's an excellent thing the community has done in the memory of these four young men. For us as coaches and as players we wanted to play a real hard game and I thought we did that. Daily we see it on our jerseys, we see it in the rafters and we're constantly reminded of how precious things are. Tonight was our chance to honour them in the right way.”
Travis Child made 21 saves to earn the win for the Broncos. It was his 11th and Swift Current's 20th of the season. Brock Hamm was strong for Saskatoon with 32 saves.
Calvin Spencer missed the game with an injury sustained in Wednesday's loss to Moose Jaw. The Broncos also scratched Kade Jensen, Cole Johnson and Brandan Arnold.
Dom Schmiemann left the game in the first period with an injury.
The two teams meet again for the first game of 2017 on Sunday at 2pm.