Goals came early and often for the visiting Calgary Hitmen last night at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex, as the Swift Current Broncos fell 6-2.
The Hitmen carried the pace for the most part of the first period, carrying a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. The Broncos lone goal in the opening frame came courtesy of Ethan O'Rourke, who scored in his fifth-straight game.
"I think the biggest thing for us tonight, we were disappointed with our start to the game," said Broncos assistant coach Brandin Cote. "They got a couple little lucky bounces off the bat, but we just weren't mentally engaged at the start, and I think it started in our warm up today - just whatever reason we were flat."
Allowing four goals on 18 shots, Riley Lamb's day was done after 20 minutes. Though, as Cote noted, it wasn't a case of a poor effort by the team's overage goalie.
"It definitely wasn't Riley's play - he's been solid for us since he's been here," he said. "It was just more of a momentum change than anything else - give us a little bit different look, and get the guys engaged. I think it worked for the most part for the second period. Poults came in and played really well. We definitely never really point the fingers at our goaltenders, they've been there for us all year, no matter who's been in there."
Poulter indeed came on in relief and carried a bit of a swagger in the crease, turning aside a couple key opportunities for the Hitmen to increase their lead to four in the second frame.
However, the lone goal in the second period came off the stick of Ian Briscoe on the power play, not long after the forward was stuffed by the left pad of Hitmen netminder Brayden Peters on a penalty shot.
The Broncos carried that 4-2 deficit to the third, continuing a steady push to get back in the game, but as Cote circled back to, it was the first period effort that really left the team out of options.
"At the end of the day, we put ourselves behind the 8-ball, and that really cost us tonight."
The Hitmen scored twice in the third to pull away for good, taking the four-goal margin of victory.
Isaac Poulter finished the game stopping 23 of 25 Hitmen shots.
Meanwhile, in the opposing net, it was Peters' WHL debut - the 2002-born goalie made 30 saves in a night he'll remember for quite some time.
Also in the lineup for Calgary, a pair of former Broncos earned game stars in their win.
Kaden Elder had a goal and an assist for the second star, with the third star going to Riley Stotts on the back of a two-assist performance.
Swift Current finished the game out-shot 43-32.
Though allowing Calgary to go 2-for-4 on the man-advantage, Cote was pleased with his team's 1-for-6 effort.
"Our power play got one which is good, and we had some good movement - a couple really good open-net looks that we just missed," he said. "You'd like to see those go in when you're getting looks that we did, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. I think overall our structure is good, our movement is good, we had some really good chances. If those go in, it could be a different game at the end."
Up next for the Broncos is a match up with the Kootenay ICE in Cranbrook. Not only serving as the latest chance to regroup and come out firing, it also allows for a bit of a brief opportunity for team bonding.
"Our last game against Kootenay, we didn't play very well here. So, I think we've got a little bit of a chip on our shoulder - we need to go in and play a good game. We haven't been necessarily on the road a whole lot lately, so it'll be good to get away a little bit, get on the road, get together as a team. We've got a game against a team who's been playing better as well, and we have to get a good start to the road trip," said Cote.
The Broncos and ICE face off Friday night in Cranbrook.