Tyler Steenbergen, Aleksi Heponiemi and Glenn Gawdin combined for 14 points as the Swift Current Broncos beat the Kootenay Ice 8-3 tonight.
The three instigated a big push late in the second period as the Broncos scored four goals in 2:16 to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
It was a bit of a sloppy start before they really put the pressure on in the second period.
“We didn't have the best game,” Heponiemi said. “Our team success was that we played a fast game today. We spent most of our time in the offensive zone. We've just got to keep moving and play the game for our team.”
Kootenay jumped out to a 2-1 lead and outshot the Broncos 9-4 in the early going. The Broncos then turned it around midway through the first and controlled the pace of play the rest of the way. They outshot the Ice 39-18 the rest of the way.
“The first ten minutes was awful for us,” Heponiemi said. “We didn't get a shot on goal at all. I think we just started to get some shots on the goal and play a little faster. I think that turned the game for us.”
Swift Current got goals from Heponiemi and Graham in the first period and the teams were tied up at 2 at that point.
“I thought our start was slow,” Smith said. “We got better in the second half of the first. The second half of the second was the dominant part of our game. We just started shooting the puck and then moving it towards the net, getting rebounds and getting some chances that way. I think our effort was just OK. 8-3 sounds like a bigger win than it was.”
Back-to-back goals by Steenbergen late in the second period broke the game open as he extended his team leading goal total up to 32. That's good enough for second place among league leaders.
Conner Chaulk and Heponiemi then rounded out the rush of goals in the second period. Heponiemi is now up to 14 goals on the season with 8 of them in the last 12 games. It's an element of his game that has really been rounding into form.
“I have been working with (the Broncos coaches),” Heponiemi said. “I try to shoot after every practice learning so I can be a better goal scorer.”
Steenbergen led the way with a six point night, Heponiemi and Gawdin each added four points. It's a line that has been taking shape since Gawdin's return against the Ice before the holiday break.
“Glenn coming back just before Christmas has really been a jolt towards the whole team,” Smith said. “When they move with speed through the neutral zone, they gain the blue line, they go to the holes for each other and seem to read off each other really well.”
Ryley Lindgren made his debut for Swift Current after Monday's trade from Lethbridge.
“It was a nice game for him to get in not a game when we were under pressure so he could kind of ease into it,” Smith said. “He came in here yesterday at practice and looked like he had been here all year.”
New Broncos goaltender Jordan Papirny started his Broncos debut backing up Taz Burman after driving in from Brandon today. Burman made 24 saves to earn the win.
Swift Current lost Ryan Graham to injury late in the first period. Rookie Riley Stotts moved up to a line with Lindgren and Lane Pederson.
“That was one of Riley's better games,” Smith said. “He seemed to be playing the game with confidence making plays, going to to the holes (and) maybe moving to the wing was a benefit for him... gives him a little more speed and a little more open ice. I liked his game tonight.”
Kootenay went 2 for 3 on the power play while holding Swift Current to 0 for 3.
The win was the ninth in eleven games for the Broncos. They head to Medicine Hat to play the WHL Central Division leading Tigers on Friday before returning home for games against Tri-City on Saturday and Red Deer on Sunday afternoon.