Tyler Steenbergen scored a hat trick as the Swift Current Broncos knocked off the Moose Jaw Warriors 6-1 in one of their best performances of the season.
“It's pretty cool,” Steenbergen said. “I've got to credit my teammates too they put me in the spot to score those goals. Playing with Gawdin and Heponiemi is unbelievable.”
The natural hat trick pushed the Broncos to a big win over one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and into a tie with the Warriors for second spot in the WHL East Division.
Moose Jaw had a couple of great chances in the opening minutes that Broncos netminder Taz Burman turned aside. That led to Swift Current's captain Glenn Gawdin busting down the left wing and open the scoring with a terrific individual effort.
“I thought they started well the first two or three minutes,” said Broncos associate coach Ryan Smith. “Taz (Burman) was great for us and gave us a chance. Then our captain took over. In one play he swung the momentum. That was all will, all hard work, getting the puck out of our end, beating a player to the puck and finishing it. I thought that really turned the game right there.”
The Broncos were all over the Warriors in the first period forcing turnovers and keeping them pinned in their own zone.
“I think just getting the puck deep,” Steenbergen said. “Our game plan was to get on their D right away and establish a good forecheck. We moved our feet, the chances came and we capitalized on them. We want to be fast, we want to get on them and we want to create lots of offence. We know they're an offensive juggernaut in this league but we wanted to play in their zone. We know if we're in our zone they're going to be getting those chances.”
Swift Current fired 20 shots on net in the first period while getting goals from Gawdin, Aleksi Heponiemi and Steenbergen.
“I just think we were smothering them,” Smith said. “We were on top of them and picked their pocket a few times. When you make teams defend, defend and defend they're going to break down.”
Heponiemi has now scored in five straight games and has nine points over that span.
Steenbergen then extended Swift Current's lead with a 5 on 3 goal in the second period on the rebound of Lane Pederson's shot. He completed the hat trick in the third period when Heponiemi's shot hit a Warrior and bounced to his stick.
“Great to see any player get a hat trick,” Smith said. “We counted another two or three prime scoring chances. Steenbergen has really stepped his game up to the next level. He's an elite scorer and he works hard. He's an honest player.”
Steenbergen is now up to 25 goals in 36 games this season and on pace to score 50. He has scored 43 goal since the 2015 Christmas break.
“It's just confidence,” Steenbergen said. “Once they start going in it seems like they're going to keep going in. I've been fortunate to play with good teammates.”
Brett Howden broke Swift Current's shutout late in the game. Pederson then rounded out the scoring for the Broncos.
Burman made 28 saves in a winning cause including multiple highlight reel stops.
“He played like crazy out there today,” Steenbergen said. “He was the one we followed behind after those first couple chances. We knew he was going to be on his game and we had to play for him.”
Zach Sawchenko stopped 35 of 40 Broncos shots before being replaced by Brody Willms in the third period. Willms then made 8 saves on 9 Swift Current shots.
The win moved the Broncos to 19-10-3-4 at the official midway point of the season. They will immediately re-match in Moose Jaw on Wednesday night.
“They played pretty physical throughout the whole game,” Smith said. “They got upset with the way the scoreboard was. They didn't let their foot off the gas with intensity. I would expect a team that's wanting to get one back. We were the better team tonight but that doesn't mean it's going to happen tomorrow. They have pride and they're going to show that tomorrow.”
The Broncos know they will have to be ready for a tougher game in Moose Jaw.
“We know they're going to come out flying,” Steenbergen said. “We have to push back well, be physical on them as well and create lots of turnovers.”
You can listen to Wednesday's game on The Eagle 94.1 FM at 6:30pm with Robertson Family Group Broncos Hockey at 6:30pm.