In a game that head coach Manny Viveiros described as “uncharacteristic” for his team, the Swift Current Broncos may have lost more than just a spot in the standings in the Memorial Cup Tournament.
The status of Tyler Steenbergen — who scored 102 points in the regular season — is now in question after suffering an injury following a hit in the second period.
After the game, Viveiros wouldn’t clarify what the injury was and would only indicate Steenbergen will be day-to-day.
You wouldn’t have to wait long in Saturday’s game against Acadie-Bathurst Titan to find out the kind of impact Steenbergen can have in a game.
After Titan forward Samuel Asselin tipped in the puck at the 11:58 mark, it would be Steenbergen who would find the equalizer on the power play.
That goal would ignite the Broncos and their fans, which made up a large portion of the over 6,000 in attendance at the Brandt Centre. The team, making their first appearance in the Memorial Cup in 25 years, appeared like they finally found their footing in the tournament as they would score one more — this time from Giorgio Estephan — with 1:01 left to lead by one going into the second period.
The Titan would find a way to counter the Broncos speed by playing more physical in the second. Titan Captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel would lead the way, landing two hard hits within seconds of each other, including the one that would knock Steenbergen out of the game.
“It’s no question that when you lose a player of Tyler’s calibre, you’re going to have to make adjustments,” Viveiros said. “It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up.”
After the loss of Steenbergen, the Titan would find a way to battle back and find scoring from an unlikely source: their penalty-killing unit.
Asselin would pot his second of the game, the first of two shorthanded goals for the Titan, to tie it at two apiece. Estephan would answer just 64 seconds and score his second to give the Broncos the lead heading into the game’s third frame.
Despite Skinner making a great save, the penalty killing unit for Titan would once again find a way, with Adam Holwell putting away a rebound to tie the game and force overtime.
And it wouldn’t be long into that deciding frame that a winner would be determined, with Liam Murphy scoring in just under three minutes to give Titan the 4-3 victory.
It was those two shorthanded goals, along with other odd-man chances, that Viveiros said was the deciding factor in the game.
“We gave up more odd-man rushes that we’ve given up in 26 games of playoffs before, something that we normally don’t do as a hockey team.”
Captain Glenn Gawdin, who was on the ice for all four of the Titan goals, said the team has to put it behind them and focus on the next one.
“Every team here is good and in here for a reason, saying that you can’t take any team lightly.”
If there was one bright spot for the Broncos, it was the play of Tanner Nagel.
Nagel registered a multi-point game outside of the preseason for the first time in his career with two assists.
Nagel, who is from Mossbank, Sask., said the Regina crowd contributed a bit to his success in the game.
“I have a lot of friends and family here … played some minor hockey around the city so maybe I fed off it a little bit but playing with the guys I play with, it’s easy to get two points playing with them.”
Estephan and Colby Sissions also finished with multi-point games.
The Broncos will have an off day before meeting the Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday.
The Titan will meet the Regina Pats Sunday night at 5 p.m.