By Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press
Just hours after enduring a 54-save losing effort at the Memorial Cup, Swift Current Broncos goaltender Stuart Skinner told his coach that he was looking for more punishment.
“He said, ‘Manny, can we go paintballing?’” Broncos head coach Manny Veveiros said Tuesday afternoon. “I said, ‘Stu, you got hit enough last night, we don’t need you getting hit any more here.’ We’re going to keep him nice and calm and quiet.”
Facing elimination from the biggest tournament in major junior hockey, the Broncos (0-2) will need Skinner at his best Wednesday night when they take on Western Hockey League rival Regina (1-1).
A win by the hosts would set Regina up for a semifinal matchup against either the Acadie-Bathurst Titan or the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Titan (2-0) take on the Bulldogs (1-1) of the Ontario Hockey League Tuesday night.
Swift Current is taking Tuesday off to relax and do team building after a 2-1 loss to Hamilton on Monday.
Viveiros said that he expects his team to play with desperation when they take on the Pats.
“We have to,” he said. “We know if we don’t, if we don’t win tomorrow, we’re going home. And we don’t want to.”
The Broncos forced Regina to sit out for over six weeks after eliminating the Pats in seven games during the first round of the WHL playoffs.
Regina is trying to emulate the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, who hosted the 2017 tournament and ultimately went on to win the Canadian major junior championship.
The playoff loss has stung for the Pats, and forward Jake Leschyshyn said that eliminating Swift Current is extra incentive for Wednesday’s game.
“It’s something that we’re going to be thinking about and it’s going to drive us to win that game,” Leschyshyn said.
Regina started the tournament strong by beating Hamilton with a late winner by Nick Henry. They looked off in their next game on Sunday against the Titan and ended up losing 8-6 despite a third period comeback that saw them score four times.
Pats coach John Paddock pulled nephew Max Paddock at end of the second against Acadie-Bathurst after he stopped 26-of-32 shots. Ryan Kubic, who played in the first round series against the Broncos when Paddock was injured, came on in relief and made three saves.
Regina’s coach said that he has given a lot of thought as to who he’ll start against Swift Current, but wasn’t prepared to say who will get the nod.
The Broncos haven’t looked like themselves through their first two games in the Memorial Cup. They allowed two short-handed goals in their opener against Acadie-Bathurst before eventually falling in overtime and were heavily outshot against Hamilton.
Facing an opponent who could end their season is nothing new this spring for Swift Current, which set the WHL record for playoff games played with 26.
The Broncos’ first two playoff series against Regina and Moose Jaw both went seven games while their third and fourth round matchups went six games apiece.
“We have to go after them (Regina) like we did in the playoffs,” Swift Current captain Glenn Gawdin said. “We know what it takes to beat them and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Broncos have also been playing without key forward Tyler Steenbergen after he we was injured in the Broncos’ opener against Acadie-Bathurst. Steenbergen went awkwardly into the boards on a hit from Titan captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel in the second period and hasn’t played since.
Viveiros said Tuesday that Steenbergen would once again be a game-time decision.
John Paddock, meanwhile, downplayed the potential of eliminating Swift Current at Brandt Centre, saying that he wants to play with home ice in the semifinal.
And he doesn’t expect it to be a high scoring game against the Broncos, either.
“It’s going to be a grind it out game I believe,” he said.
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