The East Division rival Moose Jaw Warriors rolled into town on Friday night for the first of six regular season meetings with the Swift Current Broncos. The Broncos scored a late power play goal to close the deficit to a single goal but were denied a magical comeback this time around, dropping a 3-2 score.
Arizona Coyotes prospect Lane Pederson got things going for the Broncos early as he scooped up a rebound from an Aleksi Heponiemi shot and slid it in to give Swift Current a 1-0 lead 8:34 into the opening frame.
Moose Jaw responded with a pair of goals coming from forwards Nikita Popugaev and Noah Gregor to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
The East Division rivals played a strong physical style throughout the second period in what was a gritty affair resulting in plenty of hits and tight-checking hockey.
Popugaev would add an insurance marker for Moose Jaw as he received a pass from Gregor and roofed it by Broncos goaltender Taz Burman, giving the Warriors a 3-1 cushion.
Moose Jaw got themselves into penalty trouble late in the third period with a pair of minor penalties only eight seconds apart, setting up the Broncos for a 5-on-3 power play. The Broncos took advantage of this opportunity as Heponiemi completed a sneaky backdoor play behind the net to find a wide open Tyler Steenbergen who potted his 16th of the season into an open net that fooled Warriors netminder Brody Willms.
The Broncos pulled Burman late for the extra attacker but did not get that tying goal and were defeated by a score of 3-2.
“It was a hard-fought game and I thought we played pretty good in the second and third periods,” said Broncos defenceman Max Lajoie. “We got some things to clean up. We match up pretty well against them and I think we can beat them. We get to play Moose Jaw a lot and I’m excited to play them again.”
Swift Current won the battle in shots on goal 34-29 and went 2/4 on the man advantage while Moose Jaw finished 1/2.
With the pair of helpers, Heponiemi’s 26 points (5g-21a) have moved the Finnish forward to first in scoring amongst WHL rookies.
The Broncos hit the road for a quick turnaround game with the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday night at the Canalta Centre.