A strong start and perhaps the best period of hockey the Estevan Bruins have played against the Humboldt Broncos this season weren't enough to carry them to victory in game one of their first round series on Friday, March 15. Before a packed house at Affinity Place, the Bruins surrendered three third period goals, one each at even strength, shorthanded, and into an empty net to fall 4-1.
Bryce Platt scored the lone goal for the Bruins, while Grant Boldt stopped 21 of 24 pucks thrown his way. Rayce Ramsay was solid in the Humboldt crease, turning aside 29 of 30 shots.
"There was a play early in the second period," said Bruins head coach and GM Chris Lewgood, "where we had some adversity and poor play, and you could start to hear the tone of the guys voices on the bench change. We started to cheat a little bit then and things got a little negative so we started cheating on plays and going for the long-bomb, home run play."
The first period went about as well as the Bruins could have dared hope. They outshot the Broncos 10-3 and held a 1-0 lead thanks to Platt, who crashed the net off a broken three-on-two rush to bat home the rebound of Turner Ripplinger's backhand for his first of the playoffs. But thanks to some stellar goaltending by Ramsay, especially on a power play for the Bruins, they only had the 1-0 lead.
It looked like that lead would last out the second period, but the Broncos got on the board with just over 24 seconds left in it. Michael Clarke spotted Josh Patrician creeping down from the point and hit him with the pass, and Patrician snapped it five-hole on Boldt to tie the game.
It didn't take the Broncos long in the third to seize the lead as Brayden Camrud and Bryson Cecconi broke in two-on-one and executed a perfect passing play to take the lead. The Broncos quick strike offense continued to roll in the third, even shorthanded, when Camrud forced a turnover down low, hit Reid Arnold with the pass, and watched as his shorthanded linemate sniped short side to give the Broncos all the breathing room they'd need.
"If we do a good job with our routes in the neutral zone," Lewgood said, "and first and foremost don't turn over pucks in between the tops of the circles, if you don't have unforced turnovers they don't transition a lot so you get rid of that and you don't have to play it."
The Bruins did their best to eat into the Broncos lead late, only to be foiled several times by Ramsay. A turnover at center with the net empty gave Drew Warkentine a clean look at the gaping cage, and the veteran made no mistake to ice the game.
The Bruins and Broncos will face off again on Saturday, March 16 in game two. Puck drop is 7:30. Catch that game on Rock 106.