HUMBOLDT — After two close games against a top team last week, the Humboldt Broncos head into a southern road swing with some confidence.
The Broncos beat the Melfort Mustangs, 5-4 in a shootout on Friday. They fell 5-2, including an empty net goal, to Melfort on Saturday. After the weekend, the Mustangs had the fourth best record (23-14-3-2) in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
“When you have two close games against one of the top teams, you feel you can compete against anybody, any game, which is good to see,” Broncos head coach Scott Barney said.
After six Broncos compete in the SJHL-Manitoba Junior Hockey League Showcase in Regina on Tuesday and Wednesday, the squad heads south for the weekend. The Broncos (20-17-4-2) are in Weyburn (17-24-0-1) on Friday, Estevan (19-18-3-1) on Saturday, and Wilcox on Sunday to play the Notre Dame Hounds (16-23-3-1).
After the weekend, the Broncos sported a 20-17-4-2 record with 46 standings points. That placed them seventh in the SJHL with the top eight teams making the playoffs. As of Sunday, Humboldt was three points behind Nipawin (23-17-3-0, 49 points) for sixth. The Broncos were four points ahead of eighth place Estevan (19-18-3-1)
“Everybody is fighting for points,” Broncos captain Graysen Cameron said. “It’s going to be a tough two months here. It’s a little taste of playoff hockey pretty much. I think that’s what we need to get ready for the playoffs.”
In front of 934 in Melfort on Friday, the Broncos showed their ability to persevere. The team trailed 2-0 after the first period and 3-0 early in the second session. The Broncos lit the lamp twice to cut the deficit to one, 3-2, at the second intermission. In the third period, Melfort increased its lead to 4-2. However, Braiden Koran scored his second of the night before Logan Kurki tied the game and forced overtime.
After a scoreless overtime period, each team’s first three shooters could not find the back of the net. Mustang Ben Tkachuk scored to put the pressure on. Broncos 16-year-old forward Karter McNarland delivered to keep his team alive. The Mustangs’ next shooter missed and Kurki scored the winner.
“The best thing about the comeback is that it really builds a lot of character in the room and belief in the players that they can come back, especially against an older, experienced team like Melfort,” Barney said. “It is good to see the guys believe that they can compete against the top teams in the league.”
With 1,224 in the Elgar Petersen Arena on Saturday, the Broncos were tied 1-1 with Melfort after the first period. Humboldt had outshot the visitors, 16-8, in the opening frame. The Mustangs outscored Humboldt, 3-1, in the second period to take the lead.
“I thought Saturday we came out really strong in the first period. We just couldn’t get any goals on a lot of chances.... Maybe if we buried a couple of those we’d be in a different situation. I thought maybe some of our goals against were major mistakes that you can’t make. That’s part of the season. It’s a long season.”
The Broncos last week
Friday, Jan. 17 in Melfort
Humboldt 5, Melfort 4 SO
Broncos Scorers: Braiden Koran (2), Logan Kurki, Karter McNarland
Mustangs Scorers: Isaac Alvarado (2), Andrew Hunt, Tian Rask
Goalies: Brendan Forman, Humboldt, 31 saves on 35 shots; Tanner Martin, Melfort, 37 on 41
Notes: McNarland and Kurki, who scored the winner, had goals in the shootout to lift Humboldt to the win. Ben Tkachuk had Melfort’s lone shootout goal. Melfort galloped to a 2-0 first period lead and led 3-0 in the second. Koran’s first and a McNarland goal cut the lead to 3-2 by the second intermission. Rask made it 4-2 for the Mustangs in the third period. Koran and Kurki lit the lamp to tie things up. Kurki had two points.
Saturday, Jan. 18 in Humboldt
Melfort 5, Humboldt 2
Broncos Scorers: Spencer McHardy, Max Gudnason
Mustangs Scorers: Kenzie Arnold (2), Christian Albertson, Zach Anderson, Alex Rondeau
Goalies: Brendan Forman, Humboldt, 18 saves on 22 shots; Shawn Parkinson, Melfort, 33 on 35
Notes: After a 1-1 first period, Melfort outscored Humboldt, 3-1, in the second to take a 4-2 lead. The Mustangs added an empty net goal by Arnold, his second of the night, in the third.
The Humboldt Broncos (20-17-4-2) hit the road this week. They have three road contests in as many days. The team plays in Weyburn (17-24-0-1) on Friday and Estevan (19-18-3-1) on Saturday. They cap the road trip in Wilcox against the Notre Dame Hounds 16-23-3-1) on Sunday. Humboldt hosts Kindersley (15-21-6-1) on Jan. 28 before going on the road on Jan. 31 to face Battlefords (36-7-2-0)