By GREG MEACHEM
Broncos 4 Rebels 0
To say the Swift Current Broncos had the Red Deer Rebels’ number this season would be an understatement.
The Broncos continued their WHL mastery of the Rebels Friday night at the Centrium, skating to a 4-0 win before a recorded gathering of 5,362 and completing a four-game sweep of the season series.
While many of the shots he faced were from the perimeter, Broncos netminder Jon Groenheyde was still a difference-maker, stopping 45 shots to post his second shutout of the season — both against Red Deer.
Of course, things might have unfolded differently if the Rebels — who host the Saskatoon Blades tonight at 7:30 p.m. — hadn’t suffered from a horrible run of injuries.
Red Deer had eight regulars out of the lineup Friday, but GM/head coach Jesse Wallin wasn’t offering any excuses.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Wallin, whose crew was back on home ice for the first time in three weeks.
“You sometimes worry as a coach, you’re certainly concerned to a degree and you’re cautious about that first game at home after a long trip.
“We felt we had addressed it and prepared for it as best we could, but I thought we came out flat in that first period.”
The Broncos held a 15-11 advantage in shots during the opening frame and got the only goal — a shot from the high slot by Josh Derko that eluded Rebels netminder Deven Dubyk.
“We didn’t move the puck early and had a lot of turnovers in our own zone, three on the play that led to their first goal,” said Wallin.
“We just weren’t able to establish much pressure because we weren’t moving the puck and finishing checks.”
The Rebels picked up the pace from there, outshooting the visitors 34-21 the rest of the way. But Groenheyde stood tall and the Broncos sealed the deal with a pair of third-period goals.
“As the game went on we got better and generated more opportunities in the second half of the game,” said Wallin.
But the club’s season-long offensive drought versus the Broncos continued.
Red Deer scored all of three goals in the four head-to-head meetings.
“For whatever reason we had trouble scoring against that team this year and it’s tough to win games when you don’t score goals,” said Wallin.
Swift Current got a second-period power-play goal from captain Taylor Vause, and in the third got a man-advantage marker from defenceman Dylan Heatherington and an empty-netter off the stick of Brad Hoban.
Dubyk finished with 32 saves.
“They (Broncos) found a way to get the puck through to the net and we didn’t do enough of that,” said Wallin.
“A lot of our shots were from the perimeter and we didn’t generate second opportunities. They did a good job of clogging up the middle and we didn’t generate anything off the rush.
“Overall, we just weren’t sharp enough tonight to win the hockey game.”
The Rebels, to their credit, worked long and hard through most of the contest, as did the Broncos.
“That’s how we play and Red Deer plays the same way and I thought they did again tonight,” said Swift Current GM/head coach Mark Lamb. “Red Deer had chances but our goaltender was very good.”
The Broncos are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, eight points back of the ninth-place Rebels, whose playoff hopes are still alive but fading fast.
Red Deer trails eighth-place Regina by nine points with eight games remaining.
“They’re still in it, they have a shot,” said Lamb. “That team has done pretty well for all the injuries they’ve had. They give a team a tough game every night and good for them.
“But we won all four games against them this year and that’s gratifying considering the situation we’re in.”
° Prior to the game, defenceman Alex Petrovic was presented with the Mitchell and Jewell Rebels player of the month award for February. Petrovic had six goals and four assists in 13 games during the month.