Broncos edge North West Rebels two games to one
by Phil Ambroziak
The action went to the limit, but the Meadow Lake Broncos are on their way to the second round of the Beaver Lakes Hockey League (BLHL) playoffs.
In Game 3 of their best-of-three series against the North West Rebels, held Feb. 16 at PineRidge Ford Place on Flying Dust First Nation, the Broncos were victorious 6-3.
“This was a really big win for us,” remarked Broncos coach Kevin Arnold immediately following Sunday’s game. “Last year, the team bowed out in the first round of playoffs, so this was sort of a stepping stone for us – especially considering this is only our second year in existence.”
Forward Brett Leclair, who scored the hat trick for the Broncos in Sunday’s game, agreed.
“Being able to contribute to the win the way I did feels really good,” Leclair said. “This victory is such a milestone for our team.”
Leclair, who only earned two points (one goal and one assist) in seven games during the regular season, missed the first game of the series because of a scheduling conflict. But, he said it was easy to fit back into the lineup.
“I guess things just clicked for us tonight,” he added.
The first game in the series, held Friday in Leoville, ended 7-6 in favour of the Rebels. The following night, at Flying Dust, Meadow Lake evened the series with a 7-2 win.
“We had home ice advantage for most of the series, but decided to go to Leoville for the first game where we lost in overtime,” Arnold said. “We were disappointed in the outcome, but the guys did play well.”
Leclair, meanwhile, said the Rebels are a team Meadow Lake should have been able to get past more easily.
“It should have been a guaranteed win, but we underestimated them at the start,” he noted.
As for Saturday’s 7-2 win, Arnold said that was just a matter of the team playing disciplined hockey and sticking to a system of play.
“We really gained momentum during the second half of the season,” Arnold said.
Leclair echoed this, stating the team has been playing much better than they did at the start of the season.
“We’ve also been staying out of the penalty box a lot more, which is good,” he said.
The Broncos ended the 2013-14 regular season in fourth place with seven wins and eight losses in 15 games while the Rebels were ranked fifth in the six-team league.
In other BLHL playoff action, the third-place Birch Hills Blackhawks eliminated the sixth-place Debden Jets in two straight. The first-place Big River Braves and the second-place St. Louis Blue received first-round byes. The second round of playoffs (best-of-five) is set to begin later this week, but as of press time Arnold didn’t know for sure which team the Broncos would face. He said that was to be determined based on who Big River decided to go up against – Meadow Lake or Birch Hills.
“Either way, we’ve showed we can play with the top teams in the league,” Arnold stated. “And, with the addition of our veteran players Ray Esau, Darryl Worms and Rick Dallyn, there’s been a whole different attitude on the bench, in the dressing room and on the ice. The bottom line is we can do it.”
Leclair also believes the Broncos have what it takes to go all the way to the finals.
“I feel very confident in our team this year,” he said.