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Familiar WHL foes clash in round robin finale

Mastercard Memorial Cup
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Courtesy: Canadian Hockey League

There’s no love lost between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. The two interprovincial rivals will meet for the 14th time this season tonight in a Mastercard Memorial Cup round robin finale at the Brandt Centre.

After meeting their demise at the hands of the eventual WHL champion Broncos in a seven-game first round series, the Pats have an opportunity to send Swift Current packing with a win tonight, one that would secure them a place in Friday’s Semi-Final.

“We’ve been working for this game since they put us out in the first round and it’s revenge time for us,” said Pats forward Nick Henry. “It’d be very exciting for us and our whole organization to put a team out that we’ve played hard against hard all year.”

After Henry scored the late game winner to lift the Pats over the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-2 on Friday, Regina was outgunned in a high-scoring 8-6 affair against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Sunday.

With their backs against the wall, the 0-2 Broncos face the daunting assignment of having to defeat Regina not once, but twice before being able to reach the semis. Should they claim victory tonight, they’d have to square off against the Pats in a tie-breaker on Thursday.

Washington Capitals prospect Beck Malenstyn and the Broncos are taking things one game at a time.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces going on here, a lot of distractions and things like that,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to enjoy it, soak it all in and we’re looking to put forward a sixty-minute effort here and stay alive in this thing.”

With Swift Current approximately 2.5 hours west of Regina, a large contingent of Broncos fans are expected at tonight’s contest, one that’s sure to feature a capacity crowd on hand to take in an all-WHL game of high stakes.

“We’re so fortunate to be in a tournament so close to home that they can travel like that,” added Malenstyn. “I haven’t seen a fan-base like that in my time in junior hockey. They support our team like nothing else. It’s pretty special to be able to do that and we’ll be going out trying to win this one for them tonight.”

The Broncos suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to Acadie-Bathurst on Saturday as Liam Murphy scored the game winner 2:58 into the extra frame. A 54-save performance from goaltender Stuart Skinner on Monday wasn’t enough to get the win against Hamilton on Monday as the Broncos fell by a score of 2-1 on a late game winner from Bulldogs forward Marian Studenic.

Intertwined in this narrative are the separate interests of both the Hamilton Bulldogs (2-1) and Acadie-Bathurst Titan (2-1). After defeating the Titan 3-2 on Tuesday, the Bulldogs are pulling for Swift Current in this one as a Broncos win would push them into Sunday’s Championship Final. On the contrary, Acadie-Bathurst is behind Regina, as the Pats hold the power to help the Titan bypass Semi-Final play and advance directly to the Final.

The Broncos took five of six against the Pats during the regular season, with the two clubs splitting a pair of hard-fought overtime outcomes to end the schedule on March 16th and 17th. They would play nine consecutive games against each other as a seven-game first round series followed immediately after, one that saw Swift Current take Game 7 by a score of 3-2 on home ice.

It remains to be seen if Broncos forward Tyler Steenbergen will return for tonight’s action. The Arizona Coyotes prospect was injured in Swift Current’s opening game against Acadie-Bathurst and has been considered a ‘game-time decision’ by Broncos head coach Manny Viveiros.

The Broncos will have last change as the home team for tonight’s contest.

Catch tonight’s action across the country on Sportsnet and in the United States on NHL Network when the puck drops at 8:00pm MT/10:00pm ET.

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