Early Friday night, you could sense the Swift Current Broncos were a different team — faster, hungrier and more self-assured.
They were also fed up with taking it on the chin from the Winnipeg Ice.
After losing six of their previous seven meetings and being outscored 35-14 by Winnipeg dating back to the start of the 2021-22 season, the Broncos dressed nine Manitoba-born players and gave Winnipeg all it could handle and more on their way to a 4-3 WHL triumph at Wayne Fleming Arena.
Winnipegger Josh Filmon, Brandon’s Clarke Caswell, St. Adolphe’s Owen Pickering and Raphael Pelletier of Legal, Alta., scored goals and Winkler’s Reid Dyck made 29 saves as Swift Current improved to 12-11-0-0 and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The difference from this year to last season?
“It was more just learning from what’s bit us in the past — staying out of the penalty box is a big one,” said Filmon, a New Jersey Devils draft pick who has 13 goals and 23 points in 19 games since returning from an NHL training camp stint.
“And then just recognizing that they are a team that likes to transition the puck really quickly, so when we make them come right through us and stay above their guys, it creates odd-man rushes for us the other way.”
The Broncos are a team on the rise after losing seven of their first nine games. Swift Current now has nine wins in its last 14 games.
Filmon was asked what the Broncos might yet be capable of doing?
“I really don’t know,” he said. “It’s kind of just ride the wave at this point. I mean, that’s the top team in the league right now and the second-ranked in the country. So that’s a big win for us and our confidence. Now it’s just building that consistency and hoping that we can win as many as we can.”
The result was only Winnipeg’s second home loss of the season, dropping the Ice’s record to 22-4-0-0.
It was also the first blemish on goaltender Daniel Hauser’s glittering 2022-23 resumé, which included 16 consecutive victories to start the season.
Hauser finished with 20 saves Friday.
“We beat them 5-0 early in the year they out-chanced us and Daniel was really good in that game,” said Ice head coach James Patrick.
“They’ve got a number of drafted players… Pickering’s a top-end defenceman in this league. They’ve got some great speed. Their top line is a good line and they play physical. They work hard and they play physical. So I knew coming into this season they were going to be a much improved team.”
Owen Pederson, Matt Savoie and Carson Lambos replied with goals for the hosts, who led 2-1 after 20 minutes but trailed 4-3 after two periods.
Lambos’ goal 3:10 into the middle period gave Winnipeg a 3-1 lead but the Broncos stormed back with three straight.
“I felt like we were pressing, pressing, pressing and then we take one big gamble and it would cost us,” said Lambos. “I think their chances there in the second (period) were grade A and we can’t be giving those up at that point in the game.”
Winnipeg was missing two key offensive cogs: veteran defenceman Ben Zloty (illness) did not dress and the team lost leading goal-scorer Connor McClennon to an undisclosed injury in the first period.
“Every team has injuries — you’ve gotta find a way,” said Patrick, who said McClennon would be evaluated. “We have enough depth on the team. They’re both real good players and they both play a huge role for us but we still expect our top guys to come up with plays. That’s what it comes down for me.”
BLUE-LINES: Swift Current had 15-year-old defenceman Peyton Kettles of Headingley in the lineup for his WHL debut Friday. Kettles, who plays for the RHA U18 squad, was the Broncos first-round (sixth overall) pick in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft… Swift Current went 1-for-3 on the power play. Winnipeg scored once in three power-play chances.