In a game that was closer than the final score indicated, the Humboldt Broncos defeated the Wellington Dukes 4-1, behind the strength of Josh Podaima’s two goals.
Podaima effectively put a close game out of reach scoring a shorthanded goal in the third period, shifting the momentum in the Bronco’s favor. He followed the shorthanded goal with a powerplay goal, ending any hopes of a Duke comeback.
Special teams often play a large part in close games; Podaima said this game was no different.
“I thought our penalty kill was very good, we were winning a lot of draws to get that puck right off the bat and dump it down.”
The Humboldt penalty killing unit was indeed solid, allowing just one goal on nine chances.
“They only did get the one powerplay goal, so you can’t argue with that,” said Podaima. “As far as our powerplay, I think we can pick-up our powerplay a little bit more. At the end it was getting a little bit better, but the first period was kind of shaky.”
Humboldt coach, Bob Beatty agreed special-teams were an important part of the victory, even if they weren’t up to his standards.
“I’ve seen our powerplay work better, but again we’re playing a pretty solid hockey team and they were taking the lanes away pretty quick,” he said.
Broncos goaltender Sean Connors turned aside 35 of the 36 shots he faced in the game, a statistic Podaima said was crucial.
“Unbelievable goalie, all three of our goalies here are exceptional, so we have no problem there and we just hope they show-up every night and they have so far. And Connors was just unbelievable, he held us in there the whole game,” he said.
With the first game victory behind them, Beatty said his team can now look forward to the rest of the tournament.
“It’s huge, you want to start the tournament off right and if you lose the first game you dig a hole for yourself to get out of, you put pressure on yourself you don’t have if you win the first game,” he said.
The first period was all Broncos, who scored on just their third shot of the game, a tip by Scott Degelman after Rick Freese directed the puck on goal.
A second goal followed just six minutes later at 13:17 when Brad Erickson streaked down the left wing snapping one past Duke’s goaltender Dayne Davis, a shot he wished he could have back.
Wellington developed the bad habit of being tossed from face-offs, once forcing a defenseman to take step in and take the draw.
The Dukes too often found themselves one-on-three in the offensive zone, trying to establish position before help could arrive, while the Broncos played a dump –and-chase offensive game often posting someone in front of the Duke goaltender.
Humboldt almost made it 3-0 on a shorthanded two-on-two attack forcing Davis to make an outstanding pad save on the Bronco’s 17th shot of the period. The Dukes registered 11 shots on goal.
The Dukes came out strong to start the second and never looked back. An ineffective power play finally came alive, as did the Duke fans, when forward Liam Reddox netted a rebound goal while Humboldt’s Arlen Marshall was in the box, serving a delay of game penalty assessed to Connors after he shot the puck of the glass.
The goal came on the heels of a tremendous glove save by the Duke goaltender who stopped Orrin Hergott from point blank range on a partial breakaway.
The Wellington fans in attendance grew even louder and their Dukes responded by outshooting the Broncos 15-7 in the period
If the Broncos controlled the first period and the Dukes owned the second, the third belonged to both until 14:05 in the third period when Podaima put the game out of reach with his shorthanded marker.
Podaima scored a two-on-one goal after accepting a pass from teammate Scott Degelman who recorded his second point of the game.
Just 2:37 later, Podaima iced the game with a powerplay marker making an otherwise close game look like an easy victory.
Final shots for the contest were 36-35 for Humboldt.
Humboldt plays Lennoxville (1-0) on Monday at 2 p.m. and Wellington’s next game comes against Camrose, Monday at 7 p.m.