Champions go head-to-head as Broncos and Bulldogs seek first win

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The 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup continues on a holiday Monday as a pair of regional league champions in the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs seek an ever-important first win.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are in good shape, securing at least a semi-final berth with a perfect 2-0 record while the host Regina Pats sit at 1-1. Tonight’s game is one of high stakes as the Broncos and Bulldogs both look to avoid a dreaded 0-2 start.

Hamilton opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to the host Regina Pats on Friday. Trailing 2-1, the Pats got a late second period goal from defenceman Josh Mahura before Nick Henry scored the game winner with just 33 seconds left in regulation.

Swift Current came out on the wrong end of a 4-3 overtime decision against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Saturday. The Broncos lost star forward Tyler Steenbergen to an injury early in the second period before seeing a 3-2 lead slip away in the third. Overage defenceman Adam Holwell knotted the score at three 5:51 into the third before Liam Murphy scored the overtime winner in the slot just 2:58 into the extra frame.

Fortunately for both clubs, Monday is a new day.

“This is a big game, we know how important it is,” said fourth-year Broncos forward Matteo Gennaro. “We just want to come out and play the way we can and be aggressive. We might have been a little bit nervous for the first one, but we got it out of the way and we’re excited to get back out there.”

Broncos head coach Manny Viveiros cites Steenbergen as ‘day-to-day’ at this point and considers him to be a game-time decision for tonight’s contest. Big 6-foot-5 forward Max Patterson had slotted in alongside Glenn Gawdin and Aleksi Heponiemi on the top line to finish Swift Current’s opening contest on Saturday.

Across the ice, the Hamilton Bulldogs are coming off consecutive days off, enjoying a team outing to Regina’s RCMP Academy on Sunday.

The Dogs were resilient throughout the OHL Playoffs, going 5-0 in games following a loss.

“We’re a good bounce-back team and coming into tonight I think there’ll be a lot of energy,” said third-year forward MacKenzie Entwistle. “Everyone’s got a taste of the tournament now and we’ve got the jitters out. We’re all pretty excited.”

As he has frequently throughout the season, Bulldogs head coach John Gruden has shaken up the lines, giving his forwards a new look against a formidable opponent in Swift Current.

“We have confidence in our coaching staff,” said 19-year-old centreman Brandon Saigeon. “Whatever they think is best for the lines, we just go out and do our best to try and deliver. They’ve done this before and we’ve had good results, so we’re looking to continue that tonight.”

Hamilton will have last change as the home team tonight, but another large contingent of Swift Current fans are expected at the Brandt Centre, providing a home-ice environment for the Broncos in this one.

Be sure to catch tonight’s action across the country on Sportsnet when the puck drops at 6:00pm MT/8:00pm ET.

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