***COURTESY SHAWN MULLIN***


Glenn Gawdin scored a hat trick and Aleksi Heponiemi added two goals and two assists as the Swift Current Broncos took it to the Regina Pats 6-1 in WHL pre-season action.

The combination of Gawdin and Heponiemi struck 54 seconds into the game and didn't look back as they put on a show in Regina.

"They've gelled right from the very first day of training camp," said Broncos assistant coach Jamie Heward. "They've been really good together. They're both smart hockey players and they complement each other really well. When you've got a player like Heponiemi that likes to hang on to the puck they can sometimes be hard to play with and Gawdin has done a really good job of reading his body language and getting to the open spots."

"It's so nice to watch. (Heponiemi) sees the ice so well and is someone that is going to make guys around him better."

Heponiemi was on the ice for five of the six Broncos goals on the night. He has enjoyed that instant chemistry with Gawdin as well.

"We both like to move the puck and make good plays," Heponiemi said. "Today we had (Tyler) Adams make some space and he played very good with us. It just feels good and everything goes well so I'm happy about it... Our whole team skated very well. We did what our coach wanted us to do and we had a very good game."

The Broncos seemed to really start building momentum on a power play later on in the first period. Gawdin scored his second of the game after some terrific chances and the pace picked up from there.

"I thought for our first game together as a veteran group we did a lot of good things," Heward said. "We moved the puck well... the key for us tonight was we skated very well. We want to try and be a little more of a puck possession quicker team with the young guys coming up and I thought we did that well tonight."

Artyom Minulin had three assists from the Broncos on the blue line. A skilled group on the back end is going to be key if Swift Current can play a higher tempo game this season.

"We've got a good mobile defence," Heward said. "There isn't one guy back there that isn't a good skater which helps. It was the evolution of just growing up and just getting a one year older. Our guys have learned and come away with some good habbits. We've got a lot of good talented players back there. I think they're a good enough skating group that they can make their own decisions when to jump up in the play and when not to. That's going to be a big part of our offence."

Swift Current spread their scoring out in their lineup. The three top scoring returning forwards Gawdin, Lane Pederson and Tyler Steenbergen were all put on their own lines to put pressure on the Pats throughout the game.

"I think we want to go with a little more of a four line system this year," Heward said. "(Coach Manny Viveiros) has talked about getting everyone involved, conserving energy and making sure everyone is fresh. If you can get a good mix of third line guys that can jump up to your first line that's nice to have. Our fourth line could be as good as some of the second and third lines we've had in the past."

For Heponiemi it was his second WHL pre-season game and his first with a more veteran crew. The skilled Finn is enjoying the WHL game so far.

"Everyone skates really well and the speed is really good," Heponiemi said. "I like it."

Calvin Spencer scored the other Swift Current goal. 15-year-old Logan Barlage got his second assist in as many pre-season games.

Veteran Travis Child stopped all 11 of the shots he faced in the first half of the game. Caiden Kreitz made 11 saves on 12 Regina shots in the second half. Kreitz had one scary moment when a dump-in deflected off the glass right to a Pat while he was moving behind his net. Kretiz was able to slide back in and make a stick save that led to Gawdin's hat-trick goal at the end of the second period.

Swift Current plays twice more in Regina this weekend. They take on Saskatoon Friday at 3pm and Moose Jaw on Saturday at 3pm. With 19 forwards still in camp the battle for spots is going to be intense.

"They were drafted as a certain player," Heward said. "They play in this league as a certain player. We just want to pinpoint what they are. I think we have a good idea but we also want to know what to surround them with when crunch time comes. We've got a little big of a log jam so coming down a stretch we've got to have guys who can still fulfill a role but they have to be high-end players. I don't think we're looking for any pluggers or anybody that can't play at a high skill or a high level. You've got to be able to skate and you've got to be able to have skill."

The Broncos don't play their first home pre-season game until Friday the 9th against Lethbridge.


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