Anticipate the intensity increasing exponentially.
The Humboldt Broncos are set to embark on the second half stretch of the SJHL Season, and with the first 30 games left back in 2022, the Broncos find themselves in the thick of the standings, in pursuit of home-ice advantage come playoff time.
Heading into the new year, the Broncos are currently in 4th place in the SJHL standings with 41 points, sporting a 20-9-1-0 record.
The first four months of the 2022/23 SJHL campaign had its ebbs and flows for the Broncos.
A strong start out of the gates, Humboldt opened the year on an 8-game winning streak, putting the league on notice, that once again, the Green and Gold would be a team to reckon with.
Injuries, family matters, and more predominantly, illness, led to the Broncos routinely needing to stuff their lineup in a blender. Head Coach Scott Barney, although faced with the tough test, not only continued to ice a competitive team, but found ways to embrace the chaos and get a decent size look at potential future Broncos.
“The biggest positive we saw through that span was all the players to step up into different roles. Our veterans really proved to us their commitment. Then you look at our call ups, whether they were born in 05, 06, 07, they all came in and played extremely well, making the jump to Jr. A,” said Barney. “It was a great recruiting tool for us as well, knowing where these players sit, players that will definitely be in the lineup next year. It was beneficial for our program to show them how we play the game and the character we demand to be a Bronco.”
Over the course of the first 30 games of the season, the Broncos had well over 70 man-games played consisting of midget-aged “AP” callups.
For the first time since arguably mid-October, the Broncos appear to have their entire roster back and in good health as they head into the January schedule.
“Its great to see all the guys who have been out, come back into the lineup. There’s going to be some spots that guys need to fight for, but we pretty much have our lineup that we haven’t had in some time, said Barney”
The influx of veterans is coming at the perfect time with the test that lies ahead to start 2023.
Captain, Ethan Zielke is back in the lineup after missing five games competing in the World Junior A Challenge, also marred with prior injuries, Zielke has only played 19 games, collecting 21 points.
Defensive presence and reinforcements will be injected into the blueline with Quinn Myles back after missing 6 games.
Finally, a pair of nearly point-per-game players will boast back into the forward group. Tim Kim (25 points in 26 games) missed the past two games, and Xavier Roy (20 points in 23 games) has been out the last 7 with an injury.
With reinforcements now assembled, the Broncos’ second half schedule will start as tough as possible in January.
The puck will drop on 2023 with three straight games against the SJHL’s second best team, the Flin Flon Bombers, while also featuring three games against the Melfort Mustangs, and two games taking on the regulation undefeated Battlefords North Stars. Melville and Kindersley will round out the month.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge. You want to test yourselves against the best teams, especially heading into the playoffs. The biggest thing is getting to where we need to be as a team when the playoffs come, and anything can happen from there.” – Barney
With everyone knowing the importance of two points down the second half stretch, its apparent the intensity is about to pick up around the league and will need to be duplicated inside the Broncos’ dressing room.
“It starts in net with Ben Motew who has really elevated his game over the last 5 or so games,” said Barney. “Our captain, Ethan Zielke is coming back from the World Jr. A Challenge playing for Team Canada West, so he has that experience to build off. Our younger players, like Matthew Van Blaricom and Carsten Kayter, who have taken a lot from the players here, I imagine they will have a big second half. Then our veterans playing their last year of junior, those are they guys you’re going to lean on in the second half. Those guys are great in the room, and they lead by example, so we’re looking forward to the push here.”
The Humboldt Broncos will head to northern Manitoba for two games against the Flin Flon Bombers on January 6th and 7th to gallop into the 2023 calendar.