The Humboldt Broncos opened up their 2018/19 season against the Nipawin Hawks in an emotional event to honor the 29 Broncos who were on the bus crash on April 6th.
The night started with a pregame ceremony in front of a sold out crowd at Elgar Petersen Arena that was handled with love and grace. The ceremony included the introduction of the player on this year's roster, followed by a moment of silence to remember the past 29 now forever enshrined at Elgar Petersen Arena and in the hearts of hockey fans and families across the world.
Coach Nathan Oystrick knew the emotions would be high for his players in the opening moments of the game but also knew that once the game was on its way they would 'put their heads down and get to work.'
That's exactly what the Broncos did as they controlled the pace throughout the opening frame backed by the sold-out Elgar Peterson Arena and the fans across the country watching on TV or listing on the radio. Although no goals were scored in the 1st period, it was the Broncos who held the momentum, outshooting the Hawks 10-6 heading into the dressing room after twenty minutes.
The Broncos faithful wouldn't have to wait much longer to see the new team open up the scoring. 2:08 into the second period it was Michael Clarke, the 4th year junior player and 1st year Bronco from Medicine Hat, Alberta who finished off a beautiful passing sequence on the power play and tucked it passed a diving Declan Hobbs to score the first goal of the Humboldt Broncos 2018/19 season and put the Broncos up 1-0. Owen Guenter and Brayden Camrud picked up the assists on Clarke's 1st of the season.
The Nipawin Hawks found the extra jump that was needed for their squad shortly after the opening goal, as slowly the offensive pressure and zone time was changing hands in favor of the visiting team. Midway through the 2nd period, after a scramble in front of the net which knocked goaltender Dane Dow slightly out of position, it was Hawk's defensemen Cole Beamin who found himself in the slot where the loose puck spilled out to and slid it into the open side of the net to tie the game at one apiece.
The Hawks, although losing the shot battle, controlled a lot of the pace and continued to hem the puck in the Broncos end. With just under two minutes remaining in the frame, another scramble ensued in front of Dane Dow, this time resulting in Dow's butt end of his stick inadvertently knocking the puck that was sitting along the goal line back into his net, and the Nipawin Hawks would take a 2-1 lead into the third.
Once the third period started the Broncos were able to find an extra gear and push the puck deep into Nipawin territory resulting in high end scoring chances. Down by one with the goalie pulled in the dying seconds of the game, the Broncos secured an offensive zone faceoff with a chance to get a puck to the net and attempt to tie the game up. Returning player Brayden Camrud won the draw back to Michael Clarke who was standing at the top of the faceoff circle. Clarke then got himself into position, shook off the defender and found a shooting lane to the net. However, it was the returning goaltender of the year in the SJHL Declan Hobbs, who reached his shoulder up to stop Clarke's and the Broncos final shot as the time expired.
Overall the Broncos put 40 shots towards Hobbs who was named the radio's first star of the game. The real stars, however, were the 29 players and team members who were honered, along with their families, friends, loved ones and this year's team who will forever be connected throughout the sport of hockey.
The Broncos organization and everyone that had a part in the planning this amazing event to the highest standard deserves an applause, and so does the city of Humboldt. While the wounds may never fully heal, Having Broncos hockey back with the support from the world, and most importantly the community, will help take a step forward in the healing process as we carry everyone in our hearts and carry on together, Humboldt Strong.