REGINA — The Brandon Wheat Kings knew going in to the Western Hockey League playoffs that in order to advance past the first round they'd need to win at least one game in Regina.
The Wheat Kings handled that prerequisite in style on Saturday at the Brandt Centre, scoring four first-period goals on their way to a 6-3 series-opening victory over the host Regina Pats.
"We were fired up coming in and came out flying," said Brandon forward Jayce Hawryluk, who had a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup after missing the final four games of the regular season with a suspension.
Jesse Gabrielle had a goal and two assists to lead the Brandon offence. Hawryluk, Ryan Pilon, Ryan Pulock and John Quenneville each added a goal and an assist for the Wheat Kings, with Peter Quenneville scoring the other Brandon goal.
At the other end of the ice, Jordan Papirny did his part, stopping 31 shots for the Wheat Kings, who visit the Pats again for Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final on Sunday night (7:30, CKLQ).
The Wheat Kings stunned the sellout crowd of 6,200 early, with Hawryluk, Pilon and the Quenneville borthers scoring in the opening frame and chasing Pats starting goalie Dawson MacAuley for the second straight game going back to the regular-season finale, this time on only 10 shots.
"I thought we were good to start the game," Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "We had played Regina twice last weekend and although we won both games, Regina had 2-0 leads both nights, so I thought scoring first in front of their big crowd was important, and then building on it through the rest of the period was real good as well."
Former Wheat King prospect Tyler Fuhr replaced MacAuley, stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced and he seemed to light a fire under the Pats, making a big glove save on Hawryluk right before the first-period buzzer. The Pats came out and controlled the second frame, scoring all three of their goals, with the Wheat Kings needing Pulock's marker — on a spectacular end-to-end rush — to keep a two-goal lead going into the third period.
The Wheat Kings regained their composure in the third, stifling the Pats' attack and outshooting them 16-6. Brandon got its final goal from Gabrielle, only seconds after the Wheat Kings killed a Pat power play, ending any hope of a late Regina rally.
"You've gotta be resilient here," Pats head coach Malcolm Cameron said. "You've gotta have a short memory here. … We dug our way back into the game, but giving up the sixth one was obviously a backbreaker. We had three, four really good looks on our power play, a couple of empty-net chances that we didn't finish, and I felt if we would have made it 5-4, it would have been a heck of a finish."
Pulock said the Wheat Kings will need another strong start in Game 2 as he expects the Pats to be better out of the gate.
"It's a long series," the Brandon captain said. "They're going to come out flying and we've got to be ready to start the game again (on Sunday).
ONE-TIMERS: Wheat Kings D Eric Roy left the game in the second period … Gabrielle, Papirny, Hawryluk, Pilon, the Quennevilles, LW Rihards Bukarts, LW Richard Nejezchleb, RW Ryley Lindgren, C Quintin Lisoway and 15-year-old call-up RW Nolan Patrick all made their WHL playoff debuts for Brandon … The Wheat Kings scratched D Kord Pankewicz (facial injury) as well as LW Tyler Coulter, LW Brett Kitt and LW Braylon Shmyr … While D Kyle Burroughs and D Colby Williams returned to the Regina lineup, the Pats are still missing RW Dyson Stevenson (broken hand) and G Daniel Wapple (ankle) … Among Regina's other scratches was rookie C Rylee Zimmer of Russell … Former Brandonite Matt Kirk was one of the referees … The Wheat Kings will host Game 3 at Westman Place on Wednesday at 7 p.m.