Hoping to make up some ground against the Kootenay Ice, the Brandon Wheat Kings ended up spinning their wheels instead.
Mackenzie Skapski made 31 saves to beat Brandon for the second straight night as the Ice shut out the visiting Wheat Kings 4-0 on Saturday in Cranbrook, B.C. The Wheat Kings (9-11-2-1) have lost a season-high four games in a row.
Sam Reinhart scored two first-period goals to get the Ice (7-12-1-0) rolling as they climbed out of the Western Hockey League basement with their third straight victory.
"We gave them two goals and right away now we're fighting an uphill battle to try and create something against a team that's got life," said Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, whose club was outscored 6-1 in the first period over the course of the back-to-back games in Cranbrook. "… I think at times we had opportunities to create some (momentum). We weren't as desperate as we could be around the net. I thought at times tonight there were a lot of pucks laying around. We had to do something to find one and we never did."
Reinhart's first goal was a miraculous marker, 3:40 into the game, as the rushing Kootenay forward was kept to the outside by Brandon defenceman Eric Roy, but spun around at the goal-line and wristed a shot that somehow found the far corner over the shoulder of Wheat Kings netminder Curtis Honey, who had 28 saves. He added to the lead later in the period on a 5-on-3 power play.
The score stayed that way until late in the third period when Zach McPhee and Luke Philp scored goals 26 seconds apart to put the game out of reach. McPhee's goal came on a two-on-one that Brandon defenceman Ryley Miller played well, blocking the Ice forward's pass, but the puck came back to McPhee and he beat Honey for a tally that seemed to take wind out of the Wheat Kings' sails.
"We had been pushing; we thought we were in the game," said Gylywoychuk. "We were two shots away from tying the game and then they get the third goal and it deflates us and the end result is the fourth goal."
Brandon had plenty of chances to be within striking distance before the late Kootenay goal, but fizzled on the power play, going 0-for-6.
"In the early part of the game I thought we had some good looks on the power play and then we just kinda went away from our bread and butter, our setups, what had been getting us success early," Gylywoychuk said. "We got frustrated with it and we just gotta stick to our basic game and let the puck do the work. Our power play has to find us a goal somewhere in a game like tonight."
ONE-TIMERS: Kootenay was 1-for-4 on the power play … The Wheat Kings wrap up their road trip with their third game in as many nights when they face the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday (6:30 p.m., CKLQ) … Brandon scratched RW Jens Meilleur (upper body, day-to-day), LW Richard Nejezchleb (shoulder, week-to-week), C Kord Pankewicz and D Colton Waltz … Brandon RW Jayce Hawryluk confirmed to CKLQ that he has been named to Team West, the combined Manitoba-Saskatchewan entry in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The Team West roster has yet to be publicly unveiled for the tournament, set for Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 in Victoriaville and Drummundville, Que.