Playing without their leading scorer and head coach, Brandon held Prince Albert at bay for 55 minutes before two quick Raider goals dealt another blow to the Wheat Kings' playoff chances.
Calder Brooks broke a 1-1 tie late in the third period and Leon Draisaitl added the winner only 13 seconds later as the Raiders beat the Wheat Kings 3-2 Saturday in Prince Albert, Sask. The Raiders moved into a tie with the Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels for seventh place in the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference heading into the final week of the regular season. The teams are fighting for two playoff spots.
Earlier in the day, the WHL suspended Jayce Hawryluk, who leads Brandon with 64 points in 59 games, for a hit in Friday's 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings, while head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon was sick and not on the bench. The Wheat Kings are also playing without high-scoring forward Peter Quenneville and veteran Jens Meilleur due to injuries.
"Obviously some adversity today and when you're missing quality players, it makes the challenge that much more difficult, but I thought our guys responded well," Brandon assistant coach Dave Anning said. "I thought that the work ethic and the level that we competed at tonight was a lot closer to where it needed to be. Unfortunately, at this time of the year we need to get points, so a disappointing result but we competed hard and guys filled into roles that maybe they weren't accustomed to and they held their own."
Rihards Bukarts opened the scoring for the Wheat Kings (31-29-6-3) in the first period and added his second of the night with only 19 seconds left in the game. Former Wheat King Dakota Conrory notched a second-period goal and assisted on the winner for the Raiders (33-30-3-2), who have a game in hand on both Brandon and Red Deer.
Jordan Papirny made 34 saves for the Wheat Kings, while Nick McBride stopped 22 shots in the Raider net.
"Jordan gave us a chance to win," Anning said. "He was very good in the first period. There were some quality looks that P.A. was able to get and he did everything he could to keep us in the game when we needed him, and I thought our guys responded after he made the saves."
Trying to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2012-13, the Wheat Kings host the Saskatoon Blades, who are last in the East Division, on Tuesday (7 p.m., Westman Place) before finishing the regular season with a home-and-home against the division-leading Regina Pats.
ONE-TIMERS: If there is a tie for the final playoff spot, the position will be decided by a one-game tiebreaker, hosted by the team that has more wins. Brandon trails both Prince Albert and Red Deer by two victories … The Raiders went 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Wheat Kings didn't get any chances with the man advantage … The length of Hawryluk's suspension is expected to be determined early in the week … Quenneville and Meilleur are both out week-to-week with lower-body injuries … Prince Albert D Graeme Craig was hurt in a second-period collision with Bukarts and left the game … D Jordan Thomson of Wawanesa has decided to stay in Saskatoon for the rest of the season and scored his first goal as a Blade on Saturday.