When the Brandon Wheat Kings finally broke out of their losing streak, they broke out in a big way.
The Wheat Kings built a 7-1 lead 31 minutes into the game, then coasted to a 7-4 Western Hockey League victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday at Westman Place, snapping Brandon's eight-game losing streak. Tim McGauley scored three times in Brandon's five-goal second period for his first career hat trick.
The win also solidified the Wheat Kings' (29-26-6-2) hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference, moving them four points ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders and Red Deer Rebels, who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"The win and the hat trick, it's nice to get both of them in one night," McGauley said. "… To get this win was huge for our team, and I think this win is a relief for everyone on our team."
Ryan Pulock also had a big night for Brandon. Pulock scored his 61st career goal, tying him with Brad McCrimmon for the club record for a defenceman, and added two assists to reach 200 career points.
"It's definitely pretty special," said Pulock, who played his 250th career game on Wednesday. "Obviously the record for goals, just to tie and hopefully I'll break it, it's an honour to hold something like that and also the 200 points is definitely something I think I can be proud of."
Jesse Gabrielle scored twice for Brandon, with fellow rookie Brett Kitt rounding out the scoring for the home team. Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny had a busy night, making 41 saves as the teams combined for 87 shots.
Josh Uhrich and Colton McCarthy had a goal and an assist each for the Warriors (15-37-3-6), who have dropped five games in a row. Brayden Point and Tanner Eberle also scored for Moose Jaw.
Leading 2-1 after one, Brandon exploded for five goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period. McGauley started the onslaught only 14 seconds into the frame, then finished it with his hat-trick goal on a power play. The Warriors lost their cool during the Wheat Kings' outburst and Brandon made them pay for it with three power-play goals as Moose Jaw was short-handed for more than five consecutive minutes at one point.
The Warriors got rolling immediately after their flurry of penalties ended as Eberle stepped out of the box, received a lead pass and scored on a breakaway. Uhrich struck only 39 seconds later, but Papirny and the Wheat Kings held Moose Jaw at bay after that, allowing only McCarthy's goal late in the third period.
While Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon admitted his squad lost some focus late in the second period, he believed the team was better in the third and was pleased with the night overall.
"We had good energy, we scored, we played with the lead, the power play was good, we had contributions from throughout the lineup so I thought it was good for our guys go get the two points," McCrimmon said. "We certainly needed it and it's a good stepping stone here into the final nine games."
ONE-TIMERS: Pulock is the fifth Brandon blue-liner to reach 200 career points, joining Brad McCrimmon, Cam Plante, Justin Kurtz and Burke Henry … The Wheat Kings went 8-0 this season against the Warriors, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss … Moose Jaw G Justin Paulic was pulled after allowing seven goals on 22 shots, marking the third game in a row the Warriors' starter failed to complete the game. His replacement, Zach Sawchenko, stopped all 20 shots he faced … Brandon was 3-for-7 on the power play, while Moose Jaw was 0-for-2 … Attendance was 3,421 … D Colton Waltz completed his three-game suspension and will be eligible to return Wednesday when the Wheat Kings host the Lethbridge Hurricanes … Brandon's other scratches were LW Richard Nejezchleb (upper-body injury), RW Peter Quenneville (lower body) and D Rene Hunter (upper body).