Never mind earning the first win of their Western Hockey League playoff series with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the more immediate task for the Brandon Wheat Kings is scoring their first goal.
Oil Kings goalie Tristan Jarry has back-to-back shutouts against the Wheat Kings, stopping 29 shots on Saturday afternoon as Edmonton blanked Brandon 3-0 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.
"We knew they were a good defensive team coming in, and we've just gotta keep throwing pucks to the net and getting to the net," said Wheat Kings scoring leader Jayce Hawryluk. "Their goalie's made some good saves, but I think if we keep on throwing pucks at the net, it's going in sooner or later, and we've just got to rally after that first one."
That the Oil Kings are stingy is nothing new — the first-place finishers in the Eastern Conference were the WHL's best defensive team during the regular season — but they've controlled all aspects of the first two games of this series, outshooting the Wheat Kings 102-44 in total, and launching 57 shots at Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny on Saturday.
"We like the fact that we've held home ice here in the first part of the series, and now our job is to take it on the road into Brandon on Tuesday night," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal, a former Wheat King. "I like the way our team has played. We played solid defensively and we haven't given up a lot, and when we have, Tristan Jarry has been outstanding. I thought tonight was a great duel, both goaltenders. I thought Papirny was outstanding, kept them in the game there for most of it."
Edgars Kulda scored twice for Edmonton, with Ashton Sautner adding the other goal. Sautner, whose father, Blaine, captained for the Brandon University Bobcats hockey team, opened the scoring on a power-play point shot through traffic. Kulda scored his first of the night later in the first period, taking a pass from Cody Corbett and wristing in a shot from the slot.
From there, Papirny shut the door, making a number of big stops to keep the game within reach for Brandon, before Kulda finally broke through in the third period, scoring on his own rebound.
Brandon was 0-for-4 on the power play, while Edmonton was 1-for-8, and if there was a silver lining for Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon, it was that he saw signs of progress, offensively.
"We generated more tonight than we did in Game 1," McCrimmon said. "We had way more scoring chances. Their goaltender played very well; I think he was one of the stars of the game for their team. Power play would be a good place to start (creating more offence) and … if we were getting no chances, I think it would be more concerning, but we have got chances. We've got to continue to get chances."
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 7,115 … The Wheat Kings dressed the same lineup as Game 1, with G Curtis Honey (upper-body injury), D Kord Pankewicz, D Kale Clague, LW Tyler Coulter, LW Brett Kitt and LW Braylon Shmyr scratched, although Clague took part in warmup … The Oil Kings made only one change, swapping in C Lane Bauer for LW Brandon Ralph. Other Edmonton scratches included injured D Blake Orban and LW Brandon Baddock … Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Wednesday both start at 7 p.m., at Westman Place … Calgary Hitmen D Travis Sanheim of Elkhorn was invited to Canada's under-18 national team camp, which began on Saturday in Toronto.