Scoring goals was the Brandon Wheat Kings' specialty on Saturday night in Saskatoon.
Brandon scored six specialty-team goals — three on the power play and three short-handed — to outgun the Saskatoon Blades 8-5.
On a night when the Wheat Kings had plenty of offence to go around, Jayce Hawryluk and Ryan Pulock had particularly notable performances. Hawryluk picked up two goals and three assists for his first five-point game in the Western Hockey League. Pulock registered only one point, but it was the 62nd goal of his career, setting a new mark for Wheat King defencemen.
Hawryluk has five goals and seven assists in four games since returning from an injury, helping the Wheat Kings win their last three contests, and Brandon head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said the team's leading scorer was on his game Saturday night.
"He had good energy tonight," McCrimmon said. "He was on the puck in all different situations. He was very good on our penalty kill, which he doesn't normally take a lot of ice on the penalty kill but tonight he had more time in those situations, and then five-on-five he had a lot of real good looks, good chances."
Eric Roy and Tim McGauley had a goal and an assist each, while Quintin Lisoway, Chad Robinson and John Quenneville also scored for Brandon. They helped the Wheat Kings (31-26-6-2) remain three points behind the sixth-place Swift Current Broncos in the Eastern Conference and move five points ahead of eighth place, which is shared by the Red Deer Rebels and Prince Albert Raiders.
Nick Zajac scored twice for the Blades (16-44-2-3), who got their other goals from MacKenzie Johnston, Ryan Graham and Connor Sanvido.
The teams traded goals for the first half of the game, with Brandon taking the lead three times only to have Saskatoon respond each time. Brandon's third goal was a one-time blast from the point by Pulock, a fitting way for the 19-year-old team captain to break the record he shared with former Wheat Kings great Brad McCrimmon, who held the mark for 35 years.
"(Pulock) has a great shot, shoots with authority," said Kelly McCrimmon, Brad's younger brother."He got the pass from (Ryan) Pilon, I believe, and made no mistake; a goal we've seen many times."
The Wheat Kings finally got some separation in the second half of the second period, on a short-handed marker by Hawryluk and a power-play goal by McGauley that put Brandon two up going into the third.
While the Blades did manage to put put five goals past Wheat Kings goaltender Curtis Honey, who made 30 saves in the game, they were stymied by Brandon's penalty-killing unit, which capped its three-goal performance by holding Saskatoon scoreless on all six power plays. Near the bottom of the WHL rankings most of the season in penalty killing, the Wheat Kings are killing penalties at an impressive 87.1 per cent (27-for-31) clip over the last nine games.
"Special teams are always a big part of the game, and I think our penalty kill has improved slowly but steadily over the second half of the year," McCrimmon said. "And of late it's been doing a pretty good job in terms of our percentage, which is going to be critical for us."
The Wheat Kings wrap up their road trip tonight against the Broncos (6:30, CKLQ) before hosting the Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday.
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings' power play was 3-for-4 and is at 41.7 per cent (10-for-24) in the past five games … Saskatoon G Troy Trombley made 30 saves … Brandon D Rene Hunter had two assists … Blades D Jordan Thomson of Wawanesa had an assist but a plus/minus of -2 … Pulock (four goals, four assists) and Roy (two goals, four assists) are on five-game point-scoring streaks … The Wheat Kings scratched RW Peter Quenneville (lower body, week-to-week), LW Tyler Coulter and LW Brett Kitt, while RW Jens Meilleur left the game early … Saskatoon's scratches included No.1 G Alex Moodie (lower body) … The game's First Nations players, including Roy, Pilon and Hunter, were honoured before the game as part of a special celebration.