Brandon Wheat Kings forward Tim McGauley skates into Westman Place through balls of flame during the season-opening matchup on Friday night. The Wheat Kings kicked off the 2012-13 Western Hockey League season by defeating the Regina Pats 3-2. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon Wheat Kings forward Taylor Cooper leaps into the boards after scoring his first WHL goal on Friday night at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Members of the Peewee AA Wheat Kings hockey team show their spirit at the tailgate party before the season-opening WHL matchup on
Friday evening at the Keystone Centre. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon Wheat Kings’ youngsters grew a few new whiskers on Friday night.
The Wheat Kings got the go-ahead goal in the third period and played the final three minutes of the game short-handed, defeating the Regina Pats 3-2 in the Brandon Sun Home Opener at Westman Place.
"It builds team character," said Dwayne Gylywoychuk, who made his regular-season debut after being named the Wheat Kings’ head coach over the summer.
"At the beginning of the third period, you knew we were going to have to work for it and they really dug in. And some guys stepped up at the end — first and foremost Corbin Boes makes a big save. It got the head coach a little nervous, but in the end it’s what we wanted. It’s a win and we can move on from here."
Veteran forward Jens Meilleur netted the winning goal on a power play, 4:03 into the final frame, while veteran defenceman Eric Roy and rookie forward Taylor Cooper also scored for the Wheat Kings, who visit the Pats tonight (7:30, CKLQ) in the second game of the Western Hockey League regular season for both teams. Boes finished with 27 saves in the Brandon net.
Morgan Klimchuk and Dyson Stevenson replied for the Pats, who got 30 saves from Matt Hewitt.
In front of a crowd of 4,839, Cooper got his season — and his WHL career — off to a strong start by cleanly beating Hewitt on a partial breakaway 4:34 into the first period.
"It feels great," the 17-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., said. "Especially (because) I got it on my first shift. It took some of the nervous out."
Cooper’s all-freshman line with Quintin Lisoway and Ryley Lindgren played a strong game, providing the goal, a handful of scoring chances and drawing two penalties from the Pats, including the one that led to Meilleur’s winner.
"Our young guys did exactly what we wanted them to do, to come in, work hard, do the little things," said Gylywoychuk, who also got a strong performance from second-year forward Daniel Asham and his rookie linemates Geordie Maguire and Tim McGauley.
"There were times when they turned some pucks over and they had to battle to get the puck out (of the defensive zone), and give them credit, they did that."
The Wheat Kings never trailed in the game, but the Pats answered back after Brandon’s first two goals.
Klimchuk scored on a 4-on-3 power play to make the score 1-1. Roy scored on a two-man advantage to put the Wheat Kings back in front, but the Pats responded again as Stevenson scored on another power play.
The Pats had no answer for Meilleur’s goal, however, as the 19-year-old from Elie fired a shot that squeezed through Hewitt’s pads before trickling across the goal-line.
"Watching the whole way, I was just praying it was going in," Meilleur said.
From there, the biggest challenge mounted by the Pats came in the final 3:02, with veteran Brandon blue-liner Ryley Miller in the penalty box on a double-minor for high-sticking.
Meilleur is proud of the way the Wheat Kings responded to the situation.
"It’s a great confidence booster," he said. "We worked hard and we got what we deserved."
ONE-TIMERS:RW Quintin Lisoway of Neepawa set up LW Taylor Cooper’s first-period goal in the first WHL game for both players … LW Richard Nejezchleb, LW Geordie Maguire and C Ryley Lindgren also made their WHL regular-season debuts for Brandon … C Jayce Hawryluk (concussion, day- to-day) was the only injured player for the Wheat Kings, who also scratched C John Quenneville, LW Kord Pankewicz, RW Jack Palmer, D Colton Waltz and D Riley Van Horne … Regina scratches included RW Andrew Rieder (shoulder, 2 weeks) and D Colton Jobke (overage limit) … Former Brandon captains Ryan Craig and Matt Calvert dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 22, 2012