COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Brandon’s Ryan Pulock and Swift Curren’s Tanner LeSann reach for an airborne puck Friday at Westman Place.
Firing 41 shots and piling up the scoring chances against the top team in their division, the Brandon Wheat Kings would normally expect a better fate than they got in a 4-3 loss to the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night at Westman Place.
Colby Cave scored a goal and set up another, and Eetu Laurikainen made 38 saves as Swift Current weathered some storms, but also took advantage of some miscues to snap Brandon’s streak of earning points in three straight games.
"I thought we were the better team on the night," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "I can’t imagine us having more chances to score, with only three goals to show for it. … And the goals against, we weren’t as good for a stretch of the second period, and that was when they grabbed the momentum. I thought for the most part we had the momentum the entire game."
John Quenneville, Richard Nejezchleb and Rihards Bukarts scored for the Wheat Kings (15-14-2-0). Dakota Odgers, Calvin Leth and Andrew Johnson rounded out the scoring for the Broncos (19-11-0-3), who grabbed control of the game by scoring three straight goals in a span of 7:16 in the second period.
"Those little mistakes add up," said defenceman Colton Waltz, who had two assists for Brandon. "It’s those small details that make you a winner or loser. Tonight we made some mistakes and we came out on the short end."
The Broncos wasted no time opening the scoring in front of a crowd of 3,660, with Odgers, whose father Jeff is a former Wheat King, potting his first career Western Hockey League goal on the rebound of Cave’s shot 13 seconds into the game. Brandon got that back when Quenneville took a pass from Braylon Shmyr, who was filling in on the line for the suspended Jayce Hawryluk, and lifted a backhand past Laurikainen.
Nejezchleb scored his team-leading 19th goal on a power-play rebound to give Brandon a 2-1 lead after one, but that strong period was undone in the second as Leth, Cave and Johnson took advantage of shaky play by the Wheat Kings in their own end to put the Broncos in control.
"It’s very frustrating," Quenneville said. "I think for a lot of the game we did own the game, and I thought defensive breakdowns cost us.
"I think it’s all about collapsing down to the net. You’ve seen two goals that were right net-front goals, and just I don’t think we are urgent enough collapsing down to the net on net play."
The Wheat Kings had a strong finish to the frame, getting back to within a goal as Bukarts stickhandled through a pair of Bronco defenders and scored on a backhand.
McCrimmon changed up his defensive pairings in the second period, and he switched goaltenders going into the third, pulling Papirny after only 15 saves on 19 shots and giving Curtis Honey his first game action since he was injured on Oct. 30.
Honey only faced seven shots, but he did have to come up with some big saves to keep the Wheat Kings within a goal as the Broncos had three power plays in the third period, including a pair of too-many-men penalties against Brandon, and a five-on-three advantage for a stretch of 1:07.
The Wheat Kings finished the game on a power play of their own, but weren’t able to beat Laurikainen, going 1-for-5 on the night with the man advantage and a 3-for-3 penalty-killing performance.
"We’re in the results business, and in your own building you need to win, but at the same time I don’t think you can overlook some of the things that we’re doing extremely well," McCrimmon said. "I think that our team is playing very well. We needed more saves tonight than what we got. I thought Curtis did a good job in the third period of helping us through some penalty-kill situations to give us a chance to help us stay in the game, but we weren’t able to get the fourth one."
ONE-TIMERS: Quenneville is on a six-game point-scoring streak … With Honey back, the Wheat Kings traded G Christopher Tai to the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday for a conditional pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft … Hawryluk will complete his two-game suspension tonight when the Wheat Kings visit the Moose Jaw Warriors, while LW Brett Kitt and D Taylor Green were also scratched Friday … The Broncos were missing one of their top forwards, LW Coda Gordon (lower-body injury) … Ex-Wheat Kings G Jacob DeSerres, now at the University of Calgary is the Canada West-WHL graduate of the month, having gone 5-0-1 with a 0.67 goals-against average in November.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 6, 2013