The Brandon Wheat Kings tied their Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League semifinal 1-1 with a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Thrashers at the Sportsplex on Friday night.
Right from puck drop, the Wheat Kings were committed to throwing the puck on the net from all angles, outshooting the Thrashers 39-30.
"We knew it was going to take a ton of shots and we wanted 40 shots this game because we know their goalie is strong," said Wheat Kings centre Duncan Campbell, who finished with an assist.
The philosophy paid off just past the mid-way point of the first when, during a 2-on-1, Campbell streaked down the left side and let go a hard shot designed for a rebound. The puck popped straight up off Thrashers goaltender Troy Martyniuk and Josh Kobelka picked it out of mid-air, banging home the game’s first goal.
"We’ve got a drill in practice called the Oiler — we shoot far pad and try to get the goalie moving and go to net for a rebound," Campbell said. "Kobelka went to the net and showed off some nice hands."
Less than five minutes into the second, after what appeared to be a broken play, Brandon Switzer threw the puck at the net and, two whacks later, Kitt slid the puck under a sprawled out Martyniuk to put the Wheat Kings up 2-0.
The Wheaties went up 3-0, when Robert Hechler buried a cross-ice feed from Tanner Kaspick.
Seemingly prepared for a long series, the Wheat Kings forwards made the Thrashers defencemen pay every time they turned to retrieve the puck.
"We wanted to hit their D-men and it might not come into effect in game two or three, but the later the series goes the more they’re going to feel us coming and they’re going to start to turn it over," Campbell said.
The Thrashers would respond before the second period was out, when Tyler Penner scored on an odd-man rush after Brandon goalie Tyler Gutenberg made the initial stop.
Kaspick scored the Wheaties’ fourth marker in the third and Brandon Switzer iced it into the empty net, picking up his third point. Winnipeg scored two late goals, but it wasn’t enough as Gutenberg was more than solid in net, making several point-blank saves at crucial moments during the game.
"It was a difficult position to bring him into the game because he hasn’t played in a bit," Wheat Kings head coach Ken Schneider said. "He did an outstanding job under a lot of pressure and I was really proud of him. He made some big saves and we’re going to need him to make some big saves."
Schneider was also pleased with his team’s compete level, but knows they’ll have to find another gear for Game 3 Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg.
"It’s going to take all we’ve got to win in Winnipeg because they’re a really good hockey team," Schneider said. "They’re going to come hard at us and we’re going to have to continue to be a physical team to have success."
Game 4 goes Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sportsplex.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 9, 2013