The Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings won as many as 18 games in a row during the regular season.
Right now, they’d settle for two straight.
The Wheat Kings, the top team in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League’s regular season, are one loss away from playoff elimination after falling 3-2 to the Eastman Selects on Wednesday night at the Sportsplex. Mario Petit made 42 saves as the Selects took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five semifinal, with Game 4 set for Friday night in Beausejour.
"It’s not like we haven’t won two games in a row before," said Jordy Stallard, who scored one Brandon goal and assisted on the other. "So I mean we’ve just got to give it our all out there, play desperate, play like we’ve got to win."
Landon Plett had two goals and an assist, while linemate Quinton Howden had a goal and two helpers for the Selects.
Ty Lewis rounded out the scoring for Brandon, which received 20 saves from Tyler Gutenberg.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period, with the goals scored only 78 seconds apart as Stallard opened the scoring and Plett quickly replied. Lewis netted the go-ahead goal in the second, but the Selects rose to the challenge, with Howden tying the game 1:30 later. Then, Eastman took the lead as the puck was knocked away from Howden only to have Brandon’s clearing attempt go off Plett and in.
The Wheat Kings dominated the third period, outshooting the Selects 13-3 and getting chances on a handful of scrambles around the Eastman net, but were unable to bury the equalizer.
Although Wheat Kings head coach Ken Schneider said his players may have been a little tense around the net, he doesn’t plan on making any major changes for Friday, although he hopes one notable exception will come into play.
"I don’t think there’s a lot that we would change really to be honest with you," said Schneider, whose team has played the last two games without captain Duncan Campbell after the league scoring champion was injured in Game 1.
"I’d like to get a player back, obviously, and I’m hopeful that we might see Dunc in the lineup; just another big body and has the ability to score and should have fresh legs because he hasn’t played since last Friday. So hopefully we can have him back. We’re going to find out here in the next couple days."
Whether or not the Wheat Kings have Campbell back, their mission doesn’t change. The team has title aspirations and this is the kind of test every championship team faces at one time or another.
"We’re being tested now and I say this: If we find a way to get by Friday, this is how championships are won is by being tested like this," Schneider said. "And so it’s going to take our best effort, and we’re going to go to Eastman and play our hearts out."
ONE-TIMERS: If the Wheat Kings force Game 5, it will be played at the Sportsplex on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. … In the other semifinal, the Winnipeg Wild beat the Winnipeg Thrashers 4-1 on Wednesday night to take a 2-1 series lead.