Brandon Wheat Kings left-winger John Quenneville (left) and Medicine Hat Tigers centre Elgin Pearce tangle behind the visitors’ net during Western Hockey League action on Wednesday evening at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
The hope presented by the Brandon Wheat Kings’ seven-game homestand is fading fast.
After winning the first two games of the homestand, the Wheat Kings have now lost three straight, falling 3-0 to the Medicine Hat Tigers on Wednesday at Westman Place.
Cam Lanigan made 32 saves for the shutout and, while the Wheat Kings had their chances, Brandon forward Jason Swyripa said his team simply didn’t sustain enough pressure to beat the Tigers netminder.
"We’d have spurts of five, 10 minutes of taking it to them and then just let down and give up a goal and then we’d kind of fold our tent for 10 (minutes)," said Swyripa, who was one of the most consistently effective Wheat Kings last night.
"You can’t come back when you’re hot and cold like that."
Curtis Valk scored twice as the Tigers (29-26-2-1) jumped into sixth place in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference with their fourth consecutive victory.
Meanwhile, the Wheat Kings (20-34-2-2) remained last in the conference, two points behind the idle Regina Pats and 15 points out of a playoff spot, despite a solid 32-save game by Curtis Honey.
The Wheat Kings had a strong start — the shots were 7-1 Brandon at one point — go for naught when Elgin Pearce was left alone in the slot and opened the scoring, 3:58 into the game.
"I think we started exactly the way we wanted," Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said. "I thought that we did a lot of good things. We kinda pushed them against the wall. It would have been nice to get rewarded there in those opening minutes, but we made one D-zone entry mistake and it cost us a goal. We’ve got to bounce back and continue doing what we were doing.
"We can’t let that affect us and I didn’t think we rebounded well after that goal. I think that resulted in the second one as well and then I didn’t think we finished the first period well at all."
Medicine Hat carried the play for the bulk of the period after Pearce’s goal, with Valk getting behind the Brandon defence and stretching the lead to 2-0 late in the frame.
The Tigers nearly went up by three early in the second period when Logan McVeigh drove to the Wheat Kings net and hit the post.
Brandon pushed back, outshooting Medicine Hat 13-8 in the middle period but getting nothing to show for it. Swyripa was stopped on a short-handed breakaway, while Marek Kalus had a quality chance on a one-timer from the slot but fired the puck into the pads of Lanigan.
Their chances of making a comeback in the third period took a hit early on when Taylor Cooper was handed a double-minor for high-sticking and Valk made the Wheat Kings pay, picking the top corner on Honey for his second goal of the night and eighth point in four games against Brandon this season.
The Wheat Kings mounted very little of a challenge from that point on and Swyripa said the third goal, while pivotal, was no reason for the Wheat Kings to let up.
"That’s a little bit deflating, but we can’t let any of that get to us," he said. "We’ve got to still carry the momentum. There’s no excuses for us to just fold like that."
Medicine Hat went 1-for-4 on the power play thanks to Valk’s goal, while Brandon was 0-for-2.
The Wheat Kings wrap up the homestand with back-to-back games against the Kootenay Ice on Friday and Saturday (7:30 both nights), then play six of their next seven games on the road.
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon C Jayce Hawryluk, who is on a six-game point-scoring streak (5-6-11) was scratched for school-related reasons, while the Wheat Kings also played without D Tyler Yaworski (fourth game of six-game suspension), G Corbin Boes (knee, indefinite), LW/RW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, indefinite) and C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) … Attendance was 2,964 —the Wheat Kings’ second Wednesday crowd below 3,000 in as many weeks.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 14, 2013