The Brandon Wheat Kings hope their strong finish to the first half of the Western Hockey League season is only a hint of things to come.
The Wheat Kings skated to a 4-1 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday night at Westman Place, going into the Christmas break with an 18-14-3-0 record and points in four straight games (3-0-1-0).
“The points were big,” Wheat Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon said of Saturday’s win over the Warriors. “We talked at the start of this stretch when we got home from Kootenay (after a pair of games against the Ice on Nov. 22 and 23), we wanted to try to get as far over .500 by the break as we could because we did have six of eight games in our building. We’re four over .500 heading into the break; I think that’s the furthest above .500 we’ve been this season. It was a good win for our guys, and I think they can feel good about heading into the break playing good hockey.”
Jordan Papirny made 36 saves on Saturday, while Chad Robinson had a goal and an assist. Tyler Coulter, Quintin Lisoway and Jens Meilleur, who scored into an empty net, had the other goals for the Wheat Kings, who went 5-1-2-0 in the eight-game stretch since their road games against the Ice.
“We’re really coming together,” Lisoway said. “We’re really picking up steam right now, actually. I think we’re going to be a very dangerous team after the break.”
Robinson opened the scoring, beating Warriors goalie Justin Paulic with a long wrist shot, 3:23 into the game. Coulter scored the winning goal in the second frame, capitalizing on a Warrior turnover and picking the top corner on Paulic’s glove side.
The Warriors (8-20-3-3) cut the lead to 2-1 on a second-period Tanner Eberle goal, but Lisoway restored Brandon’s two-goal edge before the intermission, scoring on a setup from Braylon Shmyr. Lisoway, Shmyr and Brett Kitt served as the Wheat Kings’ fourth line on Saturday, and Robinson said performances like that lifted the team at key moments.
“It’s awesome when you’re seeing the younger guys and the fourth line contributing like that,” said Robinson, who set up Meilleur for a short-handed empty-net goal with only eight seconds left in the third period to wrap up the scoring. “They feel good about it and it gets everyone else’s energy up and it’s good to see that.”
The Warriors made their best push in the third period, outshooting the Wheat Kings 17-7. Papirny was starting for the 18th time in Brandon’s last 19 games, with veteran Curtis Honey sidelined, and McCrimmon said his rookie netminder did his best work late in the contest.
“Jordan’s played so much here since the first of November, more than we would have projected or more than we like,” McCrimmon said. “But even though he only got out of the net for one game last Saturday in Moose Jaw, it did seem to recharge him a little bit. I thought he was pretty good this week and tonight, being back-to-back games, I think was a good test for him and he made some good saves.”
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon is 7-0 against Moose Jaw, but has only one more game against the Warriors this season, hosting them on Feb. 22 … Wheat Kings D Rene Hunter had three assists, while Shmyr had two helpers … Paulic made 23 saves … Brandon was 0-for-1 on the power play, while Moose Jaw was 0-for-3 … Attendance was 3,072 … In addition to Honey, the Wheat Kings scratched LW Richard Nejezchleb (Czech national junior camp), C Tim McGauley (upper body) and D Eric Roy (lower body) … The Wheat Kings return from the break with four games in five days, hosting the Pats on Dec. 27 before beginning a four-game road trip the next night in Regina … Brandon will play six games in the first nine days following the break.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 16, 2013