EDMONTON — Perhaps the Brandon Wheat Kings can find their missing scoring touch at home.
After torching the Regina Pats for 24 goals in four games in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, the Wheat Kings don’t have a single goal to their credit two games into their Eastern Conference semifinal with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Wheat Kings return to Westman Place for Games 3 and 4 of the series on Tuesday and Wednesday after falling 3-0 in Edmonton on Saturday. Edmonton outshot Brandon 57-29 in Game 2 as Tristan Jarry earned his second straight shutout, and the Oil Kings have a 102-44 edge in shots overall.
"(The Oil Kings) work extremely hard," Wheat Kings scoring leader Jayce Hawryluk said. "They are a good team. They’re not a hundred-point team in our league for nothing. … We’ve just got to play fast, play hard and just keep thowing pucks on net."
It was Edmonton throwing most of the pucks on net in the first two games as Brandon netminder Jordan Papirny did what he could to hold his team in Game 2, shutting down the Oil Kings for a long stretch after Ashton Sautner and Edgars Kulda scored in the first period. Papirny didn’t allow another goal until Kulda struck again late in the game. While the lack of shots and scoring chances were part of the problem, Brandon improved in that area on Saturday but didn’t take any steps toward containing the Edmonton offence.
"I think (the high number of shots against was) a direct reflection of eight penalties (on Saturday) and seven (in Game 1 on Thursday)," said Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon, whose team killed off seven of eight Oil King power plays, but also went 0-for-4 with the man advantage. "Our discipline hasn’t been good enough. Year-in, year-out we’re one of the least penalized teams in terms of minor-penalty, short-handed opportunities, and we’ve taken 15 minors in two nights. … We’re just reaching and not working; those are, for me, the first place you look."
The question is, can coming home give the Wheat Kings enough of an advantage to match Edmonton. With last change, McCrimmon will have the chance to try and find some better matchups for his snipers, and Papirny believes there may some more intangible benefits as well.
"(Playing at home) gives us confidence," he said. "… For us it kind of, I don’t know, lowers our confidence a bit maybe, playing on the road, and we have a tough time finding the back of the net. And I think in Brandon we do a good job at scoring goals."
The Wheat Kings averaged 4.3 goals per home game during the regular season and only 3.2 on the road.
Statistics aside, Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal believes the next two games will be tougher for his team.
"Going into Brandon we’re going to expect a physical game, smaller rink, harder glass (and) lively boards," the former Wheat Kings player said. "… We know they play very well in Brandon and we have to be ready for Game 3."
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings dressed the same lineup as Game 1, with G Curtis Honey (upper-body injury), D Kord Pankewicz, D Kale Clague, LW Tyler Coulter, LW Brett Kitt and LW Braylon Shmyr scratched, although Clague took part in warmup … The Oil Kings made only one change, swapping in C Lane Bauer for LW Brandon Ralph … Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games both start at 7 p.m. … Calgary Hitmen D Travis Sanheim of Elkhorn was invited to Canada's under-18 national team camp, which began on Saturday in Toronto.