The first time the Brandon Wheat Kings were shut out this Western Hockey League season proved to be very costly.
In a battle for first place in the East Division, the Wheat Kings came out flat and struggled to generate much offence as they fell 3-0 to the host Swift Current Broncos. The Broncos (28-21-2-6) move two points up on the Wheat Kings (28-21-5-1), who fell to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings but have a game in hand.
With so much at stake, Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon was hoping for a better effort.
“I didn’t think we played as well as we did on Friday,” he said. “I didn’t think we were as fast. We just needed to be better in some situations than what we were.
“We had two crossbars. (Ryan) Pulock hit a crossbar and (Rene) Hunter hit a crossbar where we had chances to get on the board and I think if we could have scored it would have given our team some momentum, but we just never got that first one.”
The Broncos opened the scoring 1:47 into the second period when Eric Roy turned the puck over behind his net to Coda Gordon, who found Nathan Burns for the short-handed marker. Brycen Martin then took over, scoring on a give-and-go rush with Andrew Johnson before adding a power-play goal on a shot from the point to give Swift Current a 3-0 lead after two periods.
Brandon had a chance to get back into the game with a 43-second two-man advantage late in the second, but the Wheat Kings came away empty-handed. Brandon’s power play didn’t click on Sunday night, going 0-for-8, which was a big part of the team’s problem.
“Our power play was very ineffective,” McCrimmon said. “I thought that really hurt our team offensively and we didn’t sustain a lot of pressure in their zone.”
Eetu Laurikainen made 24 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. Curtis Honey stopped 32 shots for Brandon.
Sunday’s contest was the first of a three-game road swing for the Wheat Kings, who continue the trip on Tuesday when they visit the Medicine Hat Tigers (7:30, CKLQ).
ICINGS: Swift Current was 1-for-3 on the power play … Brandon scratched LW Rihards Bukarts (upper body), LW Braylon Shmyr and LW Brett Kitt … Swift Current was without former Wheat King LW Geordie Maguire (mono) as well as D Bobby Zinkan, who was serving the second game of his three-game suspension for coming off the bench and getting involved in a fight during Friday’s game in Brandon. Bronco C Dakota Odgers served his one-game suspension for his role in the fight on Saturday. The Broncos were also fined $500.