The most consistent thing about the Brandon Wheat Kings on their West Coast road trip was their inconsistency.
During the seven-game, two-week trip, the Western Hockey League club won a wild shootout and a tight defensive battle, dropped a couple of one-sided decisions and wrapped up with a game that embodied some of the good and bad from the previous six contests. In the final game on Saturday night, the Wheat Kings were badly outplayed through two periods by the Prince George Cougars before coming back strong in a 3-2 shootout loss.
"We learned a lot about our team from the time we left until now," said head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, who guided the Wheat Kings to a 2-3-1-1 record on the trip to sit at 7-6-2-1 for the season. "I think we can see what we need to work on.
"I think the team game for sure is first and foremost. I think our specialty teams have to get better. They were good at times, but they weren’t as consistent as we wanted them to be, so that’s an area. We grew as a team, some of our younger guys grew as players in the Western Hockey League, but I think we’ve got to take a step when we get home … and get to work because the real season starts right away here."
Poor starts were an issue for the Wheat Kings all trip as they were outshot 91-53 in first periods and, even worse, outscored 14-3 in that time frame.
After giving up five first-period goals in an 8-1 rout by the Kamloops Blazers on Friday night, the Wheat Kings struggled again out of the gate on Saturday in Prince George, B.C. They were outshot 38-14 through two periods, but only trailed 1-0, thanks to spectacular goaltending from Curtis Honey, who finished the night with 46 saves.
The Cougars (7-7-1-0) stretched the lead to 2-0 early in the third period but Chad Robinson — with his first goal as a Wheat King — and rookie Colton Waltz — with the first goal of his WHL career — scored in the final 6:47 of the third period as the Wheat Kings rallied to force the shootout and salvage a point.
Gylywoychuk was disappointed his team didn’t come out with more for the trip finale, but was pleased with how the team dug deep late in their fourth game in five nights.
"We’ve been on the road for a long time," he said. "We tried to sell to the boys in the third to leave it all on the table, don’t save anything. And give credit to them, I thought we carried the play in the third period. We had some opportunities and we scored and we at least got the point out of it."
ONE-TIMERS: Rookie Brandon RW Jayce Hawryluk scored the first goal of the shootout, but Prince George bounced back on goals by RW Caleb Belter and C Zach Pochiro to win … Cougars G Mac Engel made 26 saves … Brandon LW Nick Buonassisi, who played three-plus seasons in Prince George, set up Robinson’s goal … Brandon was 1-for-4 on the power play, while Prince George went 1-for-3 … Brandon scratched D Tyler Yaworski (suspension), RW Jason Swyripa (wrist, indefinite), LW Richard Nejezchleb (shoulder, one week) and C John Quenneville … According to TV station CKPG, Saturday's earthquake off the B.C. coast briefly interrupted the Junior A Spruce Kings’ home game in downtown Prince George, although it did not affect the WHL game … LW Alessio Bertaggia leads Brandon with 10 goals after scoring the lone marker in the loss to Kamloops … The Wheat Kings will begin a five-game homestand Friday against the Moose Jaw Warriors … RW Ashton Rome of Nesbitt has left Greenville of the ECHL for Germany, signing with Düsseldorf of the DEL.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 29, 2012