A week when the Brandon Wheat Kings had trouble putting together a decent practice because of a flu bug running through the room was followed by a weekend that ended with the Western Hockey League team on top of the East Division.
The Wheat Kings beat the host Saskatoon Blades 4-3 on Saturday night to cap a 2-0 weekend and run their winning streak to three games. Neither Saturday’s win over the Blades nor Friday’s come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Swift Current Broncos were masterpieces, but Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon felt pretty good about what the team accomplished in a tough week.
"Given the week that we had, it makes four points satisfying, beating a real good team (Friday) night at home and travelling six hours to get a road win here (Saturday)," McCrimmon said from Saskatoon. "And now we’ll get some rest before another real big game on Wednesday."
The Wheat Kings (25-17-4) will visit the Broncos on Wednesday, with the teams battling for first place in the division in a close three-way race with the Regina Pats, who are one point behind Brandon. Rihards Bukarts scored twice Saturday against the Blades to ensure that the Wheat Kings would keep the upper hand on Swift Current going into Wednesday’s showdown.
"I sure didn’t think we played well in the second (period) or the first part of the third, but we did start the game well (on Saturday), which was important for us," McCrimmon said. "And Rihards Bukarts was real good. He was our best player from start to finish."
Despite their spot at the bottom of the East Division standings, the Blades (13-32-1-3) waged a back-and-forth struggle with the Wheat Kings. After Richard Nejezchleb scored in the first period, Logan Harland responded with back-to-back goals in the second, the first coming only 25 seconds into the period. Brandon retook the lead before the second intermission, with Bukarts’ first goal followed by a Ryan Pilon power-play marker.
Saskatoon’s Connor Sanvido tied the game in the third with a power-play goal, before Bukarts netted the winner, tipping in a Rene Hunter point shot with 7:34 left on the clock.
Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey had a 33-save night, with his best stop coming late in the game as he got a glove on a Brett Stovin shot that appeared destined to force overtime.
"We played pretty well defensively after we went ahead 4-3," McCrimmon said, "and yet we had the one mistake with the puck deep in our zone when Curtis, I thought, stepped up for us and made a real key save in that situation."
ONE-TIMERS: Blades G Alex Moodie stopped 43 shots … Brandon was 1-for-3 on the power play, while Saskatoon was 2-for-5 … The Wheat Kings' 25 wins are one more than their total from last season … Nejezchleb leads Brandon with 25 goals … Wheat Kings C John Quenneville is on a five-game point-scoring streak (five goals, three assists) … Brandon scratched D Eric Roy (illness), LW Tyler Coulter and LW Brett Kitt.