Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Rene Hunter gets some air time after being hit by Kelowna Rockets’ centre Colton Heffley on Friday night at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Now we know why it’s the fat lady and not Neil Diamond who decides when games are over.
With about a minute and a half left in the third period, the Brandon Wheat Kings had a two-goal lead over the Western Hockey League-leading Kelowna Rockets and "Sweet Caroline", normally the hallmark of a victory by the home team, was pumping over the sound system. In the blink of an eye, the Rockets were celebrating a 6-5 overtime victory.
The Rockets scored twice in the final 38 seconds of the third period Friday night at Westman Place, with Myles Bell netting the tying goal with only eight seconds to play before adding the winner, 2:52 into OT.
"It’s a rough way to end like that," said Tyler Coulter, who scored the first of Brandon’s two third-period goals."You think you’ve got it all locked up and then they pull two of those on you. It’s a real tough night."
Bell had two goals and an assist as the Rockets (25-3-0-2) won their ninth game in a row. Zach Franko (one goal, two assists) and Tyson Baillie (three assists) also had three-point nights for Kelowna, with Rourke Chartier, Kris Schmidli and Ryan Olsen also scoring for the winners.
Peter Quenneville had two goals and an assist for the Wheat Kings (17-14-3-0), who got a goal and an helper each from Coulter, Colton Waltz and Rene Hunter.
"We were excited about the game all week," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "We didn’t get the job done when the game was on the line. That’s the bottom line."
It took only 29 seconds for Hunter to bring down the bears. His innocent-looking point shot slipped past Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle, sparking a flurry of fur as fans tossed stuffed animals and toques on the ice for the annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The Rockets replied with back-to-back goals, from Chartier on a power play and from Schmidli.
Another goal from a blue-liner got Brandon back on even ground as Waltz scored his first of the season late in the opening period, then Quenneville put the Wheat Kings back in front early in the second, going to the net and redirecting Coulter’s pass past Whistle.
Franko tied the game with Kelowna’s second power-play goal of the game late in the second period, but Coulter replied only 20 seconds into the third, getting behind the Rockets’ defence and deking out Whistle.
A Quenneville power-play goal with only 2:20 to play put the Wheat Kings in prime position to pull off the upset, but the Rockets pulled Whistle and mounted an enormous charge in the final couple of minutes.
Olsen cut the lead to one with 37 seconds to play and the Rockets continued their onslaught, with Bell scoring on a rebound to force overtime.
In the extra session, Baillie sprung Bell on a breakaway and the 20-year-old beat Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny, who finished with 27 saves, one more than Whistle.
Hunter said the loss is one the Wheat Kings need to learn from.
"We’ve just gotta keep pushing and see what happens," he said. "We’ve got to learn to push back and to go for the kill, but this was a tough one."
McCrimmon likened the game to Brandon’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Prince Albert Raiders last month, when the Wheat Kings blew a two-goal lead and surrendered the tying goal with 12 seconds to play. He said the time is over for the Wheat Kings to settle for moral victories by coming close to beating the WHL’s top teams.
"Not for me this time. I mean this is the second time," he said. "I think we took that approach when we lost to P.A., and we’d clearly been the better team on the night and didn’t get the two points. But tonight I think that’s all true, but it’s not good enough either. We needed to finish the job and we didn’t."
The Wheat Kings wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule by hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors tonight.
ONE-TIMERS: With Brandon G Curtis Honey sidelined again, Jordan Papirny started for the 17th time in 18 games … The Wheat Kings also scratched D Eric Roy (lower body, day-to-day), LW Richard Nejezchleb (Czech national junior camp) and LW Braylon Shmyr … Rockets scratches included D Damon Severson (Canadian national junior camp) … Brandon C Tim McGauley left the game early with an undetermined injury ... The crowd of 4,218 was the Wheat Kings’ largest since they drew 4,404 to their home opener … Fans are urged to bring non-perishable food or a new toy to tonight’s game, with donations going to the Westman and Area Christmas Dinner.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 14, 2013