For the second time in two weeks, the Brandon Wheat Kings had a front-row seat for a Saskatoon Blades milestone.
Lorne Molleken became only the second head coach in Western Hockey League history to reach 600 wins when his Blades downed the Wheat Kings 4-1 Friday night in Saskatoon. It was the 18th win in a row for the Blades, who set a franchise record with their 14th consecutive victory when they beat the Wheat Kings 7-4 on Feb. 22.
Shane McColgan and Josh Nicholls each had a goal and an assist for the East Division leading Blades (41-21-0-3), while Nick Zajac and former Wheat King Brenden Walker also scored for Saskatoon.
The last-place Wheat Kings (21-38-4-2) stayed close for most of the game, but didn’t hit the scoreboard until Richard Nejezchleb struck on a power play with 2:22 to go in the game.
“As the game went on we were still there (within striking distance), we needed to find one, we needed to generate a little bit more and we weren’t able to do that,” said Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, whose club has lost six straight games. “We needed to go a little bit more to the hard areas tonight to find some opportunities.”
The Blades outshot the Wheat Kings 18-6 in the first period and got the only goal when McColgan took a feed from Nicholls and cut across the front of the net before beating Brandon goalie Corbin Boes, who had a 35-save night.
The Wheat Kings had their best chance midway through the second period but Marek Kalus was denied by Blades goaltender Andrey Makarov, who made a toe save on the initial shot, then denied the Czech winger again on the rebound for two of his 21 stops. The Blades got a key goal from Zajac shortly afterward for a 2-0 lead.
Walker made it 3-0 midway through the third period before Nejezchleb converted a Tim McGauley feed to get Brandon back within two. It was Nejezchleb’s first game back after missing 21 due to a cut hand that required surgery and Gylywoychuk was encouraged by the import forward’s return.
“Richard played well for being out as long as he was,” Gylywoychuk said. “He battled hard. There’s some times where you could tell that his timing and I guess his game sense was a little bit not where it used to be before he (was injured), but give him credit, he came back, he worked hard and he was rewarded with that goal.”
The Wheat Kings visit the Prince Albert Raiders tonight before wrapping up three games in three nights Sunday against the Regina Pats (6:35 tonight, 5:35 p.m., tomorrow, CKLQ).
ONE-TIMERS: Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland) has the WHL’s all-time record of 742 coaching wins … Brandon scratched C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite), C/LW John Quenneville and D Kord Pankewicz … D Eric Roy was named Brandon’s Tip Top player of the month on Friday after notching six goals and two assists in 12 February games.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013