When Mike Ferland reminisces about his final regular-season game at Westman Place, he might skip the part about his penalty, but he’ll surely mention the goal that came after it.
The 20-year-old Brandonite scored the winning goal against his former Western Hockey League team as the Saskatoon Blades skated to a 5-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday night.
Ferland — returned from the professional ranks after the Christmas break and traded to the Blades at the WHL trade deadline — netted the decisive goal 2:10 into the second period and only 10 seconds after serving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he took at the end of the first frame.
"I got a little undisciplined there and I kinda put the boys in a bad spot, but I thank them a lot, they killed it off for me," said Ferland, who wired a wrister that beat Brandon goalie Curtis Honey high to the glove side. "And it felt even better when I went out there and scored that goal."
Ferland will have three more chances to face the Wheat Kings before the end of his final WHL season, but all of those games are set for Saskatoon and he won’t play here again unless, against all odds, the teams meet in the playoffs.
The chances of that happening are slimmer than ever, with the Wheat Kings (18-30-2-2) now 13 points behind the Blades (25-21-0-3) and the Medicine Hat Tigers for the final two post-season spots in the Eastern Conference.
Darren Dietz and Lukas Sutter each had a goal and an assist, while Nathan Burns and Collin Valcourt also scored for the Blades, who got an exceptional 38-save effort form Andrey Makarov.
Jayce Hawryluk was the only Wheat King to beat Makarov, although he felt like his team had the chances to produce more.
"The last few nights we haven’t really had many shots or many chances and tonight I thought we generated a lot of chances, which is good for us," said the 16-year-old rookie, who has 11 goals and leads Brandon forwards with 29 points. "We did a lot of good things that we can build on for the next game to come."
The Wheat Kings got off to a strong start, but fell behind 1-0 as a tipped pass found its way to Burns in front of the Brandon net and he went upstairs on Honey, who had a 29-save night.
It took only 29 seconds for the Wheat Kings to get that back as Hawryluk got behind the Blades’ defence off the rush and found the top corner behind Makarov.
After they outshot the Blades 18-11 in the first period, the second frame proved to be disastrous for Brandon, resulting in three Saskatoon goals, including Ferland’s early marker and one that was so late it actually came after the buzzer went. The Blades believed they had scored on a scramble in front of the net but play was allowed to continue until the end of the period, when video review showed that Sutter had slid the puck just across the line before it was swept away by Honey.
The Wheat Kings again had some chances in the first five minutes of the third period, prompting the Blades to take a timeout. But Saskatoon got the only goal of the frame as Brandon had a number of good looks, but only so many good shots.
"I thought there were times that we didn’t have the shot mentality," said Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, whose team was 0-for-4 on the power play while the Bladers went 1-for-2. "I thought a couple times on our power play in the second period we had pucks in the shot zone and we just couldn’t get those through. And then in the third period, we just couldn’t get one to fall.
"We made their goalie work and that’s what we needed to have in the second period. It’s too bad but at the end of the night the second period is what killed us."
The Wheat Kings head to Regina to face the Pats on Friday night (6:35, CKLQ), before concluding the home-and-home series at Westman Place on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 3,042 … Brandon scratched G Corbin Boes (knee, indefinite), RW/LW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, indefinite), C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) and RW Jason Swyripa (ill) … Prospect Jordan Papirny dressed as the Wheat Kings’ backup goalie … Saskatoon scratches included LW Jessey Astles (wrist, indefinite).