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Hitmen stop Wheat Kings

The Brandon Wheat Kings dug themselves a deep hole, climbed out of it and then proceeded to jump right back in on Friday night in the Western Hockey League.

The Wheat Kings rallied from a three-goal deficit, only to give up four goals in the third period of a 7-4 road loss to the Calgary Hitmen.

Brady Brassart, Ben Thomas and Greg Chase had a goal and an assist each to lead the Hitmen (32-13-3-3), who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Chase Lang, Jake Virtanen, Adam Tambellini and Connor Rankin also scored as Calgary snapped a three-game losing streak.

The Wheat Kings (26-19-5-1) are now in a three-game skid of their own despite receiving a goal and two assists from Ryley Lindgren, who recorded the first three-point game of his WHL career. Eric Roy, Quintin Lisoway and Jayce Hawryluk also scored for the Wheat Kings, who slipped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the East Division-leading Swift Current Broncos.

"It’s like losing twice in the same night," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "We were real poor in the first half of the game. I didn’t like our game at all, and then we had some guys really step up and make plays, Ryley Lindgren in particular that helped us get tied (and) Lisoway with a big goal right at the tail end of the second."

The first period went sour on the Wheat Kings from the get-go as they gave up three goals, the first coming from Brassart only 38 seconds after the opening faceoff. Virtanen and Lang also scored in the final minute of the period.

Brandon erased Calgary’s lead in the second period. Lindgren fired a shot from the right circle that went off of Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger and into the net. Then Roy followed up the rebound of his own shot and jammed the puck into the Calgary net. Lisoway scored with only 3.1 seconds left in the frame, allowing Brandon to enter the third period with a clean slate, but instead it was Calgary that took advantage.

Just as a penalty to Wheat King Tyler Coulter was expiring, Chase got the loose puck after Virtanen’s shot was blocked and he had the time to pick his spot on Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey, making the most of it.

"We were able to kill (the penalty), but they scored right after and that was obviously the critical goal," McCrimmon said.

Tambellini and Thomas scored to put the game out of reach before Hawryluk, on a power play, and Rankin traded meaningless goals in the final minute.

"The power play was very disappointing all night," said McCrimmon, whose team went 1-for-6 with the man advantage, while Calgary was 1-for-3. "One goal in garbage time, but it didn’t help us tonight when it mattered at all."

ONE-TIMERS: Honey made 35 saves, eight more than Driedger … Brandon RW Peter Quenneville assisted on Roy’s goal to extend his point-scoring streak to seven games (five goals, seven assists), while D Ryan Pulock had his streak stopped at seven … The Wheat Kings scratched C John Quenneville (upper body, week-to-week), LW Rihards Bukarts (one-game suspension) and D Kord Pankewicz … The Wheat Kings wrap up the road trip with their fourth game in five days, facing the Saskatoon Blades tonight (6:35, CKLQ).


Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 1, 2014

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Too bad - just when you think the team has jelled and put it together they look like last year - everyone for himself. Evident that 2 critical members - Bukarts and J Quenneville - really, really matter in making it a team effort. Nonetheless, go Wheaties go.

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