A day that’s been months in the works finally arrived on Wednesday as the Brandon Wheat Kings’ playoff chances went from slim to none.
Brandon’s 12-year streak of making the Western Hockey League post-season came to a halt as the Wheat Kings were mathematically eliminated following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Swift Current Broncos at Westman Place. Rookie defenceman Brycen Martin scored the winning goal 1:05 into the extra frame.
"That’s my first-ever overtime goal, second-ever (goal) career," said the 16-year-old, who was chosen second overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. "So it’s a great feeling and it’s nice leaving here with a win."
While the game wasn’t officially decided until Martin’s wrist shot found the back of the net, it was the first period — when Broncos Richard Nedomlel and Ryon Moser scored —that sunk the Wheat Kings.
"I’m disappointed in the way we started in the first period," said Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, whose team was outshot 12-7 in the opening 20 minutes. "… I thought that if we would have started the way we did in the second period, it would have been a different story."
Eetu Laurikainen made 20 saves as the Broncos improved to 30-27-3-4 and maintained their hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Corbin Boes made 31 saves, while Quintin Lisoway and Taylor Cooper scored as the Wheat Kings (21-37-4-2) battled back from the early deficit to force overtime. While the comeback was encouraging, the circumstances that made it necessary were a hard pill to swallow.
"We’re 64 games into the season now and just having a hard time finding that consistency to play a full 60 minutes, which can’t happen this late in the season," Boes said. "Hopefully we can find a way to put all the pieces of the puzzle together here for the last (eight) games of the season."
The Broncos used the point shot as their weapon of choice in the first period. Nedomlel scored on a blast through traffic, with Moser adding to the lead by deflecting in Dillon Heatherington’s shot.
The Wheat Kings battled back in the second period as Lisoway capped off a nice passing play with Jack Palmer and Geordie Maguire for his second goal of the season.
"It was really tight in the room (between the first and second periods) and a lot of the guys showed some leadership and we came out ready to play," Cooper said.
Brandon had to rely on its penalty killers to get through the rest of the second frame as the Wheat Kings took three straight minors, denying the Broncos on a 42-second 5-on-3 opportunity.
The Wheat Kings were limited to only five shots in the third period, but got a prime opportunity when Zac Mackay was handed a double minor for high-sticking Lisoway.
Brandon took advantage of the first half of that penalty, with Cooper scoring his ninth of the season when his centring effort went in off of a Broncos defenceman.
Brandon finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while killing off all three Swift Current opportunities, and head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said the special teams deserve credit for getting the Wheat Kings back in the game.
"The penalty kill did a really good job tonight, found a way to get those penalties killed off," he said. "And then the power play found us a goal and was able to tie the game for us and we were able to move forward. You would want to maybe get another goal but we found a way to get one and tie the game."
The momentum didn’t carry over into overtime. The Broncos carried the play from the start, culminating in Martin joining the rush and scoring on Colby Cave’s setup to give Swift Current its sixth straight win over Brandon.
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 3,041 … Brandon scratched RW/LW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, day-to-day), C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) and D Kord Pankewicz … Swift Current scratches included C Brent Benson (concussion, indefinite) … The Wheat Kings head on the road for three games in three nights this weekend, beginning Friday against the Saskatoon Blades (6:35 p.m., CKLQ).