EDMONTON — In the end, experience and execution trumped raw talent and youthful exuberance.
The Edmonton Oil Kings snuffed out any notion of a comeback by Brandon in their second-round Western Hockey League playoff series, downing the Wheat Kings 5-1 on Friday night at Rexall Place to clinch the best-of-seven 4-1.
Henrik Samuelsson and Mitchell Moroz had a goal and an assist each, while Brett Pollock, Reid Petryk and Cody Corbett also scored for the Oil Kings, who advance to face either the Kootenay Ice or the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Eastern Conference final.
Eric Roy, who spent part of the game at forward with regular-season scoring leader Jayce Hawryluk out due to an injury suffered in practice on Thursday, scored the Brandon goal.
The Wheat Kings started Game 5 well, but the Oil Kings built momentum throughout the first period and took over with three goals, 2:08 apart, late in the frame.
Samuelsson created a turnover by the Brandon net, battling away until finally pushing the puck past Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny. Edmonton’s next two goals came in a span of only 23 seconds as Pollock found the net after a turnover at the Brandon blue-line, and Petryk potted his first of the playoffs as the Oil Kings had a 3-on-1 down low in the Wheat Kings’ zone.
“I thought we had an excellent start to the game, pretty much exactly what we wanted to do,” said Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who noted his team would have been in a better position if they were able to capitalize on quality scoring chances early by centre Tim McGauley and defenceman Ryan Pulock. “… And the second half of the first period we just weren’t as good.
“I think at the halfway mark we were leading in shots 6-5, and the rest of the first period they were 10-0. It’s just a stretch of a little over two minutes the damage was done, and really as a result we were chasing that for the rest of the game.”
Brandon’s inability to beat Edmonton goalie Tristan Jarry on his home ice continued until the third period on Friday. Even then, it took a five-on-three power play for the Wheat Kings to break through as Roy netted his only goal of the playoffs.
Jarry, who had shutouts in the first two games in the series, finished with 19 saves, while Papirny stopped 33 shots for Brandon.
Roy’s goal was as close as the Wheat Kings would get as Corbett and Moroz put the game out of reach with goals midway through the third period.
The Oil Kings, who have been to the last two WHL finals, winning the league title in 2012, came into the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal as heavy favourites after finishing in first place during the regular season with 103 points and sweeping the Prince Albert Raiders in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wheat Kings, who were seventh in the conference with 77 points, also managed a first-round sweep — against the Regina Pats — but dropped the first three games against the Oil Kings before winning 5-2 on Wednesday at Westman Place to force Game 5 in Edmonton.
It was a game where the veteran Oil Kings took advantage of mistakes by the Wheat Kings at key times.
“I thought we played well,” Roy said. “Obviously our start was really good, but we can’t give up three goals in the first period and expect to come back. But we’ve got to give (the Oil Kings) credit. They’re a good hockey team and they work hard and unfortunately bounces didn’t go our way tonight.
“It’s going to be a long off-season for most guys and our graduating players, we’re all going to miss them. It’s going to be a long trip home.”
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 6,356 … In addition to injured RW Jayce Hawryluk, the Wheat Kings scratched G Curtis Honey (finger), C Ryley Lindgren (lower-body injury), LW Brett Kitt, LW Braylon Shmyr and D Kord Pankewicz … LW Brandon Baddock returned to the Edmonton lineup after being missing in action for seven weeks due to an upper-body injury … The Wheat Kings are expected to have at least four of their 20-goal forwards back next season and could have all six if LW Richard Nejezchleb and RW Peter Quenneville return as 20-year-olds ... Nejezchleb took a clipping major late in the game and was ejected.