A loss was good enough to get the Brandon Wheat Kings a share of first place in the Western Hockey League’s East Division on Wednesday night.
The Wheat Kings fell 4-3 in a shootout to the host Red Deer Rebels, moving into a tie with the Swift Current Broncos for first in the East Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
"I thought we responded pretty well tonight in a lot of different situations," said Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon, whose team came back to tie the game from one-goal deficits three times. "We gave up 13 shots on goal in the final 45 minutes of the game, so I thought that was important for us. We were behind after two, came back to tie; fell behind in the third, came back to tie, so those were all positive things."
Rihards Bukarts, Ryan Pulock and Peter Quenneville scored for the Wheat Kings (26-18-5-1). Presten Kopeck, Scott Feser and Rhyse Dieno had the goals in regulation for the Rebels (27-21-0-2), while Brooks Maxwell notched the shootout winner.
Kopeck netted the games’ first goal, but the Wheat Kings answered quickly. Only 28 seconds after the Red Deer goal, Bukarts was sprung on a breakaway by Pulock, deking Rebels goalie Patrik Bartosak and scoring on a backhand.
Bukarts would play a role in the game’s next goal as well, although not one that he wanted, as the Latvian forward was thrown out of the game for kneeing Rebels forward Conner Bleackley, with Feser scoring on the power play.
The Wheat Kings dominated the second period, outshooting the Rebels 17-4 despite being short-handed twice, but went into the second intermission trailing by the same 2-1 score.
Early in the third period, Pulock blasted in a one-timer on a pass from Tim McGauley on a 5-on-3 power play to make the score 2-2. Dieno replied for the Rebels, scoring on a deflection, but Brandon battled back again, with defenceman Ryan Pilon leading the rush and dishing to Quenneville, who potted the tying goal with 1:42 remaining.
Overtime was scoreless despite quality chances for both teams. McGauley was stopped after stealing the puck deep in the Red Deer end, while Dieno had a clear-cut breakaway only seconds later but was unable to beat Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny, who finished with 26 saves.
Papirny was good in a shootout that lasted seven rounds, stopping Red Deer’s first five shooters, but Bartosak, who made 39 saves in regulation and OT, was even better. Braylon Shmyr scored on Brandon’s sixth attempt to give the Wheat Kings the chance to win it, but the Rebels replied with goals from Haydn Fleury and Maxwell on their final two shots.
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon was 1-for-2 on the power play, while Red Deer went 1-for-5 … The Wheat Kings scratched C John Quenneville (upper body, week-to-week), LW Jesse Gabrielle and LW Brett Kitt … Rebels scratches included C Lukas Sutter (upper body, indefinite) … Pulock stretched his point-scoring streak to seven games (three goals, eight assists), while Peter Quenneville is on a six-game run (five goals, six assists).