Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Curtis Honey deflects the puck during WHL action against the Red Deer Rebels at Westman Place on Saturday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
John Quenneville of the Brandon Wheat Kings tries to keep the puck ahead of Dominik Volek of the Red Deer Rebels during WHL action at Westman Place on Saturday evening. The Rebels won 4-2. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The slow starts that have nagged the Brandon Wheat Kings during their homestand caught up to them on Saturday night.
The Wheat Kings were sluggish out of the gate against the Red Deer Rebels and ended up on the wrong end of a 4-2 decision at Westman Place, dropping their first home game in four tries this season.
"The first two games we’ve had on this homestand, we’ve done the same thing, we got off to a slow start," Wheat Kings forward Chad Robinson said.
"Fortunately the first two games we got wins out of it, but it bit us in the behind tonight and we couldn’t claw back.
"We should have learned the first two games that we need to come to the game prepared to play and have a good start."
The Rebels (5-3-0-0) took over first place in the Western Hockey League’s Central Division thanks to goals from Christian Stockl, Vukie Mpofu, Wyatt Johnson and Dominik Volek as well as a superb 33-save effort from goaltender Patrik Bartosak.
Trailing 1-0 after the first period on Stockl’s goal, which was a centring pass that bounced off Brandon defenceman Taylor Green and into the net, the Wheat Kings (4-3-0-0) tied the game early in the second with a Richard Nejezchleb power-play marker.
The Rebels responded to that with two quick goals before John Quenneville scored to move the Wheat Kings back within one.
Brandon outshot Red Deer 19-5 in that middle frame, but head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said the Wheat Kings didn’t pick up where they left off in the third.
"I thought at the end of the second we had the momentum. I thought we were in a position to really push in the third," McCrimmon said.
"In the third period, I thought we got too individualistic. I thought guys really wanted to do the right thing, but we didn’t do it within the structure that we need to be successful."
The Wheat Kings, playing without captain Ryan Pulock, who suffered an undisclosed injury on Friday, did mount another push late in the third period, but Bartosak turned away all challenges and the Rebels iced the victory with Volek’s goal into an empty net.
Boissevain native Meyer Nell, called up earlier in the week by the Rebels from the Notre Dame Argos of Saskatchewan’s Midget AAA league, earned his first WHL point by assisting on Red Deer’s first goal. The 16-year-old forward had a memorable night in front of friends and family, earning some power-play time and also seeing ice late in the third period while the Rebels were protecting the lead, on his way to earning the third-star award.
"It’s good to see that they trust me in those situations," said the former Southwest Midget AAA Cougar, who expects to spend the rest of the season with the Rebels. "And to get those situations to develop for oncoming years, it’s great."
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon G Curtis Honey made 25 saves … The Wheat Kings were 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Rebels were 0-for-4 … Attendance was 3,748 … Brandon got D Eric Roy back from an injury that kept him out of Friday's game … In addition to Pulock, the Wheat Kings scratched D Dominic Thom, LW Tyler Coulter, RW Jesse Gabrielle and RW Braylon Shmyr … The Rebels used one player under the maximum, with their scratches including LW Lukas Sutter (upper body), C Grayson Pawlenchuk (broken elbow) and D Devan Fafard (suspension) … Red Deer is also without D Mathew Dumba, who made his NHL debut Saturday for the Minnesota Wild … The Wheat Kings are 2-1 on their five-game homestand, which continues on Friday when they face the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 7, 2013