Tied after one period and being outshot by the last-place team in the Western Hockey League, the Brandon Wheat Kings got a lift from their power play when they needed it.
The Wheat Kings got two power-play markers in the second frame, sending them on their way to a four-goal period and a 6-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday night at Westman Place.
Jayce Hawryluk had two goals and an assist as the Wheat Kings (30-26-6-2) held their ground in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the sixth-place Swift Current Broncos.
"We just realized we had to work harder," Hawryluk said. "We weren’t working hard enough in the first. They had 16 shots on net and that can’t happen in our home barn, especially after losing to them in the game before and them coming off a game (Tuesday) night. We had to work harder and we thought we did in the second and the third."
Rihards Bukarts had a goal and an assist, while Eric Roy, Rene Hunter and Jens Meilleur also scored for Brandon. Curtis Honey made 36 saves to break a personal four-game losing streak, with 15 of his stops coming in the first period.
The Wheat Kings scored first, with a delayed penalty coming up against the Hurricanes, as Roy picked the top corner on Lethbridge goalie Jonny Hogue, who made 40 saves. The Hurricanes (12-48-2-3) got that back on a two-on-one rush as Carter Folk’s attempted pass went in off of Wheat Kings defenceman Ryan Pulock, who recovered to have a two-assist night.
Penalties haunted Lethbridge in the second period as Tyler Wong took a double minor for high-sticking only six seconds into the frame. The Wheat Kings took advantage of that late in the power play as Hunter scored on a slap shot from the point to put Brandon ahead for good.
"(The power play is) always a game-changing opportunity, and you’ve got to make good on it," said Hunter, who finished his night early, sent to the dressing room following a third-period fight with Tyler Bell after the Lethbridge defenceman’s hit on Ryley Lindgren.
The Wheat Kings’ power play went 2-for-5 after a slow start, and head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said the production started once the team established the point shot as a weapon.
"We sometimes look for the fancy play or the pretty play and force things a little bit and overlook some of the people we’ve got on our blue-line that can do a pretty good job of getting the puck to the net if we have traffic," McCrimmon said.
Brandon took a two-goal lead on Hawryluk’s power-play one-timer, with Bukarts and Meilleur scoring at even strength to put the Wheat Kings comfortably ahead going into the third.
Hawryluk netted his second of the night, and 20th of the season, only 52 seconds into the third period and Tyler Wong added a late marker to give Lethbridge a 1-for-3 night on the power play. Hawryluk has been on a roll, with three goals and four assists in his last three games, and McCrimmon gave the second-year forward’s line with John Quenneville (two assists on Wednesday) and Jesse Gabrielle (one assist) credit for playing a strong game.
"Jesse Gabrielle, I thought, skated well with those guys tonight, did some good work and they made a real nice play on the power play; the Quenneville to Hawryluk play there for the one-timer from the slot was a good look," he said. "They had a lot of chances, hit posts and were around the net pretty consistently tonight."
Having followed up an eight-game losing streak with back-to-back wins, the Wheat Kings hit the road for matchups against the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday and the Broncos on Sunday, before playing four of their last six at home.
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 3,483 … The Wheat Kings scratched RW Peter Quenneville (lower-body injury, week-to-week), LW Tyler Coulter and D Kord Pankewicz … Hurricane scratches included LW Josh Derko (lower body) … The Major Pratt Trojans high school hockey team was honoured before the second period for a cancer fundraiser that generated $13,000.