Rookie forwards Taylor Cooper (left) and Jack Palmer of the Brandon Wheat Kings celebrate a goal by Cooper during WHL pre-season action against the Regina Pats on Friday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
New Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk gestures on the Brandon bench Friday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
A game under their belts and the addition of some key veterans worked wonders for the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night.
Defenceman Ryan Pulock — Brandon’s top returning scorer — had a goal and two assists as the Wheat Kings won their first home game of the Western Hockey League pre-season, 5-3 over the Regina Pats at Westman Place.
Second-year forward Alessio Bertaggia added a goal and a helper, while rookies Richard Nejezchleb, Taylor Cooper and Tim McGauley also scored for the Wheat Kings (1-1-0-0), who bounced back from a 3-1 loss to the Pats a night earlier in Regina.
Pulock and Bertaggia were among the veterans who sat out Thursday and Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said the difference in the team was noticeable.
"Adding (veterans) Tyler Yaworski and Ryan Pulock on the back end, that really helped our presence, and Alessio Bertaggia and Nick Buonassisi up front really added to it, too," Gylywoychuk said. "But don’t take away anything from the young guys that played, the (Hunter) Smiths, the (Jack) Palmers, the Coopers, the (Quintin) Lisoways, Ryley Lindgren in his first game; all those guys played really well."
Dane Schioler, Keaton Lubin and Connor Gay scored for the Pats (1-1-0-0).
The Wheat Kings put together a solid first period, scoring the opening goal 7:35 into the game when Nejezchleb’s centring pass went off the stick of Pats defenceman Brandon Underwood and into the Regina net. Brandon easily could have had more as McGauley clanked two shots off the post and Yaworski found iron with his point shot late in the period.
Pulock rifled in a one-timer on a Bertaggia setup for a power-play goal only 33 seconds into the second period. Schioler got the Pats on the board midway through the game, but Cooper and Bertaggia scored 46 seconds apart to put the Wheat Kings back in control.
Brandon lost veteran Tyrel Seaman to a checking-from-behind major and lost most of their lead as Lubin scored late in the second period and Gay cut the gap to one early in the third. But McGauley, who had been knocking on the door all night, converted a Pulock pass after an end-to-end rush by the blue-liner.
McGauley has 20 regular-season and playoff games under his belt without a goal and was thrilled to finally break through.
"It was just a huge sigh of relief," he said. "I’ve been looking for that for about 21 games now, so it finally gets the monkey off my back and it feels great to pop one in the net."
Adam Beukeboom made 28 saves for the Pats, while Jordan Papirny stopped 14 shots for the Wheat Kings and denied Regina’s Braden Christoffer on a third-period penalty shot.
The Wheat Kings wrap up the pre-season next week with a home-and-home against the Moose Jaw Warriors, starting Friday at Westman Place, and Pulock expects to see some significant progress over the next week.
"We’ve only had two practices, but I think Chewy and (assistant coach Darren Ritchie) have done a great job of getting some systems in play and I think the younger guys and even us older guys stepped up and followed it pretty well," he said. "It’s a work in progress. We’ve got to keep working on it. …There’s a lot of little things that can be done."
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon scratched RW Jens Meilleur (back), LW Dominick Favreau (back), D Ryley Miller (sick), C Jayce Hawryluk (concussion), G Curtis Honey, C Daniel Asham, LW Kailum Gervais, LW Kyler Hehn, C John Quenneville, C Jason Swyripa and D Eric Roy … After playing for Brandon Thursday, rookie D Dominic Thom, 16, has returned to Calgary to play midget … The Wheat Kings’ season-ticket pickup day is set for Tuesday in the Keystone Centre’s south parking lot. The team had sold about 2,100 season tickets as of Friday … Vancouver has traded G Jackson Whistle, 17, to Kelowna for a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. The move leaves the Giants with three goalies, including ex-Wheat King Liam Liston, 19, and former Brandon prospect Tyler Fuhr, 17 … Saskatoon got down to the limit of three 20-year-olds, including former Brandon C Brenden Walker, by putting LW Chris Collins on waivers yesterday.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 8, 2012