The Brandon Wheat Kings’ goalie of the future gave them a pretty good present on Friday night.
Jordan Papirny made 27 saves to earn his first Western Hockey League victory as the Wheat Kings beat the Kootenay Ice 3-2 at Westman Place.
"It’s a great feeling, especially with the guys like this and at home, too," said Papirny, a 16-year-old first-round pick from the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft who has been up from Midget AAA while Wheat Kings goalie Corbin Boes recovers from a knee injury. "I can’t even put into words how it feels right now. The boys have been awesome and it was great."
Rookie Jayce Hawryluk, scratched by the team for Wednesday’s game due to school-related issues, returned to the lineup and scored the winning goal on a power play with 4:04 left in the contest as the Wheat Kings (21-34-2-2) snapped a three-game losing streak and moved into a tie for 11th place in the Eastern Conference with the Regina Pats. They moved to within 10 points of the ninth-place Ice (27-29-2-0), with another home game coming up against Kootenay tonight.
"It feels great to contribute to the team and help them get the win," Hawryluk said. "Beating this team is huge for us. They’re not too far ahead of us and every point we can get on them is huge."
After a quiet first period, the Ice opened the scoring in the second on some tough luck for the Wheat Kings. Brock Montgomery had the puck poked away from him as he tried to cut across the front of the Brandon net, but it found its way through a crowd and back onto his stick and he fired it into the open side of the net.
A trio of Brandon rookies got that back on a nice passing play as Colton Waltz sent the puck to pinching defence partner Kord Pankewicz, who set up Jack Palmer in the slot for the first goal by a Brandon forward in four games.
Captain Ryan Pulock snapped a shot home to give the Wheat Kings a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, but the Ice pushed hard in the third period, getting the tying goal from Austin Vetterl 5:59 into the frame.
Brandon managed only two shots in the final period, but one of them was Hawryluk’s winner. With Vetterl in the penalty box for holding, Tim McGauley’s centring pass found Hawryluk at the side of the net and the 16-year-old banged home his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
"There were a few times that we were pushed and we pushed back and we found a way to win the game on our power play, which was really good to see," Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said.
Kootenay continued to push after Hawryluk’s goal, getting some chances on scrambles around the Brandon net and Papirny credited his communication with his blue-liners for helping him to hold the fort.
"You gotta stay composed, right?" said Papirny, who heads home to Edmonton today to rejoin his midget team. "The defence was awesome for me today. (Rene Hunter) was clearing pucks, (Eric Roy) was clearing pucks. All the D-men were great and talking to me."
His composure certainly impressed Hawryluk, who is looking forward to playing alongside Papirny again in the near future.
"Unreal, unreal," Hawryluk said. "He’s a great goaltender and he’s going to be good for us in the years to come and what can I say? He comes in, second game of the year for him, and he makes a couple huge saves. I don’t know how many saves he made but he played an unreal game and he kept us in it."
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon was 1-for-2 on the power play, while Kootenay was 1-for-1 … Ice G Mackenzie Skapski made 23 saves … Hawryluk now has points in his last seven games (six goals, six assists) … Brandon played without D Tyler Yaworski, who wraps up his six-game suspension tonight, as well as Boes (knee, indefinite), RW/LW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, indefinite) and C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) …Attendance was 4,239.