Everyone got what they needed when the Brandon Wheat Kings visited the Regina Pats on Friday night.
Eric Roy scored 2:18 into overtime as the Wheat Kings came from behind to beat the Pats 4-3, guaranteeing Brandon no worse than a tiebreaker game as they try to lock up one of the Western Hockey League’s final two playoff spots. The Wheat Kings are seventh in the Eastern Conference (33-29-6-3) and can secure their post-season berth outright if they can earn a single point tonight when the teams have a rematch in Brandon.
“It’s a good stepping stone for (Saturday),” said Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who tied Bob Lowes for the franchise record of 363 coaching victories. “It gives our team momentum, but (Saturday’s) game is every bit as big as (Friday’s) game. We have to take care of our opportunities to get points and if we can do that then we don’t have to be concerned with what happens elsewhere.”
The Pats (39-25-4-3) didn’t fare too badly, either, as the single point was enough for them to clinch first place in the East Division and the second seed in the conference for the first round of the playoffs.
The Wheat Kings would not have even made it to overtime were it not for Peter Quenneville’s heroics in his return after missing the previous 10 games with a lower-body injury. He scored twice — including the tying goal with 35 seconds to play — and set up Brandon’s other two markers.
McCrimmon said Quenneville and Jens Meilleur, who returned after missing five games with a lower-body injury, were important additions to the lineup.
“In terms of having another key older player in our lineup, it was good to put Pete back in and good to put Jens back in,” he said.
Richard Nejezchleb also scored for the Wheat Kings, who got 29 saves from netminder Jordan Papirny.
Dryden Hunt, Dmitry Sinitsyn and Connor Gay scored for the Pats, who led 3-1 after the first period, scoring a pair of power-play goals.
Nejezchleb got the Wheat Kings back within a goal in the second period, scoring on a power play. His first effort was stopped by Pats goalie Dawson MacAuley, who made 31 saves, but Nejezchleb hammered away at the rebound, netting his team-leading 32nd goal of the season.
The Wheat Kings tied the game with their own net empty for the extra attacker as Tim McGauley set up Quenneville with a cross-crease feed.
In OT, Chandler Stephenson was called for tripping Brandon captain Ryan Pulock, setting the stage for Roy to win the game with a quick shot on a pass from Quenneville.
“Overtime hasn’t been real kind to us,” said McCrimmon, whose team had lost its previous five games that went to extra time, “and to get that second point is very important.”
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings scratched RW Jayce Hawryluk, who will complete his suspension tonight, as well as D Kord Pankewicz, LW Brett Kitt and LW Braylon Shmyr … With G Daniel Wapple (ankle) injured, the Pats have been dressing former Brandon prospect Tyler Fuhr as their backup … Also out due to injuries where Regina’s leading goal-scorer, RW Dyson Stevenson, D Kyle Burroughs and D Colby Williams … The Wheat Kings will hand out their team awards at tonight’s game (7:30, Westman Place) … The Tri-City Americans have signed Strathclair’s Morgan Geekie, a fifth-round pick in last year’s bantam draft, to a standard WHL players contract.