A stirring comeback win for the Brandon Wheat Kings and a spectacular performance from Jayce Hawryluk took a frightening turn as the 18-year-old forward from Roblin reportedly collapsed and was picked up by an ambulance after the game Wednesday night at Westman Place.
Hawryluk had just scored three times as the Wheat Kings overcame a 4-1 first-period deficit to beat the Regina Pats 5-4 and move one victory away from advancing to the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
But after the game, the main concern was clearly Hawryluk’s health.
"Jayce was taken to hospital, we’re hopeful that it’s not serious," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said late last night.
"Until we have more information, it’s hard to pinpoint what the issue was, but we’re hopeful it’s not serious."
McCrimmon added that Hawryluk was resting comfortably.
Hawryluk had been named first star of the game, which gave the Wheat Kings a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final and a chance to sweep the series, with Game 4 scheduled for Friday at Westman Place (7:30 p.m.).
Hawryluk, who added an assist for a four-point game, combined with linemates Jesse Gabrielle (one goal, one assist) and John Quenneville (three assists) to produce nine points. Chad Robinson added a short-handed goal for Brandon’s other marker.
"I think we’ve just got to take the positives out of (the game)," Robinson said. "I thought we stayed composed for the most part and we battled our way back into the game. We got down by one before the end of the first and I think that was huge for us."
The Pats made Daniel Wapple, who missed the first two games with an ankle injury, their surprise starter and the Wheat Kings welcomed him with an early goal as Gabrielle fired a shot to the top corner after taking a drop pass from Quenneville.
Regina responded with four goals in a span of only 6:38, including a pair of power-play goals by Dryden Hunt plus tallies by Jesse Zgraggen and Carter Hansen.
Hawryluk got the Wheat Kings back into the game with two late goals in the first frame, scoring on a breakaway then taking advantage of an odd play where he battled with Zgraggen behind the net, causing the Pats defenceman to lose his helmet. While Zgraggen headed back to the bench, Hawryluk circled out from behind the net and scored to cut Regina’s lead to 4-3.
The second period calmed down, with Robinson netting the only goal while the Wheat Kings were short-handed. He was first to a puck in the corner of the Pats’ zone and sent a centring pass that hit a Regina defenceman and ricocheted past Wapple and into the net.
"We improved as the night went on and we got to the end of two periods, we were tied up in our building 20 minutes away from having a 3-0 series lead or looking at a 2-1 series, so it was a big period of hockey for our group," McCrimmon said.
The checking continued to tighten throughout the game and there were few quality scoring chances in the third. One of the best came early in the frame, when Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny went post-to-post to rob Regina’s Patrick D’Amico on an odd-man rush as part of a 29-save night.
The Wheat Kings took advantage of their best chance of the period as Quenneville dished the puck to Hawryluk on the rush, leaving him with an open side of the net to beat Wapple, who had a 20-save performance.
"I’ll give the Brandon Wheat Kings a tremendous amount of credit," Pats coach Malcolm Cameron said. "They’re as committed a bunch as I’ve seen in my three years in junior hockey; they’re all playing the same way.
"You can’t tell the difference between Line No.1 and Line No.4 and D1 and D6 and ours is too sporadic right now. And that’s how we won this year; we didn’t win because we were a flash-and-dash team, we won because we were a committing team, everybody playing the same way."
ONE-TIMERS: RW John Quenneville and D Eric Roy returned to the Brandon lineup after missing Game 2 … The Wheat Kings scratched D Kord Pankewicz, LW Tyler Coulter, LW Brett Kitt and LW Braylon Shmyr … The Pats’ scratches included G Dawson MacAuley, who started the first two games of the series, and C Rylee Zimmer of Russell … Attendance was 3,547.