The Brandon Wheat Kings exorcised a lot of demons on Saturday night.
Ryley Miller scored 3:26 into overtime to give the Wheat Kings a 5-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels at Westman Place, ending Brandon’s run of seven straight losses and their opponents’ nine-game winning streak in one fell swoop.
Miller believes the victory will work wonders for the Wheat Kings’ confidence.
"Once you get on a losing streak everything just nags on you and it gets tougher and tougher on guys when it keeps going," said Miller, who has three game-winners, including two overtime markers, among his eight career Western Hockey League goals. "But when you get a win and things start going your way, it turns around quite a bit."
Playing in his final game before joining the Swiss team in preparation for the world junior hockey championship, Alessio Bertaggia had a goal and two assists for the Wheat Kings (11-17-2-2). Richard Nejezchleb and Jayce Hawryluk also had a goal and two assists each, while Jason Swyripa netted the other Brandon goal.
Swyripa redirected a Nick Buonassisi pass into the top of the net for his goal, which broke two lengthy scoring slumps. It was Swyripa’s first goal in 21 games and Buonassisi’s first point in 13 contests.
"It feels great and it feels even better to help the team out in a winning cause," Swyripa said.
"As long as we’re winning I’m fine with it, but that feels geat."
Matt Bellerive, Rhyse Dieno, Matt Dumba and Wyatt Johnson scored for the Rebels (19-11-2-1), who threatened to run away with the game early, outshooting Brandon 24-11 and taking a 2-0 lead in the first period. But goalie Corbin Boes, who made 44 saves, kept the Wheat Kings in the fray until their offence got rolling in the second frame.
The Wheat Kings scored three times in the second period for a 3-2 lead and also held a 4-3 advantage in the third, but both times the Rebels fought back to tie the game before Miller settled it in overtime, going to the Red Deer net and scoring on a backhand through netminder Patrik Bartosak’s five-hole.
The Wheat Kings have earned three points in their last three games and based on the difficulty the club has had picking up wins this season, head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk believes it’s a sign Brandon is moving in the right direction.
"We played three solid efforts in the last three games," he said.
"We got points in two out of three, so it’s a stepping stone. It’s a little step and we’ve got to make sure that we realize that."
ONE-TIMERS: Bartosak made 32 saves … Brandon was 1-for-4 on the power play, while Red Deer went 0-for-1 and scored a short-handed goal … Attendance was 3,663 … Brandon scratched C Tyrel Seaman (suspected concussion), C Tim McGauley (suspected concussion), LW Jack Palmer (upper-body injury) and D Rene Hunter (personal leave) … The Wheat Kings host the Saskatoon Blades on Tuesday (7 p.m., Westman Place).