Brandon Wheat Kings centre Jayce Hawryluk and Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit watch the play unfold in the high slot on Friday night at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
It’s probably been quite some time since the Brandon Wheat Kings felt this good after a loss.
The Wheat Kings battled back twice in the third period to tie the Edmonton Oil Kings before falling 3-2 to the defending Western Hockey League champions Friday night at Westman Place.
With the win, the Oil Kings clinched first place in the Eastern Conference standings, while the last-place Wheat Kings gained a measure of self-respect despite the loss.
"It’s definitely a heart-breaker losing that (but) I can honestly say we worked the hardest we could and we did our best," said Wheat Kings forward Nick Buonassisi, who scored one of Brandon’s third-period goals. "We’re not down on ourselves or hanging our heads. We did the best we could and I think it showed tonight, but you know what, good teams find a way to win and they did that."
Stephane Legault pushed the Oil Kings (48-15-2-3) over the top, notching a goal and an assist in regulation before scoring the deciding goal in the shootout. Mitch Moroz also had a goal and an assist as Edmonton won its fifth straight.
For all the grit they showed, the Wheat Kings (22-38-4-4) still needed a stellar 43-save performance from goaltender Corbin Boes to hang with the powerhouse Oil Kings. Tim McGauley netted the tying goal with 37.6 seconds to play in the third period, earning Brandon its first point against Edmonton in four games this season.
"Give the (Oil Kings) credit, they really pushed us outside," said Brandon head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk, whose Wheat Kings fired 23 shots at Edmonton goalie Laurent Brossoit. "One thing at the end of the night that we could have done a little bit better is we could have fought through their checks a bit more, we could have gone to a little bit more hard areas to find some more quality chances. … The biggest thing is in the first and third period I thought we were in the game, which was good to see."
The Wheat Kings started well, holding Edmonton to only one shot through the first nine minutes, but Legault scored on the Oil Kings’ second attempt.
The score remained the same until the Wheat Kings finally broke through on a power play, 7:28 into the third period, as Buonassisi blasted the puck past Brossoit on a one-timer.
Brandon killed off a penalty of its own, but Edmonton took advantage of some good fortune to regain the lead as Moroz was hit by Kord Pankewicz as he drove to the net, but the puck bounced off the Brandon defenceman and past Boes.
The Wheat Kings pushed hard to get the equalizer and their efforts paid off as McGauley deflected in Eric Roy’s point shot for his 17th goal of the season.
The Oil Kings made short work of the shootout, with Legault and Henrik Samuelsson scoring to win the session 2-0, but Boes believes the Wheat Kings youngsters will be able to get plenty out of the game.
"We haven’t had much success at all against some of the top teams in the conference," said Boes, whose team hosts the Swift Current Broncos tonight. "So it’s huge for the young guys to go out, just to prove to themselves that they can hang with a team like this and play well and get results. It’s late in the season, but it’ll be good for next year."
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 3,660 … Brandon scratched LW John Quenneville (lower body, season-ending), C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, season-ending), RW Marek Kalus and LW Jesse Gabrielle … Edmonton scratches included D Martin Gernat, who will miss the rest of the regular season while writing exams back home in Slovakia … The WHL has finalized its punishment for Victoria’s third-period thuggery against the Kamloops Blazers on Tuesday, suspending RW Tim Traber six games, D Keegan Kanzig two games and coach Dave Lowry one game, while fining the Royals $1,500.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 9, 2013