For all of the fighting spirit the Brandon Wheat Kings showed on Sunday, they used very little of it getting to the Swift Current Broncos net.
The Wheat Kings’ offence was held in check most of the night at Westman Place as they fell 3-2 to the Broncos in the finale of a five-game Western Hockey League homestand.
Very willing to battle with their gloves off — there were three fights in the first 13 minutes of the game — the Wheat Kings could have battled more to get some goals in the mind of head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk.
“We’ve gotta throw pucks at the net, we’ve gotta throw people at the net,” said Gylywoychuk, adding that the Wheat Kings needed to push harder early in the game. “There were times tonight that it was a man’s game and we had to get our nose dirty a little bit to score a goal and I thought that there were a couple times tonight that we were (playing) a little bit on the outside. We could have got in a little bit more. There were a lot of rebounds, there were some pucks kinda laying around there that we didn’t get to.”
The Wheat Kings’ second loss in a row, and third of the homestand, dropped them to ninth in the Eastern Conference, at 9-9-2-1.
The Broncos (9-9-3-2) got goals from Levi Bews, Graham Black and Josh Derko to jump into a tie for fifth. Eetu Laurikainen made 26 saves in the Swift Current net.
“(The Broncos) were a tight-knit team. They were tight defensively,” said Jayce Hawryluk, who scored one of the Brandon goals. “I thought we had chances to score, that’s for sure. We just need to get more pucks to the net.”
Alessio Bertaggia — whose goal came with 40 seconds left in the game — also scored for the Wheat Kings, while goaltender Curtis Honey stopped 32 shots.
The Broncos took the lead 1:19 into the game as Bews capped off a nice passing play by scoring on Ryon Moser’s feed.
Despite being outplayed for much of the period, the Wheat Kings got it back on the power play when Hawryluk’s low shot snuck past Laurikainen, just inside the post.
In the second period, Black scored on a deflection and Derko found the net on a two-on-one to put Swift Current back in front heading into the final frame. On the few occasions when the Wheat Kings did break through the Broncos defence, they were thwarted by Laurikainen, who stretched his leg out to make a big pad save on Taylor Cooper late in the second, keeping the lead at two goals.
The Wheat Kings put on a late push with their net empty as Bertaggia deflected in Eric Roy’s point shot to make it a one-goal game, but Brandon captain Ryan Pulock took a tripping penalty with 21 seconds left that all but ended the threat.
“There’s times tonight that we did get a few chances, but I don’t think we were consistent enough on doing that and getting the puck down low and grinding it out,” said Pulock, who had an assist on Hawryluk’s goal. “With the team we have this year, as young as we are, I think that’s what we’ve got to do to be successful.”
The Wheat Kings return to action on Friday night when they start a three-game-in-three-nights road trip. The first two games are in Cranbrook, B.C., against the Kootenay Ice.
ONE-TIMERS: Wheat Kings LW Jack Palmer had an assist for his first WHL point … Brandon went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Swift Current was 0-for-5 … Attendance was 3,827 for the Wheat Kings’ annual Remembrance Day game, which featured a short tribute to the Canadian military prior to the opening faceoff … Roy had two assists, as did Swift Current D Dalton Reum … Brandon scratched LW Richard Nejezchleb (shoulder, 1-2 weeks), C John Quenneville, D Colton Waltz and D Riley Van Horne … Swift Current scratches included C Brent Benson, who was injured Wednesday on a hit by Prince Albert D Evan Morden … Pulock leaves today to play for the WHL against Russia in the Subway Super Series Wednesday in Vancouver.