Brandon Wheat Kings’ Quintin Lisoway (front) lines up with Portland Winterhawks’ Josh Hanson and goalie Cam Lanigan during second period action Friday night at Westman Place. Portland beat Brandon 2-1. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon Wheat Kings forward Jens Meilleur and goaltender Corbin Boes watch the puck fly past the head of Portland Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic in Western Hockey League action on Friday night at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock raised his stick, ready for a last-ditch one-timer, then watched helplessly as the twig snapped in half and the puck trickled harmlessly into a crowd in front of the Portland Winterhawks net.
Yep, it was that kind of night for the home team.
The Wheat Kings, so impressive offensively in their four-game winning streak that opened the Western Hockey League season, failed to mount much of an attack at all on Friday night, falling 2-1 to the Winterhawks at Westman Place.
"I think the biggest thing is whenever we got our chances in the offensive zone, I think we just gotta throw more pucks on net," lamented Pulock, whose team was outshot 43-19 and managed only three shots in the third period.
"I mean, we were looking for the fancy play and sometimes you’ve just got to throw it on net and get the greasy goal."
Alex Schoenborn’s first WHL goal turned out to be the game-winner for the Winterhawks (4-2-0-0), while Derrick Pouliot also scored on the first game of Portland’s East Division road trip.
Czech import Richard Nejezchleb replied with his first career goal for the Wheat Kings (4-2-0-0), who got a heroic 41-save effort from Corbin Boes in front of a crowd of 4,120.
"I think we just got ourselves flat-footed there at the start of the first," said Boes, whose team hosts the Red Deer Rebels tonight.
"We’ve lost two in a row now and you don’t want to get it to three, so I know the guys in the room will be coming out hard (tonight)."
The Winterhawks caused problems with their speed throughout the game, creating turnovers and outshooting the Wheat Kings 14-7 in the opening period. The teams went into the intermission tied 1-1, however, as Nejezchleb responded to Pouliot’s opening marker by beating Portland netminder Cam Lanigan from the slot.
"(The Winterhawks) came out strong and I thought in the first period that (Boes) made some good saves," Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said.
"Where we were adjusting to their momentum and their speed and their transition (game), we got caught on some odd-man rushes and Corbin made some big saves and did exactly what we needed him to do to give us a chance tonight."
Schoenborn restored the Portland lead in the second period, going to the net and scoring on the rebound of Joey Baker’s shot.
The Wheat Kings had a power play shortly after that but generated little on what proved to be their final chance on a night when they went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
"We’ve got to make sure that when we do have an opportunity to score, we score and put it in with authority," said Gylywoychuk, whose team killed off both Portland power plays.
"I think that earlier on we were a little bit lackadaisical on (the power play) and as we got more I thought that they really used the momentum in their favour."
While the final score may have actually flattered the Wheat Kings, Pulock believes that with some fine-tuning, Brandon can go head-to-head with teams of the Winterhawks’ calibre.
"They’re definitely a good team, but I think we’re just as good if we keep doing the right things," he said.
"I think there’s a couple of little areas where we can tighten up and work on our offensive zone, and I think we’ll be able to beat every team in this league."
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon scratched LW Geordie Maguire, LW Taylor Cooper, C John Quenneville, D Colton Waltz and D Riley Van Horne … Spokane has released G Mac Engel, 19, who started 54 games for the Chiefs last season … Prince Albert acquired D Davis Vandane, 20, from Spokane on Friday for a conditional eighth-round pick in next year’s WHL Bantam Draft. The move got the Chiefs down to the limit of three overagers, while the Raiders have four, although one of them is D Antoine Corbin, who is trying out for Hamilton of the AHL.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 6, 2012