Wheat Kings take opener in overtime

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If Game 1 is any indication of what’s to come, Western Hockey League fans are in for a final series to remember.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2016 (2397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If Game 1 is any indication of what’s to come, Western Hockey League fans are in for a final series to remember.

Tanner Kaspick batted the puck out of the air and into the net for the overtime winner after Duncan Campbell’s deflected shot bounced off the glass as the Brandon Wheat Kings beat the Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2 at Westman Place on Friday in the opening game of the best-of-seven league final. 

The goal was briefly reviewed but it was ruled that Kaspick’s stick well was below the crossbar when he directed it in.

Colin Corneau Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Jordan Papirny dives for a shot by Seattle Thunderbird Nolan Volcan during the second period of Game 1 in the WHL final on Friday evening at Westman Place. (Colin Corneau/The Brandon Sun)

Kaspick wasn’t worried that his second overtime playoff goal — his first came in his rookie season on April 15, 2015 to beat the Regina Pats 3-2 — would be waved off.

“I think it was never really that high when I had a chance to put it in anyways,” Kaspick said of the puck.

While it proved to be a happy ending for most of an enthusiastic crowd of 5,610 — there was a sizable contingent of Seattle fans in attendance — the game sure didn’t start that way.

The Thunderbirds dominated large stretches of the first period with their team speed and suffocating defence. In fact, Brandon took more than 10 minutes just to get a shot on net. 

But in any unlikely chain of events, the Wheat Kings opened the scoring 17:36 into the first period on a power play.

After Seattle penalty killers created a turnover and headed up the ice on a three-on-one, overage Wheat Kings centre Tim McGauley caught up to the play as it slowed in the Brandon slot, grabbing the puck and heading back up ice.

He sent it over to Reid Duke, who looked at two other Wheat King skaters on a Brandon three-on-one and then wristed a shot by Seattle netminder Landon Bow, sending Brandon to the dressing room ahead after 20 minutes with the lead despite being outshot 15-6.

Brandon head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon said his team improved as the game went on.

“I thought they had better legs than us, certainly in the first period,” he said. “The second I thought was a little more even and yet I still thought they were better than we were. I thought in the third and overtime we got going.”  

The Thunderbirds evened it up midway through the second period with a short-handed goal. Moments after giving up a long short-handed breakaway to Scott Eansor that Brandon starter Jordan Papirny made a nice glove save on, Seattle broke back in on a two-on-two and when Donovan Neuls’ shot hit a defender and bounced back to him, he scooped it up and sent it in.

Seattle took their first lead 28 seconds into the third period when Ryan Gropp carried the puck into the Brandon zone, skated around the Brandon defenders and outwaited Papirny to put his team up 2-1. The goal came on Seattle’s fourth power play of the game after Ivan Provorov was flagged for tripping nine seconds into the period.

Brandon tied it just over four minutes later when Nolan Patrick scored his 11th of the playoffs, lifting in the rebound off a shot from the point by Mitch Wheaton as Tyler Coulter screened Bow. 

The third period saw a noticeable shift in momentum. After being outshot 27-15 in the first two periods, Brandon launched 17 shots at Bow with Seattle managing just six.

“They were very much what we expected and prepared our team for,” McCrimmon said after the game. “Until you play them, you just don’t have that feel.”

In overtime, the shots were 10-0 for the Wheat Kings before the two Brandon products teamed up to score the winner 6:22 into extra time. It was Kaspick’s second winner of the playoffs, with the overtime goal on Friday coming two days after the WHL named him its scholastic player of the year.

Papirny made 31 saves for Brandon, with Bow stopping 39 shots for Seattle. 

“I thought that Jordan was dialled the whole night and probably was our most important player,” McCrimmon said. “He played his best when we needed it and without that it would be a completely different outcome.”

Both teams went one-for-five on the power play.

Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said his team simply has to be better, saying they turned more pucks over in the third period than in most entire playoff games. 

“I’m a little bit frustrated with the third period and the overtime,” he said. “We got ahead of ourselves but the first period and second period we were playing pretty good hockey and skating the way we want to and need to to have a chance to succeed here. That will be our challenge to get back on track.”

ICINGS: The Wheat Kings kept their lineup intact, scratching D Schael Higson, F Garrett Armour, F Caiden Daley and D/F Mark Matsuba … Seattle scratched D Bryan Allbee, F Owen Seidel, F Garan Magnes, F Luke Ormsby and D Luke Osterman … The Canadian Red Cross had a booth set up at the Keystone Centre that allowed fans to donate to relief efforts in Fort McMurray … Seattle’s 45 wins this season was the second highest total in franchise history. The Thunderbirds were 29-5-2-0 at home, their best mark since they went 31-4-1 in 1989-90 … Duke’s goal snapped a seven-game streak without one for the Brandon forward … Brandon has given up three short-handed goals in the playoffs.

» pbergson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @PerryBergson

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