Head coach Dave Lowry challenged the Brandon Wheat Kings’ best players this week to play their best. They certainly delivered on Friday.
Brandon goalie Jiri Patera made 40 saves, Luka Burzan scored once and added an assist. Braden Schneider and Ben McCartney had the other goals as the Wheat Kings beat the visiting Vancouver Giants 3-0 in Western Hockey League action at Westoba Place on Friday.
Brandon, which improved to 2-3-0-0, entertains the Edmonton Oil Kings tonight at 7:30. Vancouver fell to 3-3-0-0 in front of a crowd of 3,208.
"We played good as a group," Patera said. "I saw almost every single shot and I was actually kind of lucky in a few moments there because it hit a few bars."
Lowry was understandably pleased with the result from what was arguably his team’s most inspired effort of the new season.
"I thought it was a complete game from our group," he said. "I really liked the intensity level and I really liked the way we were prepared to start a hockey game … Our goalie gave us a real good chance to win a hockey game tonight, and we challenged our best players. If we were going to win tonight, we needed our best players to be our best players."
Brandon opened the scoring exactly 19 minutes into what was an entertaining, back-and-forth opening frame. McCartney scooped up the puck in the neutral zone, beat a Giants defender, swung back in front of the net and put the puck between the legs of Vancouver starting goalie Trent Miner, a Souris product whose family now lives in Brandon.
The Wheat Kings increased the lead eight minutes into the middle frame during a five-on-three man advantage. Ridly Greig picked up the puck near the point, skated in along the boards toward the net, fired a pass across the crease and Burzan one-timed it past a lunging Miner on the back-door play.
"It was a good power play," Burzan said. "That was a great pass by Rids, I just had to put it in."
Marcus Sekundiak had a glorious chance to make it 3-0 soon after during a Vancouver power play when he stripped Bowen Byram of the puck but Miner made a pair of fine saves to rob him of what would have been his first goal of the year.
Greig then struck iron on a power play shortly after, a favour returned on Vancouver’s next man advantage when Byram dinged a shot off the crossbar. Vancouver would draw iron again before the period ended.
Brandon put the game away midway through the third period during their sixth power play. Greig ripped a shot that Miner blocked, but Schneider pounced on the rebound and sent it into the open net for his first goal of the season.
"I (passed) to Rids and I thought that I would go to the net because I saw he would be shooting," Schneider said. "I got a good rebound and put’er away. I had an open cage."
The win was Brandon’s first of the year at Westoba Place. Burzan said it came as the result of a strong week of preparation.
"We had a good practice every day this week and had to work on a few things," he said. "I think we did a great job tonight of applying those things we worked on in practice and playing a full 60 minutes so I’m proud of the guys tonight."
Brandon went 2-for-9 on the power play, with Vancouver scoreless in seven chances in the penalty-filled game.
Miner stopped 29 shots for the Giants.
Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck said his team played well enough to win in many ways.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," Dyck said. "Any time you can get 40 shots in this building, there are a lot of good things. We needed to have better discipline but I didn’t think we got a very good break on the five-on-three. That was a real bad call, but it is what it is. They made the most of their opportunities and we didn’t. We had a lot of opportunities and we just didn’t finish, and their goaltender played well."
ICINGS: Brandon’s healthy scratches were D Vinny Iorio, F Bode Hagan and F Riley Ginnell … There were a pair of deals in the WHL on Friday, with Vancouver sending overager Owen Hardy to the Moose Jaw Warriors for a sixth-round pick in 2023. Meanwhile, the Kamloops Blazers sent a second-round pick in 2020 to the Prince Albert Raiders for overage defenceman Max Martin. The deal came after the Anaheim Ducks returned overage defenceman Zack Hayes to the Raiders … The Spokane Chiefs reassigned Virden product Grady Lane to the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League on Friday … Brandonite Ryan White has made the opening day of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose … Briley Wood of Rivers signed with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. The 16-year-old forward is playing with the U18 AAA Yellowhead Chiefs this season.
» Twitter: @PerryBergson