Red Deer, AB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings playoff fortunes took a turn for the worse Friday night as they dropped a disappointing 5-3 decision to the Rebels in Red Deer.
The hometown Rebels scored five unanswered goals – including four in the third – to wipe out a 3-0 second period deficit and stun the Wheat Kings, who have now dropped four of five games during this week’s critical 6-game Western Hockey League road trip.
With the loss, Brandon’s record slipped to 30-26-4-4 and ninth place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The comeback win pushed Red Deer into a tie with the Medicine Hat Tigers, who dropped a 5-3 decision to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Both the Tigers and Rebels sit two points up on the Wheat Kings in the battle for the final two playoff spots in the Conference and Red Deer has a game in hand.
Brandon will be facing a must win situation Saturday night when they close out this extended road trip – due to the Tim Hortons Brier occupying the Keystone Centre – against the Tigers in Medicine Hat.
As for Friday’s setback – the Wheat Kings scored the game’s only goal of the first and then came out flying in the second, scoring back to back goals and grabbing a 3-0 advantage.
However, Red Deer got on the board midway through the period with what was a controversial goal. With two players tangled up behind the play, it appeared one official blew the whistle to signal coincidental minors. At the same time though, Brandon Hagel’s shot beat Brandon netminder Jiri Patera and with the crowd going crazy, it was difficult to determine what action happened first. Following a discussion among the officials, the goal was ruled “good” and that seemed to turn the game in Red Deer’s favour.
A furious third period comeback by the home side resulted in four more goals for the Rebels, including the game winner by Zak Smith with three and a half minutes remaining in regulation time.
Ben McCartney, Chad Nychuk and captain Stelio Mattheos – with his 42nd goal of the season – scored in a losing cause for the Wheat Kings, while Cam Hausinger, Josh Tarzwell and Oleg Zaitsev rounded out the scoring for the winners.
Following Saturday’s game in Medicine Hat, Brandon will then return home to play two of its final three regular season games, beginning Wednesday night against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors at 7pm.
Wednesday is “Rain Check Night’, presented by Red River Mutual.
Fans with unused tickets (dated November 23rd to February 22nd) can exchange them at the Keystone Centre box office for a “free” ticket to this game (regular box office agency fees apply).
The Wheat Kings will then bring the curtain down on the regular season with a home and home weekend series against Regina.
Saturday night is Awards Night at Westoba Place, presented by the Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Centre.