WHEAT KINGS RETURN HOME ON STREAK
Story Courtesy of Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun – The Brandon Wheat Kings are finally home after a nine-day, six-game road trip, and the Western Hockey League’s comeback kids are on a tear.
On Saturday, Stelio Mattheos tied the game late and won it in overtime for the second time in a week as the visiting Wheat Kings stunned the Medicine Hat Tigers 5-4 at Canalta Centre. Not only did it push the team’s winning streak to five games, it also equalled last season’s total of nine road victories in just 14 tries. In fact, Brandon has won all seven games it has played in Alberta this season.
Perhaps most impressively, the team rebounded from multi-goal deficits twice in the third period in the last week in games they went on to win.
Brandon head coach David Anning, whose team improved to 19-7-0-1 and moved within a point of the Swift Current Broncos for second place in the East Division, said it was a good two-week stretch for his group.
“If you look at the trip as a whole, we played fairly well overall,” Anning said. “I thought we competed hard, we worked hard and if you take a few lapses out in a couple of the games, we had a good effort overall. It’s not easy going out on the road and I thought our guys had the right approach and made the most of it. We were a tighter knit group coming out of the trip as a result. We’re happy with getting points on the road and we’re happy with getting results on the road. Now we need to keep pushing forward.”
The Wheat Kings play at home again for the first time since Nov. 19 on Wednesday when they host the Regina Pats at Westman Place at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the Wheat Kings built up a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by redhot Evan Weinger and Tanner Kaspick despite being outshot 19-7. But when the Tigers struck three times in the middle frame, a Brandon team playing its sixth game in nine days found a way to claw back.
Similar to their four-goal comeback in Red Deer against the Rebels on Tuesday, an early tally in the third period was an important turning point for the Wheat Kings.
Brandon drew back within a goal two minutes into the final frame when Kale Clague’s shot hit Baron Thompson’s skate and went in past Medicine Hat starting goalie Michael Bullion.
Mattheos then put a puck into the air that bounced in off Medicine Hat defender Dylan MacPherson to tie the game with 4:11 remaining.
After taking a penalty late in regulation, Mattheos hopped out of the penalty box in overtime, skated into a two-on-one that had developed and one-timed Clague’s pass for the game-winner. If that sounds familiar, it’s almost exactly what he did in the 6-5 overtime victory over the Rebels, tying the game late and then winning it in extra time.
Brandon overage netminder Logan Thompson made 41 saves for the Wheat Kings, with Bullion stopping 25 shots for the Tigers.
David Quenneville, former Wheat King Jaeger White, Ryan Chyzowski and Tyler Preziuso replied for Medicine Hat (16-10-1-0), which leads the Central Division.
Anning said Mattheos, who now has 21 goals in 27 games this season, including two short-handed goals and seven game-winners, has been very good lately.
“I thought Stels had a good trip,” Anning said. “He obviously is producing for us, he’s scoring very timely, important goals for our group. He’s a guy that we rely on offensively to produce and he’s doing exactly that. He has played up the middle for the majority of the year but (Saturday) partway through the game we moved him over to the wing and he didn’t miss a beat. It’s nice to have that at your disposal where you can use him in different situations and positions. I think he’s a guy who is dangerous every time he’s on the ice.”
Mattheos has now scored in seven of his last 10 games.
Equally hot is Weinger, who has nine goals in his last seven games, including three game-opening markers.