Brandon, MB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings brought the curtain up on their 2018-19 Western Hockey League season Friday night with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors at Westoba Place.
The game, played before over 4,900 fans, was the first of a weekend home and home series between the two clubs. Moose Jaw will host Brandon on Saturday night.
20-year old defenceman Schael Higson, fresh off a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights’ National Hockey League training camp, scored what turned out to be the game winner at the sixteen mark of the second period. He also added an assist on Stelio Mattheos’ first period goal.
“I thought we had a good start to the hockey game,” head coach David Anning told the Brandon Sun’s Perry Bergson. “I liked our energy and thought that we fed off of our crowd tonight. We had an outstanding atmosphere in the building and were really encouraged by our first period of play.”
“I think that our game slowed down a little bit,” Anning added. “It was just a little bit scrambly so there are some areas we would like to work on, but overall for our first night, we saw a lot of positives.”
Trailing 2-0 in the second, Justin Almeida got Moose Jaw on the board seven minutes into the second and that was the end of the scoring, even though the Warriors did get a puck past Brandon netminder Jiri Patera later in the frame. However, upon video review, it was judged a high stick and the goal was waved off much to the delight of the crowd.
In making his first regular season start in the WHL, Patera was solid in the Brandon net, making a number of key saves with the game on the line, including one in the final minutes of the third.
The goalkeeper, who became the first ever European to play goal for the Wheat Kings, made 28 saves for the Wheat Kings while Adam Evanoff turned aside 34 in a losing cause.
“First game, first win; 2-1 is a good score for a goalie,” said Patera, who was Brandon’s second selection in June’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. “I’m very happy.”
Two highly touted 16-year old rookies took to the ice in Friday’s opener, including center Ridly Greig and defenceman Vincent Iorio, Brandon’s first two selections in the 2017 Bantam Draft.
Following Saturday’s game in Moose Jaw, the Wheat Kings will begin preparations for next Saturday’s home game against Lethbridge.
The first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive an official 2018-19 fridge magnet schedule, courtesy of Manitoba Hydro.
Tickets to Saturday’s game as well as all remaining regular season home games will go on sale Tuesday morning at the Keystone Centre box office. Fans will also be able to order online at keystonecentre.com or by calling the box office at (204) 726-3555.
Photo Courtesy of Brandi Pollock