WHEAT KINGS SWEEP SEASON SERIES WITH ICE IN OT THRILLER
The Brandon Wheat Kings (15-3-2) once again sit at the top of the East Division standings, getting an important two points in an overtime win over the Winnipeg ICE (13-5-1) on Sunday night. Wheat Kings captain Braden Schneider provided the heroics, exiting the penalty box in overtime and promptly firing a slapshot to score his fourth goal of the season and put the game on ice.
Ethan Kruger made 30 saves to earn his tenth win of the season for the Wheat Kings and rookie Daniel Hauser was handed his first WHL loss with 26 saves for the ICE.
Ben McCartney led all Brandon scorers with four assists while Schneider and Ridly Greig both chipped in a goal and an assist each. ICE forward Peyton Krebs had a goal and three assists, contributing on all of the goals scored by the ICE.
Brandon dominated the first period, overmatching Winnipeg in intensity and outshooting them 13-6. Nolan Ritchie opened the scoring at 11:13 in the first period after he drew a double minor penalty on Conor Geekie. Geekie got a high sticking penalty that drew blood, giving the Wheat Kings four minutes on the man advantage where Ritchie scored his 8th goal of the season by walking the puck deep into the ICE zone and beating Hauser’s glove.
The Wheat Kings increased their lead courtesy of a nice play by rookie Rylen Roersma. It looked like the ICE were going to clear their zone but Roersma collected the puck and wheeled back towards Winnipeg’s net, deking two ICE and sliding the puck between one of their legs to Marcus Sekundiak who chipped it over Hauser for his second of the season.
The ICE earned one back before the period was over, Jakin Smallwood scoring on the power play with only 25 seconds left before intermission. Owen Pederson tied the game for the ICE 4:08 into the second on their second power play of the game while Reid Perepeluk was in the box for Slashing.
Penalty trouble once again resulted in some tough sledding for Brandon as they put the ICE on the power play eight times in the game.
“There were some challenges tonight for sure,” said Wheat Kings head coach, Don MacGillivray. “We didn’t get the kills we needed to get at times that put us into a bad spot but our five-on-five play wasn’t good enough tonight and we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing”.
Before the second period was over, Neithan Salame was in the right place at the right time following a beautiful passing play from Ridly Greig and Ben McCartney to get the Wheat Kings a 3-2 lead.
The ICE owned the third period, scoring two unanswered from Connor McClennon at 8:16 and Peyton Krebs at 15:23 for their first lead of the game. Krebs leads all WHL scorers with 10G-25-35pts and showed why he has been such a force in the East Division hub so far this season. With Brandon in and out of the penalty box all period, the momentum had shifted firmly in Winnipeg’s favour.
But the Wheat Kings showed resilience, pulling Kruger with a minute and a half remaining and adding an extra attacker to look for a goal. Before Kruger had a chance to get onto the bench, Ridly Greig found a loose puck between the ICE’s hashmarks and fired home his ninth of the season to tie the game.
Before regulation expired, Schneider was called for Checking to the Head which meant Brandon was down a man to begin overtime.
After playing 4 on 3 in their own zone for the majority of overtime, McCartney was bringing the puck up the ice just as Schneider’s penalty expired.
“I was watching it and I saw that it was a rim out and I was right at the door waiting for the green light from the workers in the box,” said Schneider. “And as soon as he said ‘go’ I knew right where it was going to be coming to so I was ready for it”.
“We like to win, that’s one thing I do know,” said MacGillivray following the victory. “Our guys are used to winning, we ant to win, and not every game’s going to be pretty. Sometimes you have to grind it out and sometimes you have to work through some adversity.”
Though they were happy with the win, after dominating the play in the first period and looking to be in control of the game, the Wheat Kings wound up needing late game heroics to eke out a win for the extra point. MacGillivray said his team got away from some of the things that were giving them success in the first period.
“We stopped moving the puck, we starting going backwards with the puck, we started turning pucks over in the neutral zone,” said MacGillivray. “We started making the game easy for them. They were just coming in waves and we couldn’t get guys off and on to the ice, we had extended shifts, everything just compounded.”
“It’s a good teaching point for our guys. We’ll be able to look at the video from the first period and show them the things we were doing well, getting in and out of our zone quickly and then in the second and third periods, how slow we were moving the puck and how we didn’t get the puck to their goal line.”
“I think when we got up, we stopped moving our feet and started getting a little too fancy,” said Schneider, who now leads all East Division defencemen with 24 points. “In the first period we were getting it deep and putting shots on net and playing tight in the neutral zone and I think we got away from our game a little bit. We were playing on the outside and reaching in and whenever you do that you don’t give yourself a good chance. So I thought we were playing a little bit on our heels but in saying that, we battled through it and were fortunate enough to come out with the extra point.”
The Wheat Kings get a two-day break before they get back to their division race with a game against the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday at 5 PM. With only four games remaining in their season, they will face the Broncos on Wednesday, the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday and the Regina Pats on Sunday before facing the Saskatoon Blades on the 28th.