Red-hot Brandon Wheat Kings hold on for 2-1 win over Regina Pats

Luka Burzan's goal 7:11 into the third period stood up as the game-winner for the Brandon Wheat Kings in a 2-1 decision over the Regina Pats.

Share Adjust Comment Print

The Brandon Wheat Kings have caught fire in the second half of the season.

The Regina Pats got burned by one of the WHL’s hottest teams on Monday as they dropped a close-fought 2-1 decision in front of 5,409 fans during a Family Day matinee at the Brandt Centre.

Regina (19-29-3-2) was playing its first game since going 1-2-0 on a mini Alberta road trip. That was preceded by the team’s longest winning streak of the season (five games).

On Monday, Brandon snapped the Pats’ home-ice winning streak at three games — doing so by the slimmest of margins.

“They played a real hard game; I give them a lot of credit,” said Wheat Kings head coach Dave Lowry, whose team was outshot 26-24. “They wouldn’t go away. We had chances. Their goalie made saves. Both goalies played extremely well and it’s only fitting that it went down to the end.”

After a scoreless first period, Brandon’s Ben McCartney provided the ice breaker 5:29 into the second when he redirected a shot past netminder Donovan Buskey.

Regina failed to capitalize on a subsequent four-minute power play, going 0-for-5 with the man advantage in the game’s first 30-plus minutes.

In the end, it cost them.

“We definitely have to clean up our power play a bit,” said veteran forward Robbie Holmes. “We had a lot of chances on the power play. We just have to go back and watch some video and fix it.”

Brandon added an insurance goal 7:11 into the third when Vincent Iorio’s point shot went in off the skate of teammate Luka Burzan, who was stationed near the right goal post.

Drew Englot made things interesting when he jammed a rebound past goalie Ethan Kruger with 2:41 left in regulation. Regina pulled Buskey for an extra attacker with a minute remaining but the visitors held on for the victory.

“We lacked a little bit of skill in our playmaking tonight; that probably cost us the game,” said Pats head coach Dave Struch. “We felt good about our play without the puck. We did so many things right. There was no quit.”

That said, it ultimately went in the books as another victory for the Wheat Kings (30-20-3-2), who turned their season around with 10 straight wins early in the second half.

As a result, they sit third in the East Division, just four points back of the Prince Albert Raiders and Winnipeg Ice in the race for first place.

“In November we wouldn’t have put ourselves in that position,” Lowry admitted. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve grown as a group and we’ve made it exciting.”

Struch isn’t surprised.

“They’re a good team,” said the Pats’ head coach, whose squad was coming off a 5-3 upset win over the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings. “A lot of times when you have an emotional victory like we did there, you come out flat. Our guys came out (hard) tonight against another real good team.

“At one point we thought we were in a position to close the gap on them (in the standings) and they took off. They’re playing great hockey. They showed it here tonight but our guys stuck with them right until the end.”

Regina is slated to visit Prince Albert on Tuesday before returning home for three games in three days, beginning Friday versus the Saskatoon Blades.