Friday night, it was leading scorer Tim McGauley doing the heavy lifting to help the Brandon Wheat Kings to victory. On Saturday, it was goaltender Jordan Papirny standing on his head and guiding his team to a 4-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice.
The win maintained a 12-game point streak for the Wheat Kings, who are 11-0-0-1 since Jan. 11.
“For us, it’s just keeping it simple and sticking to our game plan of getting the puck deep, getting on the cycle and making it tough on the other team’s [defense],” Papirny said Saturday night. “For us, it’s been sticking with that and keeping it simple. Our special teams have been really good for us and that’s really beneficial.”
Papirny wasn’t lying when he said the Wheat Kings special teams help to get the job done. The WHL’s top-ranked power play heading into the weekend struck twice on four opportunities Saturday night.
Morgan Klimchuk gave the visitors a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal 6:49 into the third period. After Zak Zborosky got the hosts on the board and cut the Wheat Kings lead to 3-1, Reid Duke restored the three-goal advantage for the Wheat Kings with a power-play tally 12:39 into the final period.
“Sometimes we had some good moments and sometimes we had some bad moments,” Zborosky said Saturday night. “With a good team like that, you’ve got to be playing a full 60 [minutes]. You can’t give them any chance to get into the game, otherwise that’s what happens — they score goals.”
On top of the 50-per-cent success rate on the man advantage, the Wheat Kings blanked the Ice on four of their own power-play opportunities.
Though the Wheat Kings special teams took care of business in the final 40 minutes, Papirny carried his share of the weight in the first period, making a number of critical stops — in particular, two on Ryan Chynoweth in tight and another with his noggin on a Luke Philp snapshot.
In all, the 18-year-old native of Edmonton kept the Ice off the scoresheet in a first period that saw the hosts outshoot the guests by a decisive margin of 11-2. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Ice had outshot the Wheat Kings 32-24.
“For myself, the mission never changes,” Papirny said. “As a goalie, there’s times where things are going well for myself and the boys are there to bail me out. Then there’s times like tonight where we get outshot and I’ve got to be on my game.”
Papirny was on his game Saturday, earning his WHL-leading 33rd victory of the campaign. After being passed over in his first year of eligibility at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Papirny is certainly being noticed heading into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft as he was listed 25th amongst North American goaltenders on the NHL Central Scouting Service’s midseason rankings.
McGauley opened the scoring 7:23 into the first period, tallying his 34th of the campaign and extending 10-game point streak. Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick doubled the lead 5:40 into the second period. McGauley and Patrick each recorded multi-point efforts (1G, 1A) for the Wheat Kings.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin made 20 saves.
The Wheat Kings wrap up a five-game road trip Sunday afternoon when they visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The game will mark the fourth in five nights for Brandon.
“It’s obviously important, especially coming down the playoff time,” Papirny said. “The points are huge if we want to get that first seed. For us, it’s getting rest when we need it and keeping it simple.”
Life doesn’t get easier for the Kootenay Ice, who are set to host the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers Wednesday night.
Notes: The Kootenay Ice scratched D Bryan Allbee, D Dylan Overdyk, F Austin Wellsby and D Tanner Faith (shoulder, four to six months) Saturday night…the Brandon Wheat Kings went without G Alex Moodie (upper body), D Mark Taraschuk, F Jayce Hawryluk (upper body), F John Quenneville (upper body) and D Mark Matsuba…