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 over the Kootenay Ice.
The Wheat Kings used a four-goal third period to earn a 5-3 come-from-behind win Friday before cruising to a 4-1 victory Saturday night.
Saturday's 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 Saturday night.
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.
For the Ice, Saturday's loss came on the heels of a game that was well within their grasp Friday night. The hosts built a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes of play, before the Wheat Kings stormed back in the third period.
“We were playing our game at the start of the first two periods and we sort of sat back in the third and let them play their game,” said Kootenay Ice forward Levi Cable Friday night. “Tomorrow, we need to come out and play our game all throughout the whole game.
“We had a strong start. Everyone was going. Our passing was on and we were getting pucks to the net in the first two periods."
Quintin Lisoway kickstarted the Wheat Kings come back 4:15 into the third period with his eighth goal of the season.
But it was Eric Roy and McGauley doing the deepest damage that ultimately killed the Kootenay Ice.
Roy tied the game 3-3 with his fourth goal of the season after grabbing a rebound out of the air, dropping it to his stick and quickly finding twine behind a helpless Hoflin at the 7:33 mark of the third period.
On the ensuing face-off, the Wheat Kings controlled the puck and carried into Kootenay Ice territory. From there, defenceman Colton Waltz let go of a long point shot and a cruising McGauley redirected it past Hoflin for a 4-3 Brandon Wheat Kings lead. It was the first time the Wheat Kings led in the game.
The two tallies from Roy and McGauley came over the course of a lightning-quick 15 seconds.
Life doesn’t get easier for the Kootenay Ice, who are set to host the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers Wednesday night.
“Every two points matter a lot now — they always did all season — but now they’re magnified if you win or lose,” Cable said Friday. “These next 20-some games we’ve got are going to be huge for us.”
The Ice have 18 games remaining on their regular-season schedule.
The pair of losses drop the Ice into the second wild-card slot in the WHL's Eastern Conference, as the Edmonton Oil Kings moved past into the first wild-card seed with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Prince George Cougars Saturday night.
Notes: Kootenay Ice F Jaedon Descheneau tallied the 250th point of his WHL career with an assist Friday night…The Kootenay Ice scratched D Bryan Allbee, D Dylan Overdyk, F Austin Wellsby and D Tanner Faith (shoulder, four to six months) both nights…the Brandon Wheat Kings went both nights without G Alex Moodie (upper body), D Mark Taraschuk, F Jayce Hawryluk (upper body), F John Quenneville (upper body) and D Mark Matsuba…
Video highlights - Brandon Wheat Kings 4 at Kootenay Ice 1 (Feb. 7, 2015):