Wednesday night in Brandon couldn’t end soon enough for the Kootenay Ice.
When the buzzer finally sounded, mercifully, the host Wheat Kings skated away with a decisive 11-1 victory.
“We were as bad as we’ve been and they were probably as good as they can be,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, over the phone from Brandon following Wednesday’s loss. “The combination of those two doesn’t bode well for us. I don’t know if we had memories of the last time we were here or what the issue was from that standpoint. But it was not a real good effort from our group.”
The last time the Kootenay Ice visited Brandon — Oct. 9, 2015 — the Wheat Kings pounded the visitors by a 13-1 final.
While Wednesday’s outcome wasn’t quite as bad, it was of no consolation for Pierce.
“It’s embarrassing to have it happen again, there’s no question,” Pierce said. “You want to come in and redeem yourself. To see it happen again, it’s pretty tough to take. We’re going to have to try and move on.”
The Wheat Kings were good early, often and right up until the final buzzer Wednesday night, dominating the Ice in every facet of the game.
“We had hard work and contributions from a lot of people,” Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun. “Offensively it was a really good game for our team. I was encouraged. I never saw any selfishness and we didn’t cut any corners. We played pretty hard from start to finish.
“They had some success against Spokane on the weekend and we wanted to have a good start to the game and play them real tough. I thought we did. As well as we started, I thought we took some momentum away from them.”
Jayce Hawryluk started the onslaught 4:50 into the first period, putting a power-play goal past Ice netminder Wyatt Hoflin.
By the time the night ended, Hawryluk — a 20-year-old Florida Panthers prospect — had collected two goals and four assists for six points.
Nolan Patrick gave the hosts a 2-0 lead, scoring what stood as the eventual game-winning goal later in the period, before Tyler Coulter scored his first of three goals on the night to close out the opening 20 minutes.
Coulter, a 19-year-old Brandon product, added a second-period tally before completing the hat trick 2:29 into the third period. In all, the 6-foot, 194-pound winger registered five points in the contest.
Also adding goals for the Wheat Kings were Stelio Mattheos, Ty Lewis, Ivan Provorov, Kale Clague and Jordan Thomson.
Only Matt Alfaro managed to beat Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson.
Midway through the second period, Zak Zborosky made good on a turnover at the Brandon blue line, skating the puck deep before finding Alfaro in the slot for his 17th of the season.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Alfaro’s goal didn’t put much of a dent in the deficit as the Wheat Kings still led 6-1.
Thompson made 17 saves for his 14th victory of the campaign.
At the other end, both Kootenay goaltender saw crease time.
After Hoflin was given the start, Declan Hobbs came on in relief after the Lewis made it 6-0 for the hosts.
The rookie Hobbs finished out the second period, giving up one goal on nine shots over 13:15 of crease time, before Hoflin returned for the third period.
“I thought [Hoflin’s return] really energized our group,” Pierce said. “I thought it sparked our group a little bit.
“We talked in the intermission about playing for our leaders. For the most part, our leaders played well tonight and I criticize those guys a lot and hold them accountable on everything. Once in a while, I think people need to recognize how hard they’re working.
“Even in that situation, for our leaders to work the way they did, it’s encouraging. Wyatt Hoflin is part of that leadership group… I asked if he wanted to go back in and he was adamant that he did.”
When the night was finally done, the 21-year-old native of Spruce Grove, Alta., had been victimized 10 times on 38 shots.
The Ice (10-42-5-0) will try to put Wednesday behind them when they visit the Regina Pats (26-23-3-4) Friday night.
Notes: The Ice were without LW Austin Wellsby (upper body) and C Dylan Stewart (upper body) Wednesday…