Wheat Kings get upper hand in special teams battle with 5-3 win over Raiders

Tyson Zimmer battles with Nolan Allan and Reece Vitelli in the corner for the loose puck. -–Chelsea Kemp/The Brandon Sun

The Brandon Wheat Kings used the help of two powerplay goals as well as a shorthanded marker to beat the Raiders 5-3 on Friday night at Westoba Place. Prince Albert struck twice on their own powerplays, but Ethan Kruger was a monster in the Brandon goal otherwise, making 34 saves in goal for the Wheaties. Tikhon Chaika made 14 saves in goal for the Raiders as they fell in their first game of their three game road trip.

“We beat ourselves tonight and took some bad penalties,” head coach Marc Habscheid said. “We made some glaring errors and I thought our structure wasn’t as good as it could have been. We outshot them badly, but we just made too many mistakes.”

The Raiders couldn’t have imagined a worse start to the game, as they surrendered the opening goal just 13 seconds into the first period, shortly after the opening faceoff. A dump in try was knocked out of the air and the puck came right to the stick of Nolan Ritchie. The play developed into a 2-1, where Ritchie slipped a cross crease pass to Jake Chiasson, and he was able to elevate a one timer over Chaika’s glove. The tally put the Wheat Kings up 1-0 early into the contest.

The hot stick of Reece Vitelli tied things up later in the frame, scoring his fourth goal in a three game stretch. Vlad Shilo set the goal up, sending a pass behind his back in front for the Raider captain, and Vitelli was able to bury his 24th goal of the season far side past Ethan Kruger. After giving up the early lead, Prince Albert found the equalizer six minutes later.

The tie didn’t stay intact for long, as the Wheat Kings jumped back in front. From the corner, Nate Danielson worked his way into the left circle, where he surveyed his options. He spotted a cutting Tyson Zimmer. Near the net, Zimmer took the pass and buried a shot past Chaika, who just couldn’t stretch enough to make the save, as the shot beat his glove, and Brandon took a 2-1 lead as a result.

After a questionable goaltender interference call on Cale Sanders, the Wheat Kings wasted little time converting on the ensuing man advantage. Just 17 seconds into the powerplay, Ritchie was able to score a goal of his own after getting a helper on the opening goal of the contest. Right from the slot, Ritchie picked the glove side on Chaika again. 12:42 into the game, there were already four goals scored, but three of them to the Wheat Kings, as they went up 3-1.

The Raiders refused to go away in the first, as they got back to within one goal, in similar fashion to Brandon’s first goal. Evan Herman led a two on one rush into the offensive zone, with Landon Kosior streaking down the right wing. From the left circle, Herman sent a feed to the crease for Kosior, who buried a quick shot glove side on Kruger. In what was becoming a goal fest, it became a 3-2 game with just under six minutes to go in the opening frame.

Leading 11-10 in shots, the Raiders went into the dressing room trailing 3-2 after the opening 20 minutes.

Brandon went back up by a pair on a penalty kill 6:57 into the second period. After registering a goal and an assist in the first period alone, Ritchie scored his second of the night on a shorthanded breakaway. A great defensive play by Riley Ginnell lead to the Ritchie’s breakaway. A lead feed had Ritchie in all alone on Chaika, and he made a forehand to backhand move to open up the five hole, and he was able to slip a shot through Chaika’s legs and in. The goal restored the Wheat Kings’ two goal lead, as they went up 4-2.

The Wheat Kings made it a 5-2 lead on another powerplay goal with 6:25 to go in the second. From behind the Raider goal, Chiasson sent a hard pass in front for Ginnell, who was parked on the doorstep. With Nolan Allan and Sloan Stanick late to check his stick, Ginnell buried a shot far side on Chaika. Two goals in around a seven minute stretch gave Brandon a commanding 5-2 lead midway through the middle frame.

A stoppage in the second period resulted in a near line brawl between the two teams, with a yard sale of sticks and gloves on the ice. Four penalties were handed out on the play, including fighting majors to Allan and Vincent Iorio. Habscheid hinted at Prince Albert’s emotions getting the best of them in that second period.

“They get emotional and they want to win,” he said. “They’re ticked off that they’re behind in the game, and P.A and Brandon has always been a rivalry, so it is what it is.”

The Raiders had chances aplenty in the third period to draw closer, but Kruger shut the door, denying Hayden Pakkala and Dallyn Peekeekoot of the more dangerous Prince Albert chances.

While there weren’t as many goals in the third period, the offense was replaced by an entertaining fight between rookies Zachary Wilson and Owen Wilson. A spirited affair that Wilson got the upper hand in provided the Raiders with at least more energy to end the contest.

Sloan Stanick was able to make it a 5-3 game in the final minute of the third period, converting on a pretty tic tac toe play on a man advantage, but it was too little, too late, as the Wheat Kings emerged 5-3 winners.

“We can’t allow five goals,” Habscheid added. “We don’t have enough firepower to get six. We can usually only get three at the most. We can’t allow five, there’s no way. (Brandon’s) goalie played pretty well, but at the same time, we can’t allow five. As much as we want to score, we have to defend better.”

The Raiders are back in action on Saturday night in Winnipeg.