Heading into Sunday night’s contest against the Pats, Wheat Kings’ overage forward Lynden McCallum had never scored a WHL hat-trick. That changed last night as he scored four times to lead the way to a 5-1 Wheat King win over the Pats.
The Wheat Kings’ (18-3-2-0) special teams were special as they scored four powerplay goals and a shorthanded goal on their way to clinch first place in the East Division.
McCallum scored all four of the powerplay goals in a span of fewer than three minutes to all but put the game away.
“Theirs were good, ours weren’t. Our powerplay was really bad tonight, it was poor, the worst It’s been all year,” explained Pats’ head coach Dave Struch as the Pats went 0-for-6 on the powerplay. “And our penalty kill wasn’t good.” The Pats’ penalty kill was successful on just 2-of-6 attempts.
“The special teams lost the game for us, there is no question. We just finished talking about how good they’ve been. They cost us tonight, for sure. We had chances on our powerplay and we didn’t do what we were supposed to. We talk about sticking to the process, guys went rogue on us tonight on the powerplay, and then our penalty kill wasn’t very good.”
Lots of pace through the first 20 minutes. The teams combined for 26 shots in period one, with the Pats having a 15-11 advantage. Despite the shot difference, the Wheat Kings were a better team in the first period.
Brandon struck first as Ridly Greig notched a shorthanded goal. Fresh off a faceoff win, the Wheat Kings led a rush into the Pat zone where Ben McCartney fed a pass to Grieg, who was left alone and made no mistake. His 10th goal of the season gave the Wheat Kings a 1-0 lead 7:53 into the first period.
The Pats came on strong to open the second period and the strong play paid off.
15-year-old Tanner Howe scored his first career goal 3:47 into the second on a beautiful snipe. His wrist shot across his body, from the left circle, beat Ethan Kruger short side. Easton Armstrong and Colby Wotton pick up helpers their first WHL assists on the 1-1 marker.
The period was even until the Pats ran into penalty trouble late in the second period. The Wheat Kings, particularly McCallum made the Pats pay.
The McCallum show began
McCallum took the puck and went hard to the Pat net, he fought off a Pat defender and placed a backhand behind Kieper. His 16th goal on the powerplay gave the Wheat Kings a 2-1 lead at 18:10. On that play, Tom Cadieux took a minor to give the Wheat Kings another powerplay.
McCallum struck again on the powerplay just 35 seconds later. A Ben McCartney point shot hit the backboards and came right to McCallum who made no mistake. His 17th goal of the season made it 3-1 at 18:45.
The Pats led 10-9 on the shot clock and 25-20 overall through forty minutes.
Carter Chorney took a double-minor just six seconds into the third period and the Wheat Kings capitalized. One Wheat King, in particular, made the Pats pay.
Just 27 seconds into the third period, McCallum notched his first career hat-trick as his shot trickled through and past Kieper. The powerplay marker, his 18th goal of the season, made it 4-1 Wheat Kings.
McCallum scored his fourth goal of the game (19th of the season) on the second penalty of the double-minor. His one-timer beat Kieper at 1:08 of the third to give the Wheat Kings a 5-1 lead.
A 5-1 lead was more than enough for the Wheat Kings.
“We don’t blame anything on Kieper, Kieper played really well for us,” said Struch of his starting goalie Matthew Kieper who made 25 saves in the game. ”We’ve liked his game this year.”
“It’s about the last five games, six games, and what we’ve done,” said Struch. “The development, the way we’ve won, the compete. Tonight, to see it all gone, it is disheartening. It’s unfortunate. These guys that are playing that way have been very fortunate. That they’ve gotten away with playing this way because we don’t have enough guys, we’ve been hurt all year and our numbers have diminished and these guys that play with fear, we’ve had to put them back out again, so they haven’t been made accountable.”
“As much as we’ve done and developed our game, our identity to a fast, physical, competitive team. We felt that we were taking a big step. I think we took some really big steps back tonight against a team that plays hard and physical and has some high-end players that do it.”
Heading into the last game Struch had this to say: “Play like we’re playing for something. We have to compete; we have to play with courage.”
Patterings: Schneider and McCartney each had four assists for the Wheat Kings… Ryker Evans’ point streak ended at 12-games…The Pats’ last game of the 2020-21 season is Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the Winnipeg ICE.