REGINA – Brayden Yager scored twice and matched his career-high for points in a game with three, but the Moose Jaw Warriors (7-9-1) fell 8-3 to the Brandon Wheat Kings (13-3-2) Tuesday.
The defeat moved the Warriors even on points with the Regina Pats in fourth-place in the Subway WHL Standings with seven games remaining.
“The time has gone by fast here,” said Moose Jaw head coach Mark O’Leary post-game, “so I think there needs to be some urgency from our group in terms of ‘you only have so many more kicks at the can’,
“I am hoping for a more inspired effort on Thursday (vs. Prince Albert).”
The contest began just like the last matchup between the two clubs: waves of Brandon pressure.
Ty Thorpe made that pressure count 4:34 in, as he jammed home a rebound from a Braden Schneider point shot to give the Wheat Kings a deserved early lead.
Thorpe notched his second of the game, and third of the season, from the doorstep after Brett Mirwald failed to handle a rebound from a long Neithan Salame wrister, and the Warriors defencemen were unable to tie up the 2002-born Brandon forward under four minutes later.
Ben McCartney found Vincent Iorio in the middle of the ice in plenty of space and his rocket beat Mirwald over the glove at 14:35 to make it 3-0.
This time Moose Jaw would respond quickly as Brayden Yager steamed down the left-wing and launched a bullet past Connor Ungar only 19 seconds later, but the Warriors’ elation did not last long.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) April 13, 2021
Nolan Ritchie’s long shot on a power play glanced off Mirwald and in, and that signaled the end of the night for the rookie, as he was thus replaced by Boston Bilous after giving up four goals on 18 shots.
For the second game in a row, Moose Jaw had spotted Brandon a first-period four-spot.
“For our start, I don’t want to lump everyone in the same basket,” O’Leary said.
“We had some guys that were late to the party, and some guys that never arrived. It’s tough, you come into a game against a pretty good team, you would think that (some of our guys) would be a little (more) inspired to be their best, but we did not have enough guys that were willing to pay the price in terms of what it takes to win a hockey game. As a coach it’s frustrating, and it should be frustrating for the players.”
Lynden McCallum added another goal six minutes into the second for Brandon, when he put in his team-leading 11th of the season; but if there is one thing these Warriors have proven over the Hub, it’s that they rarely know when to quit.
First it was Yager again, with a snipe from the high slot off a neat low-to-high feed from Daemon Hunt at 12:15, and then on a Moose Jaw power play, Jagger Firkus’ rocket beat Ungar clean; and all of a sudden it was a two-goal Wheat Kings lead, and the momentum was on the Warriors’ side.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 13, 2021
Yager also assisted on Firkus’ goal, and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft thus had his second career three-point night.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on (Yager),” O’Leary said.
“I know he has standards for what he expects of his career, and he expects of himself, and I know those are the standards of very good players who play a long time at a very high level. The sky is the limit for him, not just because of the ability, but because of his dedication and work ethic towards being a great player. He is constantly looking for ways to improve, and that’s what sets the good apart from the great: the competitiveness to be great, and he’s willing to do whatever that takes, and it’ll be exciting and a lot of fun to watch.”
Ottawa Senators’ prospect Ridly Greig score a late one on a Brandon man-advantage as he snuck a wrister from the right half wall just inside the post to the right of Bilous with 36 seconds left in the middle frame, and the back-and-forth momentum was back with the Wheat Kings.
We've had 9️⃣ goals through 2️⃣ periods today in the #SubwayWHL Hub.
Here's one from @Senators prospect Ridly Greig!
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 13, 2021
Tyson Zimmer cashed Brandon’s third power-play goal and seventh of the contest at the 4:41-mark of the third, and that finally seemed to let the air fully out of the Moose Jaw balloon.
The Warriors finished the game with the WHL’s fourth worst penalty kill at 73%.
“I think it hurts losing (two of our key penalty killers) Logan Doust and Calder Anderson,” he said.
“But I think even before they were out, our penalty kill has struggled. I don’t want to go into too many details, but it has to be done by committee with the players that are out there, and right now they aren’t doing the job.”
Reid Perepeluk added a late one for the Wheat Kings to rub salt in the Moose Jaw wounds.
Note: It was the Warriors’ first game without Denton Mateychuk, who began his self-isolation in preparation of joining Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championships in Texas at the end of April; it was the second time during the season that Brandon had scored eight on Moose Jaw