A late third period push by the Brandon Wheat Kings wasn’t enough to help them overcome the QMJHL champions.
The WHL champs opened the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament with a loss Saturday night, falling 5-3 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in round robin play at the ENMAX Centrium.
“I thought we did too many things tonight that you can’t do and expect to win,” said Wheat Kings’ Head Coach/GM Kelly McCrimmon after the close defeat, which saw Huskies score five straight goals in the first and second periods and ultimately hold on for the victory.
The Wheaties started the game out on the right foot early in the first period when Reid Duke jammed a loose puck past Huskies’ goaltender Chase Marchand to give his team a 1-0 just 2:44 seconds into the game.
“I didn’t think we did a good job with the lead. We had a power-play when we were leading the game 1-0 and we didn’t generate anything and when they scored their first goal, for me, that had been coming for a few shifts,” McCrimmon said of his team’s play in the first period.
Brandon managed to hold on to the lead until the midway point of the first when Huskies’ forward Anthony-John Greer slotted one past Wheaties’ goaltender Jordan Papirny to knot the game up at one goal a piece.
From that point until the third period it was all Huskies.
The Wheat Kings managed to hold the pressing Rouyn offense at bay until the final two minutes of the first, when Gabriel Fontaine found the back of the net for the Huskies to give the Quebec team their first lead of the game.
Just 1:03 later, Huskies’ star Timo Meier potted his first of two on the night to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead heading into the second period.
“We didn’t respond well enough getting to the intermission. Instead of 1-1 or 2-1, it was a 3-1 game by the time we were done the first period,” McCrimmon said.
“He’s a very important player for us for sure. He brings for us a lot of speed. He’s strong physically, good at puck protection, good shot,” said Huskies’ Head Coach/GM Gilles Bouchard of Meier, whose two goals earned him first star honours on the night.
The second period didn’t go a whole lot better for Brandon, as Rouyn potted two more markers to take a 5-1 lead heading into the final frame.
McCrimmon said a lack of discipline played a key role in the Wheat Kings’ struggles in the second period.
“We actually had a pretty decent start to the period. I thought we were better. And then we took three straight minors. So when you talk about the things that you can’t do, you can’t do all of those things.”
But the Wheat Kings didn’t quit, holding the Huskies scoreless through the final frame and striking back with a pair of goals of their own.
The first came halfway through the second when Tyler Coulter managed to find the loose puck in a jumble in front of the Huskies’ net and slide it in in the process.
But it was the second Wheat Kings goal of the period that will end up making the highlight reels, as Brandon forward John Quennville was sprung by a long pass out of the Brandon zone.
The Edmonton product made no mistake on the ensuing one-on-one as he head-faked Marchand, put his stick between his legs and flipped it into the top shelf.
It wasn’t enough, though, as the Wheat Kings eventually fell 5-3 despite outshooting Rouyn-Noranda 41-29.
The Wheat Kings aren’t back in action until Monday night when they face off against the London Knights. The Huskies are back in action tomorrow when they take on the host Red Deer Rebels. That game gets underway at 5 p.m.