Wheaties take advantage of Rebels penalties, tie series at 2-2
Wheat Kings 3 Rebels 1
BRANDON — The Brandon Wheat Kings’ power play wasn’t going to be denied forever.
A dreadful zero-for-17 on the power play through the first three games of a WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final with the Red Deer Rebels, the Wheat Kings notched a pair of man-advantage goals in a 3-1 win Wednesday.
Marcus Kallionkieli, a healthy scratch in each of the previous two games, notched both extra-man tallies, including an empty-netter with 38 seconds remaining in the game.
Brandon’s victory, in front of 4,456 fans at Westoba Place, tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with Game 5 set for Friday in Red Deer.
Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk was less than thrilled with the fact his club was fingered for six penalties, with two coming late in the third period with the Rebels down a goal and needing an offensive push.
In desperate need of a tying goal, the Rebels managed just five shots in the final frame, partly due to a hooking penalty to Ben King with just over six minutes left and an interference call on Christoffer Sedoff with two minutes and change remaining.
In addition, the Rebels were on the penalty kill the entire first two minutes of the third period due to a tripping penalty to Jace Isley at the end of the second.
“It was a battle but penalties were the difference. I was disappointed with how many penalties we took,” said Konowalchuk. “That was the big difference in the game.”
The Rebels struck first as Isley, on a two-on-one break, used a Brandon defenceman as a screen and whistled a shot past goaltender Ethan Kruger 7:44 into the contest.
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The Wheaties got a similar goal from Trae Johnson just under six minutes later, as he beat a screened Chase Coward from the top of the right circle.
With Red Deer’s Kalan Lind off for hooking, Kallionkieli potted the eventual winner late in the second period, his hard wrister sailing past Coward’s glove.
The Rebels wasted a power play of their own when Brandon star Ridly Greig was penalized eight minutes into the third. And the visitors were hobbled with the late infractions to King and Sedoff.
“You’re down a goal and you still have a chance, but then you take those penalties to give them momentum,” said Konowalchuk.
“Even at the end of the game you can’t get the extra attacker out. We had to pull the goalie just to make it five-on-five.”
With Coward on the bench and Sedoff still in the penalty box, Kallionkieli fired the puck into an open net from the Brandon side of the red line to sew up the Wheat Kings’ win.
“It’s something you can’t do in playoff hockey,” said Konowalchuk of the untimely infractions that hampered the Rebels’ comeback hopes and, in general, his team’s continuing penchant for taking penalties.
“I understand early on there are emotions, but the series is settling in and you have to be a smarter team than that. Some of it is discipline and some of it is control, controlling your sticks.
“There were good things we did. I thought the guys played hard, but you have to play smart too.”
The Rebels got another strong outing from Coward, who denied Greig on a partial break and made a nice glove stab on Nolan Ritchie, both in the second period. The game’s third star also made a sprawling pad stop on Greig with the clock winding down.
Coward finished with 25 saves, one fewer than Kruger, selected as the second star. The Brandon stopper stuffed Frantisek Formanek on a first-period breakaway and took a goal away from Arshdeep Bains with a stretch glove save late in the middle frame.
Notable: Kallionkieli, who also assisted on Brandon’s first goal, was the obvious pick as the game’s first star . . . Brandon was two-for-five on the power play while the Rebels were zero-for-three . . . The Rebels won 32 of 61 faceoffs . . . Game 6 will go Sunday in Brandon while a seventh game, if necessary, will be played Tuesday at the Peavey Mart Centrium.