Hopes fade for ‘AAA’ Wheat Kings with second loss

A 5-4 loss to the Thunder Bay Kings has pretty much closed the door on a chance for the Brandon Midget ‘AAA’ Wheat Kings to earn a berth to the TELUS West Region final.

Although they carried the play through much of the game, the Brandon Midget ‘AAA’ Wheat Kings ran into penalty trouble in the third period, allowing the Thunder Bay Kings to score three third-period goals for a 5-4 victory.

The Friday afternoon game was Brandon’s second loss at the 2019 TELUS Cup West Region championships in Tisdale, Sask. The Wheat Kings will wind up the tournament’s round robin play Saturday afternoon versus the host Tisdale Trojans. Brandon’s chances of advancing to Sunday’s final are now minimal after losing to the Kings, who had lost their previous match to the Trojans the evening before.

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In Friday’s contest, Thunder Bay scored first at 8:27 of the opening frame when Dawson Lampi and Kyler Belluz teamed to beat Brandon goaltender Dawson Green. Brandon fired back with two goals less than 40 seconds apart, beginning at 15:49. Nolan Ritchie scored Brandon’s opening goal, assisted by Rylan Thiessen and Colin Cook. Troy Hamilton followed with a goal at 16:26, assisted by Ritchie.

But Thunder Bay would not exit the period quietly. A faceoff in Brandon’s zone late in the period led to a goal from Anthony Biniaris with less than a second remaining on the clock. Cole MacKenzie and Nikolas Campbell assisted on the tying goal.

The Wheat Kings struck back with the only two goals of the second period. Brayden Michaluk and Hamilton each scored to give Brandon a 4-2 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes. Thiessen, Cook, Mason Kaspick and Grady Franklin were handed assists.

Thunder Bay maintained pressure to start the third, finally beating Green at 7:57 to pull within one goal, then tying the game at four on a powerplay about three minutes later. Travis Hensrud scored Thunder Bay’s third goal with help from Biniaris and Campbell. Belluz tied it with the help of Hensrud and Tarcisius Tibishkogijig.

Then, like Brandon’s tendency to score in spurts, Thunder Bay made it 5-4 just one minute later on a goal from Campbell assisted by Biniaris and Mason Bazaluk. This marker came on another powerplay after Kaspick was handed a minor penalty for head contact.

The Wheat Kings forced Thunder Bay to defend themselves deep in their zone through the final seven minutes, but Rylan Thiessen was called for holding with 2:23 remaining. It forced Brandon to both kill the penalty and pierce the Kings defense at a one-man disadvantage. Thunder Bay simply played it safe and ran out the clock.

The Wheat Kings finish their round robin play Friday at 3:30 p.m. versus the Tisdale Trojans. In Friday's second match, Tisdale defeated Notre Dame 3-0 to make the Trojans the only unbeaten team in the tournament.

The top-two teams through the preliminary round face off Sunday afternoon for the TELUS West Region crown and a berth to the TELUS Cup national Midget ‘AAA’ championship in Thunder Bay, Ont. April 22 to 28.

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