Brandon Wheat Kings
Brandon, MB. — It may have been billed as a “Battle of the Kings” but it was the Edmonton Oil Kings that ruled the night Friday, scoring a convincing 7-1 victory over the hometown Wheat Kings in Brandon’s final game of 2011.
The Oil Kings, who currently lead the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference with an impressive 25-9-1-3 record, jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back as they took a 2-1 lead in the four game season series between the two teams.
Winnipeg product Michael St. Croix, a New York Rangers draft pick and former first round bantam draft choice of the Oil Kings, led the winners with two goals and assist. Dylan Wruck, Mitchell Moroz, Cole Benson, Stephane Legault and Jordan Peddle rounded out the scoring for Edmonton, who led 5-0 through forty minutes of play.
Paul Ciarelli scored in a losing cause for the Wheat Kings, who will now travel to Saskatoon on Sunday for a New Years Day game against the Blades.
Special teams and goaltending were certainly keys to Edmonton’s success on Friday. In addition to scoring two goals with the man advantage, the Oil Kings stopped Brandon’s powerplay – which is currently ranked second in the league – on all four opportunties. Veteran netminder Laurent Brossoit meanwhile was outstanding between the pipes, turning aside 41 of 42 Brandon shots.
Brandon Anderson, who was making his sixth straight start for the Wheat Kings, stopped 26 of 31 shots before being pulled after the second period. 17-year old Curtis Honey, who was recalled from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs the week before Christmas, came on to make his WHL debut in period three – stopping ten of 12 shots.
With the loss, the Wheat Kings are now 21-15-1-1 and sit in a share of second place in the Western Hockey League’s eastern Division with Regina. The Pats downed Swift Current 4-1 on Friday night.
To make things even tighter, the Saskatoon Blades slammed the Prince Albert Raiders 9-4 Friday to move to within a single point of both the Pats and Wheat Kings, heading into Sunday’s New Years Day.
Friday’s game, which attracted close to 4,700 fans to Westman Place, featured the annual Wheat Kings’ Annual Family Skate, presented by The Home Depot, 880 CKLQ and 94.7 Star FM. As well, longtime play by play announcer Bruce Luebke was recognized during the first intermission for his nineteen seasons and over 1,500 games behind the mike at CKLQ.
Luebke is the longest serving play by play announcer in the history of the Wheat Kings’ franchise.
Following Sunday’s game in Saskatoon, the Wheat Kings will have the week to prepare for a 2-game series in Prince Albert next weekend. Brandon’s next home game is Wednesday, January 11th against the Blades.