BRANDON — Reports of the Brandon Wheat Kings sudden demise have proven to be greatly exaggerated.
The host team of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup showed serious resolve in bouncing back from a 9-3 thrashing to the Windsor Spitfires to even their record at 1-1 after earning a 4-0 triumph over the Moncton Wildcats before a crowd of 5,215 Sunday at Westman Place.
“Everyone inside those Wheat Kings doors always believed, and we knew we were going to be ready and that we were going to be okay,” said Wheat Kings defenceman Travis Hamonic.
The Wheat Kings got two goals from Toni Rajala and singles from Brayden Schenn and Brent Raedeke to get themselves right back into the playoff picture.
“Past the obvious, our guys played well from start to finish,” said Wheat Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon. “We were fighting to get out from underneath it, based on our start to the tournament, and now, at least, we’re in it and can hopefully focus on continuing to improve over the course of the week.”
Secondary scoring has been a theme for the Wheat Kings through the first two games of the tournament and that trend continued Sunday.
“That’s our team — we have the ability to score with all three, all four lines,” said Wheat Kings forward Shayne Wiebe, who had two assists and was a force throughout the contest. “It’s great to see that we’re all chipping in again.
“We just need to keep doing the simple things right and shutting down on the defence. That’s going to be the key.”
Wheat Kings goalie Jacob De Serres, who came on in relief Friday after carrying the mail throughout most of the Western Hockey League playoffs, made 31 saves to record the shutout.
De Serres was rock-solid, but the Wheat Kings commitment to defence was evident throughout the contest — which was even more impressive on the heels of giving up nine goals Friday.
“That’s what we wanted to do — we wanted to rebound,” Schenn said. “It was huge for us. Obviously, with the score like it was for us, to put up a shutout and get some confidence on the defensive end is always going to help our team, and we’re just trying to build from that.
“We’ll take it. We just want wins right now.”
The Wheat Kings got the home crowd into the game at 10:14 of the first period, as Rajala and Aaron Lewadniuk connected on a 2-on-1 rush.
On the second goal, Jay Fehr unloaded a shot from the slot that went wide of the net and landed right on the stick of Rajala, whose quick shot beat Wildcats goalie Nicola Riopel high to the blocker side at 8:17.
A powerplay goal from Schenn on a beautiful feed from Wiebe just past the midway point of the second period and a rebound by Raedeke early in the third rounded out the scoring.
After blowing a 3-0 lead Saturday to the Calgary Hitmen, the Wildcats fall to 0-2 and now face the unenviable position of having to defeat the Windsor Spitfires Tuesday night to even have a shot at a tiebreaker game.
“If we don’t win a game in the roundrobin, we don’t deserve another chance,” said Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn.
The Wheat Kings don’t play again until Wednesday, when they face the Hitmen in a rematch of the Eastern Conference final in the WHL playoffs.