The U18 AAA Kenora Thistles concluded their weekend series against the Brandon Wheat Kings with a 6-2 loss.
The overall score doesn’t do justice to the game that fans were treated to at the Keewatin Memorial Arena yesterday afternoon.
Up until early in the third period, the Thistles kept the highly skilled Wheat Kings at bay that put nine goals up on the team Saturday night.
“There was a lot more compete we had a lot more support coming out of the offensive end transiting into defense. Guys are starting to identify coming through the neutral zone when there was a loose guy. Overall it was just a better performance today but we still have lots to work on,” said Thistles head coach Scott Parsons.
The game started off with a defensive seesaw battle between the two clubs with both goalies being tested early but stood up to the challenge.
It wasn’t until just over halfway into the period when the Wheat Kings Nolan Chastko gave his team the lead with a shorthanded goal.
Just over three minutes later the visiting side added to their lead as Callum Halls was able to beat Thistles goalie Gunner Paradis to put Brandon up 2-0
After 20 minutes of play, Brandon led 2-0, outshooting Kenora 23-8 in the frame.
Kenora’s goal drought ended as Brady Butvin was able to put a loose puck home on the powerplay after Brandon’s Callum Halls took an unnecessary slashing penalty. Jett Mintenko and Nickolas Fagnilli got the assists.
Life was finally on Kenora’s bench after the team's first goal of the season.
“It was a little bit of relief I would say especially at that point when they were only two up, cutting their lead in half that meant a lot to the guys, and really started to get the guys back engaged in the game again. I think they showed that at times they really can compete with teams like this,” added Parsons.
Brandon quickly quieted the crowd as they replied with a powerplay marker of their own just minutes later with Luke Lepper getting his first of the year.
At the end of two periods, Brandon was up 3-1. The shots were 12-9 Brandon in the period.
In the third period, the Wheat Kings started to pull away as they scored three goals in a span of 3:42. Calder Crossin, Nolan Chastko, and Dylan Schrader all scored for Brandon in the period.
The fight wasn’t dead for the Thistles as late in the period they cashed in on a two-on-one. Kenora’s Teagan Wrolstad was able to pass the puck cross-ice to teammate Zac Mahoney who put it between the legs of the Wheat Kings goalie.
That’s all the Thistles could muster in the period as the game ended in a score of 6-2 for Brandon. The third-period shots were 21-12 for Brandon. The final shot count was 57-29 Wheat Kings.
With the loss yesterday, the Thistles move to 0-2 on the season.
Kenora’s Gunner Paradis stopped 51 of 57 shots in the loss.
His counterpart KC Couckuyt stopped 27 of 29 for his first win of the season.
In the game, Kenora went 1 for 6 on the powerplay, while Brandon was 2 for 4 on the man advantage.
The powerplay is one of the things that Parsons and his staff will be working on this week in practice along with other things.
“We’re going to have to work some kinks out there. A big one too is our backcheck, identifying guys coming back through the neutral zone and then entering the defensive zone, making sure we’re tracking guys back” says Parsons.
Though it wasn’t the weekend the Thistles hoped for, Parsons said that there were positives to it.
“We had a couple of guys really working. The one-line we had they were really working hard to get the puck low and getting down and hitting some guys, they were starting to make things happen and getting under the other team skin a little bit more,” noted Parsons
Throughout the weekend Parsons was liking the line chemistry between Nickolas Fagnilli, Brady Butvin, and Jett Mintenko and is looking to lean on them going into their pair of games next weekend.
The next opponent in the eyes of the Thistles will be the Yellowhead Chiefs who come to town this weekend for a pair of games on Saturday and Sunday. Both games will be at the Kenora Rec Centre.