This was the kind of game a team with high expectations can’t lose.
Brandon, playing its fifth road game in eight days, came from behind to defeat the Spokane Chiefs 5-4 before 3,509 fans at the Arena Wednesday night.
It was a defensive disaster for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs (5-5-1, 11 points) coughed up a 3-1 lead after the first period and gave up the winner 22 seconds after tying the game with just more than five minutes to play.
“It does (surprise me), actually,” Spokane coach Hardy Sauter said. “I thought this was probably our worst game as a whole our D-corps has played this year. I wouldn’t expect them to play this bad again the rest of the season when it comes to moving the puck.”
It is a game best forgotten because there is precious little time to practice with three straight games beginning Friday, including a home game Saturday against Portland.
“We were a little hesitant in our own end,” Sauter said. “As soon as you double clutch or double think, you usually end up … out of position. Brandon has good forwards and if you make mistakes they’re going to score.”
The Wheat Kings’ top line features three NHL draftees, including a pair of 2009 first-rounders – Brayden Schenn (fifth overall by Los Angeles) and Scott Glennie (eighth, Dallas). They accounted for three goals, with Schenn getting the last two. Linemate Matt Calvert, drafted by Columbus in 2008, contributed two assists.
Maybe the firepower of Brandon (9-6-2, 20 points), which went 3-1-1 against the U.S. Division, got into the Chiefs’ head.
“I don’t know if there is anything to the thought process like that, but on a night you play slow and the other team is playing quick, you’re in trouble,” Sauter said. “It was the absolute worst speed differential we’ve had in a long time.”
The defensive collapse wasted a three-goal night by Kyle Beach, but he was quick to point out it was just the defense making mistakes.
“Costly turnovers at the blue line and we just didn’t make up for them,” Beach said. “We’re cheating for offense. Defense wins championships. I know it’s a cliché. (Mitch) Wahl can go out there and score three goals, I can go out there and score three goals, anyone on this team can go out there and score three goals, but if we don’t have defense we’re still going to lose.
“I don’t know what we have to do here. We talked about it, it’s been looked at for sure. It’s about time guys start having accountability, myself included – one of those goals I’d like to have back.”
For the ninth time in the 11 games the Chiefs gave up the first goal. In this case it was Glennie on a breakaway just 25 seconds into the game.
But Spokane roared back with Levko Koper’s eighth goal and two from Beach.
Koper evened it with a crossing backhander at 4:23 after Kenton Miller dug the puck out of the corner. Beach got his first goal when he jabbed in his rebound while parked in front of the net. That was at 12:25 and less than two minutes later he picked up his seventh of the season on the power play when his wrister from the left circle dribbled in after Andrew Hayes made the initial stop.
Brandon tied the game at 3 with a pair of point-blank goals in the first half of the second period. Jay Fehr scored his 10th goal during a 4-on-4 at 5:16 and Aaron Lewadniuk tied it at 8:49. In both cases the Wheat Kings were left alone in front of James Reid.
At 13:01 of the third period Calvert put a shot at Reid’s head and Schenn banged in the rebound. Beach tied it at 14:20 when Wahl swooped around the net and found Beach breaking to the goal from the right circle.
But that lead was short-lived as Schenn connected from the left circle.
“I know they’re going to play better in the next game, they’re just too good not to,” Sauter said. “I think there is maybe a little bit of lack of confidence, but we’ll get that all straightened out. It will take some hard work and a game or two to get our confidence back.”