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First Period Woes Cost Hitmen

Candice Ward/Photo

Another slow start proved to be costly.

The Hitmen couldn’t recover from an unfavourable start to the game falling 5-1 to the Brandon Wheat Kings Wednesday night to drop to 1-1 on the road trip.

Vladislav Yeryomenko scored the lone Hitmen marker for his fourth of the season while Carl Stankowski got the start but was replaced by Jack McNaughton after surrendering three goals on three shots. In his first game back since going down with an upper-body injury on Feb. 8, McNaughton ended the contest with 17 stops.

Brandon saw both Stelio Mattheos and Cole Reinhardt score a pair of goals and also chip in with two assists each, and Ridly Grieg rounded out the scoring with a single marker. Import goaltender Jiri Patera made 27 saves to help the Wheat Kings pick up their fifth straight win.

With the loss, the Hitmen still sit two points back of Medicine Hat for third in the Central Division with a game in hand, while the Wheat Kings are now tied with Red Deer for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. They also sit just two points back of the Hitmen for the first wildcard spot.

Three goals in under six minutes put the Hitmen on the ropes despite Yeryomenko snapping a wrist shot off the post and in late in the first period to bring the visitors to just two.

The Hitmen had their chances and on any other night could have very well had five goals to their credit but lady luck was not on their side. With two goal posts, a couple shots just missing wide and a handful of stops by Patera, the Hitmen were left scratching their heads in a frustrating game.

While the Hitmen couldn’t buy a goal and had zero puck luck, the Wheat Kings seemingly got all the right bounces including a goal with 17 seconds left in the middle stanza that went off a Hitmen skate and into the back of the net.

It was just that kind of night.

Another early goal in the third period sealed the game as the Hitmen suffered just their third regulation loss in the last 13 games played.

The upcoming weekend will present a chance to bounce back in a big way with a pair of games against the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos, which gets under way Friday in Regina. After concluding the four-game trip, the Hitmen will return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday Feb. 27 for the TELUS BE BRAVE Anti-Bullying Game.

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