MEDICINE HAT, Alta. -- Were it not for a five-minute span in the second period, the Brandon Wheat Kings might be headed to Winnipeg this morning one win away from advancing in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Tigers 9 Wheat Kings 5
Instead, the Wheat Kings will arrive at the MTS Centre needing a victory tomorrow night to keep their season alive.
The Medicine Hat Tigers scored four goals in a span of 4:32 on their way to a wild 9-5 win over the Wheat Kings on Saturday night and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.
"We didn't work hard enough," said Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone, whose team will have to play its biggest game of the season away from home tomorrow night, with Westman Place not yet ready for hockey after the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. "We've got to compete a lot harder and I think our guys are understanding of that."
Medicine Hat's stars, who carried them to victory in Game 4, did the same again last night as Emerson Etem notched two goals and added an assist, while linemate Linden Vey and captain Wacey Hamilton each had a goal and two assists. Curtis Valk, Cole Grbavac, Kale Kessy, Hunter Shinkaruk and Scott McKay also scored for the Tigers.
Mike Ferland, Matt MacKay, Shayne Wiebe, Scott Glennie and Brodie Melnychuk replied for the Wheat Kings, who got three assists from Stone.
Valk scored the only goal of the first period, before Brandon rallied early in the second as Ferland scored his first of the playoffs and MacKay followed that by gobbling up a loose puck in the slot and sliding it past Tigers goalie Deven Dubyk.
The lead didn't last long as the Tigers suddenly surged and a large part of the onslaught stemmed from penalty trouble for the Wheat Kings.
Vey fired a shot from the high slot that beat Brandon goalie Corbin Boes on a 5-on-3 power play. Then Etem gave the lead back to Medicine Hat seconds after the second penalty expired.
Grbavac went to the net and converted Hamilton's goal-mouth pass for a 4-2 lead. He took a cross-check from Wiebe in the process to put the Tigers back on the power play where Kessy scored from a bad angle to make it 5-2.
Wheat Kings head coach/GM Kelly McCrimmon said the momentum shifted quickly after Vey's goal.
"We had gone into the second down a goal, we managed to tie the game, pull ahead and I thought we were really getting the game to go the way we wanted to," he said.
"We had the penalty, we shot the puck out of play to lead to a 5-on-3 opportunity and they executed, and that's something I think you have to give them some credit for. They got the puck to the right guy and he made a great play. From there, I really thought that the third and fourth goals were goals that hurt us, particularly the fourth goal."
Wiebe scored to get the Wheat Kings back within two and Melnychuk fired a shot off the crossbar late in the period, but Shinkaruk took the wind out of Brandon's sails again, scoring with 27 seconds left in the frame. Needing goals to get back in the game, the Wheat Kings played wide open in the third period and the Tigers were happy to oblige, scoring three more times to Brandon's two.
McCrimmon said he was pleased with the offensive improvement the Wheat Kings showed from Game 4, when they struggled over the final two periods, but said the overall effort needs to be better, particularly on defence.
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was a sellout of 4,006 ... Brandon G Liam Liston (concussion) missed his second straight game with a concussion. G Michael Tadjdeh, who played two games in the regular season, has rejoined the club to back up starter Corbin Boes ... Brandon RW Brenden Walker (concussion) and D Ryley Miller (sick) were also scratched, clearing the way for D Spencer Galbraith to make his WHL playoff debut