It was pre-season hockey in all its penalty-littered glory at the Rink Training Centre Saturday night.
In a tuneup for bitter Battle of Manitoba games to come, the Winnipeg Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings combined for 17 minor penalties, one major and one game misconduct in a game won 4-3 by the Ice before a standing-room-only crowd at the Rink Training Centre.
Cole Muir’s goal with 2:37 remaining was the winner for the Ice, which improved to 3-1-0-0.
Mikey Milne, Martin Bohm and Skyler Bruce also scored for the hosts.
Nate Danielson, Nolan Ritchie and Ben Thornton, making his debut for Brandon after being acquired in a Friday trade from the Spokane Chiefs, scored for the visitors. Brandon finished the pre-season 0-3-0-0.
It was the final tune-up game for both teams, who will meet in a home-and-home series to open the regular season on Friday at the Keystone Centre and Saturday at Wayne Fleming Arena.
The Ice went 2-for-7 on the power play. Brandon was 1-for-9.
"I was really disappointed on probably the last three penalties we took in the second period — retaliatory penalties, slashing penalties — there’s no need for them," said Winnipeg head coach James Patrick. "I was disappointed because it just takes too many guys out of the game.
"We’ve been shorthanded enough. We got some work on our special teams and our penalty killing. That’s the only way you can look at the game."
Patrick singled out veteran defenceman Anson McMaster, who was plus-2 on the night, for his second good performance of the week.
"Our group on the back end was probably more physical and had a little more battle than they did Thursday, which, we’re gonna need certainly against Brandon and just the teams in our division," said Patrick. "That’s the way the games are."
Winnipeg managed a 5-4 triumph in Brandon Thursday night.
"I liked what we did for the most part," said Patrick. "I know we were better than we were Thursday night. Our forecheck was better, we are harder on the puck. They’re a good rush team and a real good transition team and I thought we are better at managing that area of the game."
Conspicuous by their absence were centre Matt Savoie and left-winger Owen Pederson, two-thirds of the club’s projected top line. They participated in the pre-game warmup but Patrick decided to sit them instead.
"(Savoie) was just a little under the weather, he wasn’t feeling very good the last two or three days," said Patrick. "He and (Pederson) wanted both wanted to play and could have played, but they were off skates for three days, and I just felt I didn’t want to chance it."
BLUE-LINES: The Ice have three veterans away at NHL training camps including defenceman Carson Lambos (Minnesota), goaltender Gage Alexander (Anaheim) and right-winger Connor McClennon (Philadelphia). Lambos made his pre-season debut with the Wild Saturday night in St. Louis... Brandon was missing seven regulars including forwards Jake Chiasson (Edmonton), Ridly Greig (Ottawa), Marcus Kallionkieli (Vegas), Brett Hyland (Los Angeles), defencemen Mason Ward (Detroit) and Vincent Iorio (Washington) and goaltender Ethan Kruger (Edmonton).
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.