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U18 AA Wheat Kings out of playoffs after valiant effort

Two overtime games in Prince Albert gave the home team the advantage to win against the West Central Wheat Kings.

UNITY — After what was described as a “heartbreaking” 4-3 overtime loss in their first playoff game against the Prince Albert Lake Country Timberwolves, the West Central Wheat Kings had the home crowd advantage for game 2, held in Unity March 8. They won the game 2-1, but were unable to keep their momentum back in Prince Albert for game 3 the next night, losing another close one, 4-3, and ending their season.

Assistant coach Jeremy German said “reaching the playoffs is always the goal. Once you have punched your ticket into the playoffs, there is an opportunity to surprise your opponent every game.”

In game 1 March 5, Austin Schafer, assisted by Nash Sperle, opened the scoring, and then Kaegan Lowe, assisted by Jacob Wagner, made it 2-0 for the Wheat Kings by the end of the first. Nash scored the only goal in the second to give the West Central team a 3-0 lead. Assists went to Kaden Sperle and Austin.

The Timberwolves pressed hard and were able to tie the game in the third, forcing overtime and scoring at 8:13 of the overtime period to win the game.

A sizeable and vocal crowd were behind the Wheat Kings when they played game 2 in Unity March 8. Hudson Bretzer, assisted by Tyce Perkins and Kaegan, gave them something to cheer about early, scoring in the first minute of play. The score remained 1-0 until the last two minutes of the second period when the Timberwolves were able to tie it up.

Kaegan scored an unassisted goal in the middle of the third to give the Wheat Kings the 2-1 win and keep them in the series.

It was back to P.A. for game 3 the next night where the host team found the back of the net twice before the first period ended. With no scoring in the second, the Wheat Kings were at a 2-0 deficit going into the third.

The P.A. team scored again, about halfway through the period, to make it 3-0, but Nash’s unassisted goal, two minutes later, gave his team hope. But less than a minute later, another goal by the Timberwolves re-established their three-goal lead.

Only 13 seconds later, Kaegan scored an unassisted goal to make it 4-2. With 3:27 remaining, Chase Weinkauf, assisted by Hudson, put the Wheat Kings within one, but it was not to be.

German summed up the series, saying, “We played what we would consider a good game in Prince Albert on Tuesday night, but failed to execute on a 3-0 lead and surrendered a 4-3 loss in OT. On Friday we had P.A. back in Unity and played a tight physical game and were rewarded with a 2-1 win. This led to a 3rd and final game to decide the series on Saturday. We gave up a 2-0 lead in the first, and then battled through a scoreless second period. In the third we regained momentum but were unable to force OT and lost 4-3.”

German added, despite the disappointment, “we put up a heck of a battle and the boys should be proud of their efforts.”

In looking back at the season as a whole, German said, it “was a year where we introduced a lot of young talent onto our team. Naturally, it took some patience to figure out the players and build into some systems play. Once we hit the Christmas break, we started to really come around with our defensive play and were rewarded with an above .500 record in the new year.”

Looking forward to next year, out of their 19-member roster, only six players are sure not to be returning next year. Kaden Sperle and Austin Schafer have signed contracts to move up to AAA. The coaching staff and their teammates wish them well.

Graduating are Tyson Borschneck, Ty Partington, Jacob Wagner and Jared Abrams. German commented that “This time of year is always tough for our third-year players as they say goodbye to their minor hockey careers.”

German concluded his remarks by expressing appreciation to the fans, the parents, manager Melissa Cey and Jenn Wagner. Pat Sperle was the U18 AA Wheat Kings’ head coach this past season and assisting alongside German was Ryan Partington.