Sunday, 10 February 2019

Blades’ McKay at his pest best in win over Wheat Kings

Blades LW Riley McKay (#39) chirps Wheat Kings D Zach Wytinck (#29).
    It’s a Riley McKay world and the Brandon Wheat Kings are just living in it.
    The feisty 19-year-old left-winger with the Saskatoon Blades started and ended the proceedings with an exclamation point on Sunday in a 6-3 WHL regular season victory over the Wheat Kings. 
    In between, the Swan River, Man., product was at his agitating best getting into all sorts of extra-curricular activities on the ice, while scoring two goals and engaging in a fight before 4,815 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
    McKay provided the exclamation point with 1:33 remaining in the third period scoring into an empty-net to seal the win, and he proceeded to chirp Wheat Kings 19-year-old defenceman Zach Wytinck after the tally.
Riley McKay scored a pair of goals for the Blades on Sunday.
    “I was just having some fun with it,” said McKay. “(I was) just giving a little bit of trash talk to make sure that he knows we won the game.”
    The fifth meeting between the two sides was fairly chippy and saw both sides goes 2-for-7 on the power play. It seemed like the type of game that was built for McKay, who has 117 penalty minutes this season, and he didn’t deny it.
    “I really like when games are like this,” said McKay. “It is fast paced, hard hitting and it is lots of fun.”
    All parts of McKay’s game were on display Sunday besides the side that sees him play the role of agitator. He can make some pretty creative offensive plays as well.
Riley McKay (#39) celebrates his breakaway goal.
    In opening the game’s scoring at the 9:23 mark of the first period, he looked like former Blades captain Derek Hulak going in on a breakaway switching from forehand to backhand and sliding a shot past Wheat Kings netminder Jiri Patera.
    “That was a good one,” said McKay, who has 11 goals and nine assists this season. “I didn’t know it went in for sure or not, because it went slow over the line.
    “I thought it went in, so it felt good.”
    A little under four minutes later, McKay engaged in a spirited fight with Wheat Kings defenceman Braydyn Chizen. McKay, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 192 pounds, was outsized by Chizen, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 207 pounds, but more than held his own in the bout.
    Blades overage right-winger Max Gerlach said his team gets pumped up, when McKay is out there doing his thing.
Blades LW Riley McKay, left, fights Wheat Kings D Braydyn Chizen (#5).
    “He is awesome to have in the room,” said Gerlach, who had three assists in the win. “It is awesome when he goes out there and fights probably the biggest guy in the league early in the game.
    “It gets us fired up on the bench. I thought it was good from all the boys. I think that everyone was pretty emotionally invested in the game.
    “That is how the playoffs are going to be. It is good to see everyone comfortable in those situations and come out with a big two points.”
    Shortly after McKay’s fight, the Blades struck for a pair of goals 31 seconds apart from each other coming from the sticks of rookie left-winger Kyle Crnkovic, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Sunday, and captain Chase Wouters. 
Riley McKay controls the puck in the offensive zone.
    The surge gave the Blades a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
    Brandon pushed back in the second frame. Overage left-winger Linden McCorrister scored a short-handed goal 32 seconds into the frame, and captain Stelio Mattheos netted a power-play goal at the 10:39 mark to cut the Blades lead to 3-2.
    Just 43 seconds later, Wouters netted his second of the game to give the Blades a 4-2 advantage. Sunday marked the first time this season Wouters scored twice in one game.
    “I hadn’t scored two goals in a game in a while,” said Wouters. “That was a pretty cool experience for me.”
    Before the second period ended, the Wheat Kings cut the Blades lead to 4-3 with a power-play goal coming from 16-year-old rookie left-winger Ridly Greig.
    The Blades jumped ahead 5-3 at the 5:02 mark of the third, when offensive-defenceman Dawson Davidson wired a point-shot that was tipped by centre Tristen Robins to the top right corner of the Brandon goal.
    That set the stage for McKay to get his empty-netter near the end of the frame.
    Wouters had a sly smile, when he talked about McKay.
Kyle Crnkovic scored for the Blades on Sunday.
    “Riley, he is a big part of our team,” said Wouters. “He’s physical, and he does all the right things for us.
    “He gets goals when he can, so it’s perfect.”
    Nolan Maier made 25 saves in goal for the Blades, who have won four straight to improve to 34-13-8 to sit fourth overall in the league. Jiri Patera would turn away 31 of 36 shots in goal for the Wheat Kings, who feel to 23-22-3-4 with the setback.
    Besides winning their last four straight, the Blades have collected points in the standings in their last 10 straight games going 8-0-2 over that stretch of time.
Captain Chase Wouters had a pair of goals for the Blades on Sunday.
    “The guys have been playing awesome,” said McKay. “We’re just staying the course.
    “We always say that in the dressing room, just stay the course and play a full 60 (minutes). No matter what happens in the game just keep playing hard and keep working, and we know we’ll have a good outcome.”
    The Wheat Kings return home to host the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday at Westoba Place at 7 p.m. local time.
    The Blades now head out on a four game road swing beginning on Wednesday, when they travel to Medicine Hat to take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. local time. McKay is looking forward to the upcoming crunch time push.
Blades G Nolan Maier (#73) stops Wheat Kings LW Cole Reinhardt (#23).
    “We’re getting into that last stretch here, where it is all like playoff hockey,” said McKay. “We just have to play simple and play hard and try to get the win.”
    NOTES – The Blades were without star centre Kirby Dach, who left Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current after taking a puck in the throat. Dach sat out as a precaution.
    Aiden De La Gorgendiere, who is a 16-year-old defenceman, is listed as being out indefinitely with an upper body injury. He suffered the injury taking a hit from Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Jake Neighbours in a 4-3 overtime setback the Blades took at home on Feb. 2. 
The Blades celebrate their victory on Sunday.
    Neighbours was given a boarding major and a game misconduct on the play and was suspended for four games by the WHL office.

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