Thursday, 14 May 2015

Rockets End Wheat Kings' Season

  The Brandon Wheat Kings saw their season come to an end on Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
  The victory allowed Kelowna to sweep the Western Hockey League’s Championship series in four games, and claim their fourth WHL title in their franchise history.
  The game was goalless through 40 minutes, when Leon Draisaitl and Rourke Chartier scored shorthanded goals 19 seconds part in the opening minute and a half of the third period to give Kelowna a 2-0 lead.
  “Unfortunately, giving up as many shorthanded goals as we did...which is quite strange for our power-play,” said Brandon captain Peter Quenneville on CKLQ’s post-game show, “It seemed to be our Achilles heal through the series and it might have ended up being the difference.”
  Nick Merkley added the third Kelowna goal with 5:30 left in the contest while Jackson Whistle made 19 saves to record the shutout in the Rockets’ net.
  The Rockets scored eight of their 17 goals in the series in either the first 90 seconds or last 90 seconds of a period.
  “We didn’t play with a lead at all in this series,” said Brandon captain Eric Roy, “Give them credit, they played hard.  It’s going to be a long summer, thinking about this, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
  Giving up key goals at key times was only part of the issue for Brandon in the series.
  The Wheat Kings never found an answer for the Draisaitl, Chartier, Merkley line that finished the series with a combined 11 goals and 22 points.
  It’s a tough end to a great season for the Wheat Kings, who captured the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular season champions with a 53-11-4-4 record and advanced to the WHL Final for the first time in a decade.
  “I think there’s a lot of positives. Certainly, the disappointment is going to override any of that here in the short term,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, “Just really disappointed we didn’t play better in the league final...that’s as simple as I can put it.”
  The Wheat Kings will make the trip home from Kelowna on Thursday, with the club expected to conduce exit interviews with the players before they go their separate ways for the off-season.
  But, this year’s Wheat Kings’ club is one which will be close to the heart of many of its players for a long time.
  “A year that I’ll never forget.  We became so close as a group, we were like a family, and I wouldn’t want to do this with any other group of guys,” said Quenneville, “We had a tremendous season, we had a lot of young players develop tremendously well throughout the year and I really believe we laid the foundation.”
Chaff...F Reid Duke made his first appearance of the WHL Final on Wednesday, returning to the Brandon lineup after missing eight games with an injury...D Kale Clague also played for the first time in the series Wednesday...Brandon scratches were F Braylon Shmyr, F Ty Lewis, F Stelio Mattheos, D Mark Taraschuk, D Mark Matsuba and F Quintin Lisoway...attendance Wednesday at Prospera Place was 6,428...Leon Draisaitl of the Rockets was named the WHL Playoff MVP...Kelowna will open the 2015 Memorial Cup a week from Friday against the host Quebec Remparts.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Wheat Kings Focused on One Game

John Quenneville
  One win is the focus for the Brandon Wheat Kings as they prepare for Game #4 of the Western Hockey League’s Championship series on Wednesday night in Kelowna (8:35 p.m., 880 CKLQ).
  The Wheat Kings trail the Rockets three games to none and will be facing elimination for the first time in the 2015 playoffs Wednesday.
  The big picture is that Brandon will need four straight wins to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time since 1996 but the Wheat Kings are looking at the much smaller picture, which is to simply register a win on Wednesday.
  “We can only worry about winning the first game and we’ve yet to be able to do that.  That’s where our focus and our attention needs to be,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on Tuesday, “If you look at the big picture of having to win four in a row to be a league champion, that’s going to look daunting to a lot of people but, internally, we’re going to worry about the first one.”
  “In order to get four wins, which is what we need to do, you have to get the first one and that’s the most important thing right now,” added Brandon centre John Quenneville, “We’re just worried about Wednesday night’s game...that’s all that’s on our minds right now.”
  The Rockets have prevailed in the first three games of the series thanks in large part to getting out to a relatively early lead on Brandon.
  The Wheat Kings have trailed 3-1 by the early part of the second period in each of the first three games, which has left the team little margin for error as they attempt a comeback in those contests.
  “You’re then left with just under 40 minutes where you’re trying to climb back in the game, which leads you to press and force things a little more than what you do if you’re playing with the lead than if you’re playing in a one-goal game or a tie game,” said McCrimmon.
  McCrimmon add they haven’t had the puck as much as they’re used to in the first three games of the series and have been playing a lot more defence than they’ve had to in the regular season or in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
  He says they’ll need more patience with the puck on offence, better puck protection and more emphasis on zone time is something they’ll need to have happen in order to have success moving forward.
  “That’s things a lot more positive for everybody.  We all feel we’re more than good enough and it’s just some strange things have happened,” said Quenneville, “We’re a real good hockey team, we’ve done some great things this year and beaten some great hockey teams and Wednesday night isn’t any different.”
  Another key for Brandon to prolong this series will be trying to control the Rockets’ line of Leon Draisaitl, Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier.
  The threesome has combined for eight goals and 17 points in the first three games of the series while also being a combined +18.
  The rest of the Kelowna team has combined for six goals and 20 points so far.

Wheat Kings Down to Last Gasp

Jordan Papirny made 27 saves Monday.
  It would have seemed unthinkable four days ago, but the Brandon Wheat Kings are on the verge of playoff elimination.
  Rourke Chartier had two goals and an assist to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a 5-3 win over the Wheat Kings on Monday night, giving Kelowna a three games to none lead in the Western Hockey League’s Championship Series.
  The game followed a similar pattern to the opening two games in Brandon this past weekend, with the Wheat Kings falling behind and then trying to stage a comeback in the second and third periods that comes up short.
  “We’ve fallen behind 3-1 in all three games, in fact 4-1 tonight before making it 4-2,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “Played our best hockey in the third period in the series but we haven’t showed as well as I think our team can through three games of the series.”
  Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal 6:35 into the first period, with Brandon countering on the same power-play on a Morgan Klimchuk goal at 7:48 to tie the contest 1-1.
  Kelowna regained the lead, for good as it turned out, with a Gage Quinney goal at 8:47 of the opening frame to complete the scoring in the first period.
  Dillon Dube added to the Rockets’ lead 4:15 into the second period and then Dube had a potential fourth goal waved off midway through the middle frame when it was ruled he had directed the puck in with his skate.
  The Rockets would get their fourth goal from Chartier at 15:02 before Nolan Patrick got Brandon back to within two just 26 seconds later.
  The Wheat Kings trailed 4-2 going into the third period but did well to preserve the two-goal deficit with a 5-on-3 penalty-kill that lasted 1:38 and left the Rockets 0-for-5 on the night.
  Tim McGauley scored for Brandon shortly after the penalty-kill to get the Wheat Kings to within one, but the Brandon comeback was thwarted when Chartier scored his second of the game with 6:12 left to restore Kelowna’s two-goal lead.
  Brandon finished 1-for-3 on the power-play, leaving them 4-for-10 in the series, but couldn’t capitalize on their final man advantage in the final 1:13 of the third period.
  Jackson Whistle stopped 26 shots in the Kelowna net while Jordan Papirny made 27 saves in the Wheat Kings’ goal.
  The teams will take the day off Tuesday before playing Game #4 Wednesday night in Kelowna (8:35 p.m., 880 CKLQ).
Chaff...this is the first time all season the Wheat Kings have lost three consecutive games...Brandon dressed the same lineup for Game #3 as they did for the first two games, scratching F Reid Duke, F Quintin Lisoway, F Stelio Mattheos, D Mark Matsuba, D Mark Taraschuk and D Kale Clague...attendance Monday was 6,271...former Wheat Kings Wade Redden and Jordin Tootoo were among those in attendance on Monday night...the Lethbridge Hurricanes announced Monday that they had signed Brandon product Calen Addison, the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 Bantam Draft, to a standard WHL Player Agreement.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Wheat Kings Remain Confident

The Wheat Kings held a brief practice in Kelowna on Sunday.
  The Brandon Wheat Kings are still a confident group despite being in an 0-2 hole in the Western Hockey League’s Championship series.

  The club faces the tough task of playing the next three games on the road at Prospera Place in Kelowna,  but this is Brandon team that tied a franchise record with 26 road wins during the regular season and are 5-2 on the road in the playoffs.
  “We’re a pretty confident group in there, especially on the road.  We had a pretty good road record coming into the playoffs so we just have to play our game,” said Brandon defenceman Macoy Erkamps after the Wheat Kings’ workout in Kelowna on Sunday, “Game #3 is huge.  We’re hoping to come out with the ‘W’ and make it a 2-1 series.  The odds are against us again but it puts us in a better position.”
  The Wheat Kings remain confident thanks, in large part, to how they finished Game #2 on Saturday.
  Brandon poured 33 shots on Kelowna netminder Jackson Whistle over the final 40 minutes of that contest, and feel that if they continue to do the same, they’ll get the end result they’re looking for.
  “I think that last game just showed that we can played up to their level, and better,” said Erkamps, the lone B.C. product on Brandon’s roster, “I think all the guys realize that so that’s why we also have confidence in our game with that last game and I think coming into this, that’s huge.”
  In order for Brandon to get at least the two victories they need this week to send the series back to Brandon for a possible Game #6 on Sunday, they’ll need to find a way to be better 5-on-5 in their own zone.

Macoy Erkamps
  The Rockets had large amounts of offensive zone time during the opening two games of the series, and cutting that back will be one of the keys to Brandon’s success.
 “I think they’re really good at finding guys in the middle of the ice, finding late guys coming through and we have to stop in the zone and break up passes,” added Erkamps, “We also have to pin guys in the corner and stop the cycle and if we do that, we’ll be okay.”
  The Rockets have outscored the Wheat Kings 6-3 at even strength in the opening two games of the series.
  The odds are stacked against Brandon but history says coming back from the 0-2 deficit is possible.
  The last time a team dropped the first two games of the WHL Final at home and came back to claim Ed Chynoweth Cup was 2000, when the Kootenay Ice lost the first two in Cranbrook and then won four in a row over the Spokane Chiefs.
  Game #3 goes Monday night at Prospera Place, with puck drop at 9:08 p.m. (CDT) and the pre-game show on 880 CKLQ beginning at 8:35 p.m.
Chaff...F Reid Duke, who’s missed seven straight games, practiced on a line with John Quenneville and Rihards Bukarts Sunday, which could signal the possibility of him returning to Brandon’s lineup for Game #3...Brandon F Jayce Hawryluk is a combined -6 in the series, putting up -3 in each of the first two games, while Brandon’s top defence pair of Ryan Pilon and Ivan Provorov are a combined -7...the two teams, media and WHL office staff shared a charter flight Sunday morning, arriving in Kelowna around 10:30 a.m. local time.

Pulock Proud of Former 'Mates

Former Wheat Kings' captain Ryan Pulock was named
to the AHL's All-Rookie team in his first pro season.
  One of the interested observers during the first two games of the Western Hockey League’s Championship Series this last weekend was former Wheat Kings’ captain Ryan Pulock.

  Pulock just completed his professional season, being named to the AHL’s all-rookie team after scoring 17 goals and 29 points in 52 games with the New York Islanders’ farm team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

  Pulock’s season included an emergency recall to the Islanders in December and some time practicing with the team during the Stanley Cup playoffs but the Grandview product is still waiting to make his NHL debut.

  “It was good experience getting called up, especially in the playoffs,” said Pulock on Saturday, “Being around the guys and I took warmup a couple of times, which was kind of cool, and I had a feeling I might get in so there was a litte nerve-wracking moments at times but overall, it was a great experience and I look forward to these upcoming years.”

  The 21-year old Pulock used his 100+ mph slapshot to score 64 goals during his four-year Wheat Kings’ career and unleashed the weapon on the AHL this season, scoring 13 of his 17 goals on the power-play.

  The Islanders first round pick in the 2013 Draft feels he’s close to making the next step and becoming an NHL player.

  “I think it’s close.  I still have to progress and continue to get better, and even when I do take that step, that has to continue if I want to become an elite player,” said Pulock, “For me, have a good summer here and get stronger, faster.  Go back to camp and have a good camp and see where that takes me.”

  Pulock admits he kept pretty close tabs on the Wheat Kings during their 2014-2015 season, watching a number of games online and texting back-and-forth with a few of his former teammates.

  The Grandview, Manitoba product is also proud of whatever small part he may have played in helping this year’s team achieve the success it has.

  “We took good steps last year, coming off the year we had the year before that, we took the right steps forward which the playoff experience the guys got last year really helped them throughout these playoffs,” said Pulock, “This year, they’re so talented and so skilled and it seems like they’ve been focused throughout the whole year and it’s so good to see them have the success they’ve had.”

  Pulock wasn’t the only former Wheat Kings spotted at Westman Communications Group Place this past weekend.

  Jens Meilleur, Matt Calvert, Colby Robak, Corbin Boes, Chad Robinson and Aaron Lewadniuk were among others spotted during the opening two games of the WHL Final.