Friday, 27 May 2016

Locker Clean Out Day for Wheat Kings

  The Brandon Wheat Kings got together as a team for the final time on Friday, with the club conducting individual player exit interviews over the next couple of days before they go their separate ways for the off-season.

  For some, Friday was the last time they’re part of a team that made history – capturing the club’s first Western Hockey League title since 1996.

  Captain Macoy Erkamps joined Brandon in a trade with Lethbridge in September of 2014, and says his two seasons with the Wheat Kings exceeded all his expectations.

  “I think it was a storybook ending for my WHL career.  I can’t thank the organization, staff, my teammates enough for the great year,” said Erkamps, “It’s been awesome and I can’t thank everyone enough.”

  Erkamps exits Brandon with a three-year entry-level contract in his back pocket after signing with the Ottawa Senators as a free agent in late March.

  John Quenneville is another Brandon player that will  be moving on to the pro ranks.

  New Jersey’s 2014 first round pick played four seasons with the Wheat Kings, starting as a 16-year old rookie in 2012.

  “I am so honoured and blessed to have the opportunity to play with the Wheat Kings,” said Quenneville, “These are memories tha are going to last a lifetime with me, these are friends that are going to be with me forever.  Those are things you can’t put a price on.  I’m just very lucky to have had that chance.”

  Quenneville is going to take a little vacation with his family next week before returning to Brandon to pack up the last four years of his life.

  Mitch Wheaton’s tenure with the Wheat Kings was much shorter, arriving in a trade with Saskatoon on January 4th.

  However, his contributions to Brandon’s success likely can’t be measured by his stats.

  The fun-loving Edmonton product became a key ‘glue’ guy during the second half of the season, and someone to mentor the club’s younger players including defence partner Kale Clague.

  “I got accepted as soon as I got here, and it’ll be close to my heart.  It’s a smaller town, and I wasn’t used to that,” said Wheaton, “I didn’t know what to’s unbelievable and I’m going to miss this place.”

  Drafted by Detroit in 2013 but unsigned, Wheaton says he’ll take a few weeks to unwind and relax before deciding what he might do next season.

  To a man, the Wheat Kings players talked about the tightness and chemistry of this year’s team, something that was a key component of this championship season.

  “We had a special group this year and we were all best friends in there,” said Erkamps, “It’ll be hard to not come back next year but I’m real proud of what we did and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last year of junior.”

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Wheat Kings' Dream Season Ends

Tim McGauley scored Brandon's only goal in his final
game as a Wheat King on Wednesday
  The Brandon Wheat Kings saw their season come to an end Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Red Deer Rebels.

  Evan Polei scored 3:50 into overtime for the Rebels, who extracted some revenge on Brandon after the Wheat Kings eliminated Red Deer from the WHL playoffs in the Eastern Conference Final.

  Brandon finished 0-and-3 at the Memorial Cup tournament, but the club did win their first Western Hockey League title in 20 years just under two weeks ago.

  “We have so much to be proud of.  I’ve never been part of such a close team and such a great team, we’ve accomplished so much.  I don’t think we were ever clear-cut favourites to win the league but we did and pushed through adversity all season long,” said Brandon centre Tanner Kaspick on CKLQ’s post-game show, “This week didn’t go the way we wanted to, we came up short for whatever reason...we just didn’t bring out best game.  That’s unfortunate but, at the end of the day, we have a lot to be proud of.”

  Tim McGauley scored Brandon’s only goal in his last game in a Wheat Kings’ uniform, giving Brandon a 1-0 lead at 11:26 of the second period.

  Adam Musil got the game-tying goal with 5:05 left in regulation to set the stage for overtime.

  Both goaltenders were solid with Jordan Papirny making 32 saves in Brandon’s net and Rylan Toth making 35 saves for Red Deer.

  McGauley is one of at least seven players that played their final game with the Wheat Kings on Wednesday, and the four-year forward says he’ll remember his time in the organization fondly.

  “It was an unbelievable experience.  The fans in Brandon, I can’t say enough about them...they’re unbelievable and they gave me a hell of a four years here,” said McGauley on CKLQ’s post-game show, “It’s hard to put into words, pretty emotional, but I’ll never forget this...never in my life.”

  Mitch Wheaton and Macoy Erkamps are Brandon’s other graduating 20-year olds while John Quenneville, Jayce Hawryluk, Ivan Provorov and Reid Duke are all expected to play professionally next season.

  Hawryluk missed what would have been his final junior game, being scratched because of a suspected upper body injury.

Chaff...F Garrett Armour replaced Hawryluk in Brandon’s lineup while F Caiden Daley and F/D Mark Matsuba were the Wheat Kings’ other scratches...Red Deer and now face Rouyn-Noranda in Friday’s semifinal, with the winner to then play the London Knights in Sunday’s final...former Wheat Kings and two-time Memorial Cup participant Michael Ferland was among the spectators at the game on Wednesday...Brandon is now 7-14 all-time at the Memorial Cup tournament...the Wheat Kings are expected to arrive back in Brandon at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Wheat Kings Face Must-Win Wednesday

Nolan Patrick
  It’s a must-win situation for the Brandon Wheat Kings Wednesday night as they face off with the Red Deer Rebels in their final round-robin game at the 2016 Memorial Cup (6:40 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

  The Wheat Kings haven’t performed very well in their opening two games, being outscored 14-4 while losing both.

  That includes giving up seven goals in the first period alone.

  However, Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon says they can only look forward.

  “We can’t look backward and feel sorry for ourselves, we have to look forward and be excited about the challenge of winning Wednesday and moving on,” said McCrimmon on Tuesday, “That’s how it has to be.  You have to have short memories in situations like this.”

  The Wheat Kings do have the added benefit of meeting a team they’re very familiar with.

  Wednesday’s game is a rematch of the WHL’s Eastern Conference Final, and the tenth time that Brandon and Red Deer have met this season.

  “It’s an advantage that we’ve played a playoff series against this team,” said Brandon centre Nolan Patrick, “You know their tendancies, you know their players a lot more.  We’re still a confident group, we haven’t played nearly our best.”

  A Brandon win Wednesday would create a three-way tie for second-place, with Red Deer, Rouyn-Noranda and the Wheat Kings finishing at 1-and-2.

  The tiebreaker would then be a formula of Goals For plus Goals Against divided into Goals For in the games involving the three tied teams.

  Despite that scenario, the bottom line for the Wheat Kings is that if they win, they will play another game.

Chaff...London clinched first-place and a bye into Sunday’s Final with a 4-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda on Tuesday...the Canadian Hockey League and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) announced an expanded partnership Tuesday that will bring the Talk Today program across the CHL.  Talk Today has been in place in the OHL since October of 2014...Wheat Kings’ 2016 first round pick Braden Schneider was among the spectators at Monday’s game against London...Brandon F Reid Duke, a 6th round pick if Minnesota in 2014, has until June 1st to sign with the Wild or he’ll re-enter the draft.  However, signing is only one option, according to the StarTribune...some Brandon staff members and myself were able to tour the RCMP Dog Training Centre in nearby Innisfail on Tuesday.  There are some pictures below...


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Knights Roll over Brandon at Memorial Cup

Stelio Mattheos had Brandon's only goal on Monday
The London Knights jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead and cruised to a 9-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings at the 2016 Memorial Cup on Monday night.

  Christian Dvorak had three goals and an assist for pace the Knights offensively, while Mitch Marner added four assists.

  London jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead including Dvorak opening the scoring on the power-play 4 ½ minutes into the opening frame – the first of four power-play goals the Knights would score in the contest.

  Brandon is now 0-and-2 at the tournament, putting the Wheat Kings into a must-win situation in their final round-robin game on Wednesday night against Red Deer.

  “We need to start playing hockey.  We haven’t played close to how we can play.   We’re here for a reason, it’s not fluke,” said Brandon forward Jayce Hawryluk on CKLQ’s post-game show, “We have to start showing that we can play some hockey because, right now, we haven’t done that.  Wednesday, we’re going to look to find our game and build off that.”

  “We have not got going yet,” added Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, “Obviously, the losses are the most disappointing but right along with that, the fact we haven’t played well.”

  Brandon is now 7-13 all-time at the Memorial Cup, and the Wheat Kings have been outscored 27-5 in their last three meetings with OHL Champions at the tournament.

Chaff...London’s nine goals were two short of the Memorial Cup record of of those 11-goal games came in 1980, when Regina defeated the Cornwall Royals 11-2.  The Royals would recover to win the Memorial Cup that year...London has now won 15 straight games...Brandon’s scratches Monday were F Garrett Armour, F Caiden Daley and F/D Mark Matsuba...Tuesday’s game features London against Rouyn-Noranda, with the Knights having a chance to clinch first-place and a bye to Sunday’s final with a win...the formula to determine placement in the case of a three-way tie for 2nd-place would be Goals For + Goals Against divided into Goals For within games involving the tied teams. That means Brandon still would have a chance to finish second if Rouyn-Noranda loses Tuesday and the Wheat Kings beat Red Deer Wednesday by at least three goals (at least, that’s how I have it figured out).


Monday, 23 May 2016

Knights, Wheat Kings Meet Monday

Tim McGauley (photo courtesy Rob Wallator/CHL)
  The Brandon Wheat Kings face off with the London Knights Monday night in their second game at the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer (6:40 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

  The teams are coming off different results in their tournament openers, with the Knights rolling to a 6-2 win over host Red Deer on Friday night and Brandon dropping a 5-3 decision to Rouyn-Noranda on Saturday.

  That Saturday night loss included a strong third period for the Wheat Kings that saw them outshoot the Huskies 20-4 and score the only two goals.

  Brandon centre Tim McGauley says the team will need to build off that in Monday’s contest.

  “We have to build off the positives that we had our last game.  It wasn’t the game we really wanted but I thought our third period was really strong so we want to build off that and keeping going,” said McGauley, “Our team is ready for this next challenge.  We know we have to play our best...London is a good team so we have to go out their and play to the best of our abilities.”

  The Knights are led by the line of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk, who combined for ten points in London’s opening game win over the Red Deer Rebels and had a conmbined 119 points in 18 games in the OHL playoffs.

  McGauley might see a lot of that threesome on Monday night, and he compared that challenge of trying to limit London’t high-scoring trio to what the Wheat Kings faced earlier in the WHL playoffs when matching up against Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point or Seattle’s Mathew Barzal.

  “I love playing against great players in this league.  They make you a better hockey player...the better the player, the better the tempo, the faster it’s going to be,” said McGauley, “I’m looking forward to it and I hope I can hold up my end of the bargain here.”

  While McGauley and linemates John Quenneville and Reid Duke are expected to go head-to-head with the Marner line, it’ll likely be a combined effort for the Wheat Kings.

  Brandon will be the visiting team, meaning London will have a chance to dictate the matchups by having last change.

  The Marner-Dvorak-Tkachuk trio is also known for taking extended shifts, meaning it might take more than a single shift playing against them for Brandon.

Chaff...the Wheat Kings’ practiced for about 45 minutes off-site at the Collicutt Centre on was the goal ‘heard around the world’, and Wheat Kings’ F John Quenneville spent a couple of minutes talking about his third period goal Saturday against Rouyn-Noranda with the Sportsnet panel during the first intermission on Sunday’s broadcast...former Wheat Kings’ captain Mark Stone and the Canadian team blanked Finland 2-0 in the gold medal game at the World Hockey Championship on Sunday...former Wheat King and 1991 Memorial Cup champion Trevor Kidd was a guest Sunday afternoon in a ‘Hot Stove’ interview in the FanFest area...Red Deer defeated Rouyn-Noranda 5-2 Sunday, leaving both teams with 1-and-1 records.