Friday, 6 May 2016

Wait Over - WHL Final Starts Friday

  The wait is over.

  The Brandon Wheat Kings host the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday night to open the Western Hockey League's Championship series (8:12 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  The T-Birds have been on a roll as of late, winning 12 of their 13 playoff games and 29 of their last 32 games overall.

  Seattle is led by former Swift Current Broncos' netminder Landon Bow, 2015 New York Islanders first round pick Matthew Barzal and one of the WHL's top power forwards in Winnipeg product Keegan Kolesar.

  "They really took a step with the acquisition of Landon Bow, I think that was a big piece for them," said Wheat Kings' GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on Thursday, "They've got a different makeup in that they've got some extremely skilled high-end players and yet they have some guys that are leading the way for them in a lot of respects that are hard-nosed, tenascious type forward that have really given them a pretty good mix."

  McCrimmon adds the Thunderbirds have big defence core the defends very well, and adds that he feels Seattle is a blend of the three previous teams they've faced in this year's post-season.

  This is the second straight year the Wheat Kings have advanced to the League Final, and the club brings close to 650 games of WHL playoff experience into the series.

  "We've got a lot of experience in the room, and being here last  year I think is really going to help us this year," said Brandon goaltender Jordan Papirny, "It's helped us the whole way up here and we're hoping to guide us to success."

  This is a return trip to the WHL Final for 15 players on the Wheat Kings' roster, but a new experience for nine others including Wawanesa product Jordan Thomson.

  "I keep telling everyone, and I use this phrase a lot and I really mean it, this is honestly a dream come true," said Thomson earlier this week, "When I was 16, if you would have said at 19 I'd be playing for the Wheat Kings in the final, I wouldn't have believed it myself but it's amazing."

  Brandon is expected to dress the same lineup Friday night as they have for the last ten playoff games.

  The club's only injury at this point is forward Jaeger White, who's out for the season with an upper body injury.

2015-16 Regular Season
Seattle Brandon
Team Record 45-23-4-0 -- 94 points 48-18-4-2 -- 102 points
Division Ranking 1st U.S. 1st East
Conference Ranking 3rd Western 1st Eastern
League Ranking 5th 2nd
Home Record 29-5-2-0 25-8-1-2
Away Record 16-18-2-0 23-10-3-0
GF 228  319 
GA 186  197 
PP (Overall) (70/295) 23.7% (72/308) 23.4%
PP (Home) (40/146) 27.4% (38/162) 23.5%
PP (Away) (30/149) 20.1% (34/146) 23.3%
PK (Overall) (44/300) 85.3% (49/263) 81.4%
PK (Home) (19/145) 86.9% (30/129) 76.7%
PK (Away) (25/155) 83.9% (19/134) 85.8%
PP vs. Opp. (2/5) 40% (1/4) 25%
PK vs. Opp. (1/4) 75% (2/5) 60%
Team PIM/GM 13.6/Game 12.0/Game
Leading Scorers Barzal (27-61-88) Hawryluk (47-59-106)
  Gropp (34-36-70) Patrick (41-61-102)
  Bear (19-46-65) Quenneville (31-42-73)
  Kolesar (30-31-61) Provorov (21-52-73)
  Eansor (12-30-42) Erkamps (13-58-71)
Leading After 1st 21-5-0-0 31-3-1-1
Leading After 2nd 34-3-0-0 36-3-1-0
Tied After 1st 14-10-2-0 12-6-1-1
Tied After 2nd 5-4-2-0 7-1-0-2
Trailing After 1st 10-8-2-0 5-9-2-0
Trailing After 2nd 6-16-2-0 5-14-3-0
Out Shooting Opponents 29-10-1-0 43-11-3-2
Out Shot by Opponents 14-13-3-0 5-7-1-0
1-Goal Games 16-7-4-0 10-4-4-2
2-Goal Games 13-4-0-0 5-3-0-0
3-Goal Games 8-8-0-0 10-7-0-0

2016 Playoffs
Seattle Brandon
Team Record 12-1-0-0 -- 24 points 12-4-0-0 -- 24 points
Division Ranking 1st U.S. 1st East
Conference Ranking 1st Western 1st Eastern
Streak 8-0-0-0 2-0-0-0
Home Record 6-1-0-0 7-2-0-0
Away Record 6-0-0-0 5-2-0-0
GF 42  71 
GA 21  46 
PP (Overall) (7/45) 15.6% (13/64) 20.3%
PP (Home) (1/32) 3.1% (6/32) 18.8%
PP (Away) (6/13) 46.2% (7/32) 21.9%
PK (Overall) (8/60) 86.7% (12/58) 79.3%
PK (Home) (6/41) 85.4% (7/32) 78.1%
PK (Away) (2/19) 89.5% (5/26) 80.8%
Team PIM/GM 12.2/Game 9.9/Game
Leading Scorers Barzal (5-14-19) Quenneville (13-11-24)
  Bear (6-9-15) Patrick (10-14-24)
  Eansor (7-3-10) McGauley (8-13-21)
  Kolesar (6-4-10) Duke (6-14-20)
  Volcan (2-7-9) Hawryluk (2-18-20)
Leading After 1st 7-0-0-0 8-1-0-0
Leading After 2nd 6-0-0-0 11-1-0-0
Tied After 1st 4-1-0-0 3-2-0-0
Tied After 2nd 4-0-0-0 1-1-0-0
Trailing After 1st 1-0-0-0 1-1-0-0
Trailing After 2nd 2-1-0-0 0-2-0-0
Out Shooting Opponents 10-0-0-0 10-3-0-0
Out Shot by Opponents 2-1-0-0 2-1-0-0
1-Goal Games 7-0-0-0 1-1-0-0
2-Goal Games 2-0-0-0 4-1-0-0
3-Goal Games 1-1-0-0 3-0-0-0

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Wheat Kings Move Up, Take Schneider

Braden Schneider (courtesy PANOW)
  The Brandon Wheat Kings moved up in the first round of Thursday's WHL Bantam Draft to select defenceman Braden Schneider from Prince Albert.

  Schneider is a 6-foot-1, 185 pound blueliner who had 20 points in 30 games with the Bantam Prince Albert Raiders this season.

 "He was our favourite defenceman in the draft.  He's a big right-shot guy, can play any kind of game," said Klippenstein, "Power-play guy, physical guy, someone that we just couldn't let go by.  Great player, and we're excited to have him part of our group."

  "I'd describe myself as a speedy, two-way defenceman who likes to play aggressive," said Schneider on Thursday, "I have an aggressive edge to me."
  The Wheat Kings gave up their first, three and sixth round picks in Thursday's draft to Moose Jaw in order to move up nine spots and select Schneider with the pick just ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders.

  "We just watched things unfold and we figured he's going soon...very, very soon," added Klippenstein, "This was our opportunity so we had to do it."

  "It was, obviously, a rivalry but I'm part of them so it's great," added Schneider, "I have nothing bad to say...all good things.  I'm so excited."
  Souris product Trent Miner was the lone Manitoban selected in the first round of Thursday's Bantam Draft as he went 19th overall to the Vancouver Giants.

  "It's a great opportunity.  I know its different now that it was in the past, but they're committed to building a great team," said Miner, "Vancouver is a beautiful city so I should like it there and get used to it."
  "He was our first-rated goalie," said Giants' Director of Player Personnel Jason Ripplinger, "We're trying to build from the back out so it's a good starting block for us."

  Miner is a 6-foot-0, 170 pound goaltender who played with the Brandon Bantam Wheat Kings this past season.

  He won't be eligible to play full-time in the WHL until the 2017-2018 season, so he knows he has plenty of time to get ready.

  "Keep working on getting more consistent with my game, keep working on everything overall.  The WHL just keeps getting higher and higher in terms of pace so you have to work on your speed and keep improving everything so I'll be ready to go for the next level."

  Vista's Cole Muir was the second Manitoba chosen, going in the second round and 33rd overall to the Regina Pats.

  It's the second straight year the Pats have used their first pick on a player from the Yellowhead region.

  They chose Dawson Barteaux with their first round pick in 2015.

  Brandon used their second round pick on Portage product Ben McCartney, a 5-foot-9 1/2, 155 pound forward who played this past season at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

  He had 18 goals and 33 points in 23 games during the 2015-16 campaign.

  Here's the complete list of Brandon selections and Western Manitoba's chosen in the Bantam Draft on Thursday...

Brandon Wheat Kings' 2016 Bantam Draft Picks

1st Round (11th overall)
D Braden Schneider
Hometown: Prince Albert, SK
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 185
2015-16 Team: Prince Albert Bantams
Stats: 30 GP  7-13-20

2nd Round (43rd overall)
F Ben McCartney
Hometown: Portage, MB
Height: 5-foot-9 1/2
Weight: 152
2015-16 Team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Bantam Prep
Stats: 23 GP  18-15-33

4th Round (87th overall)
F Kyle Bettens
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 149
2015-16 Team: Winnipeg Monarchs
Stats: 34 GP  17-38-55

5th Round (109th overall)
G Ethan Kruger
Hometown: Sherwood Park, AB
Height: 5-foot-11 1/2
Weight: 168
2015-16 Team: Sherwood Park Flyers
Stats: 14 GP  1.63 GAA  .931 SPCT

7th Round (153rd overall)
D Neithan Salame
Hometown: Edmonton, AB
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 178
2015-16 Team: Edmonton KC
Stats: 34 GP 6-24-30

8th Round (175th overall)
F Jonny Hooker
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
Height: 5-foot-9 1/2
Weight: 157
2015-16 Team: Winnipeg Monarchs
Stats: 26 GP  12-23-35

9th Round (197th overall)
F Carter Cockburn
Hometown: Swan River, MB
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 151
2015-16 Team: Parkland
Stats: 36 GP 39-24-63

10th Round (219th overall)
D Timber Lewis
Hometown: Terrace, BC
Height: 5-foot-8 1/2
Weight: 141
2015-16 Team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Bantam Prep
Stats: 22 GP 1-9-10

11th Round (241st overall)
D Justin MacDonald
Hometown: St. Albert, AB
Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 160
2015-16 Team: St. Albert Sabres
Stats: 31 GP 4-14-18

12th Round (263rd overall)
F Dylan Halliday
Hometown: Brandon, MB
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 197
2015-16 Team: Brandon Bantam Wheat Kings
Stats: 34 GP  43-46-89

13th Round (285th overall)
F Kolton Shindle
Hometown: Carman, MB
Height: 5-foot-8 1/2
Weight: 169
2015-16 Team: Pembina Valley
Stats: 31 GP  46-29-75

Western Manitobans
Team: Vancouver Giants
1st Round (19th overall)
G Trent Miner
Hometown: Souris, MB
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 171
2015-16 Team: Brandon Bantam Wheat Kings
Stats: 27 GP 1.52 GAA  SPCT n/a

Team: Regina Pats
2nd Round (33rd overall)
F Cole Muir
Hometown: Vista, MB
Height: 6-foot-1 1/2
Weight: 171
2015-16 Team: Yellowhead Chiefs
Stats: 35 GP 37-39-76

Team: Regina Pats
4th Round (76th overall)
F Tristen Robins
Hometown: Brandon, MB
Height: 5-foot-5
Weight: 126
2015-16 Team: Brandon Bantam Wheat Kings
Stats: 35 GP 51-40-91

Team: Kootenay Ice
4th Round (78th overall)
D Jordan Chudley
Hometown: Souris, MB
Height: 6-foot-0 1/2
Weight: 149
2015-16 Team: Southwest Cougars
Stats: 35 GP  8-22-30

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings
5th Round (93rd overall)
F Callum Fortin
Hometown: Souris, MB
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 162
2015-16 Team: Southwest Cougars
Stats: 353 GP 27-19-46

Team: Vancouver Giants
10th Round (200th overall)
F Parker Johnson
Hometown: Elkhorn, MB
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 155
2015-16 Team: Yellowhead Chiefs
Stats: 33 GP 22-20-42

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings
12th Round (263rd overall)
F Dylan Halliday
Hometown: Brandon, MB
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 197
2015-16 Team: Brandon Bantam Wheat Kings
Stats: 34 GP  43-46-89

WHL Bantam Draft goes Thursday

  Western Hockey League teams will be re-stocking the shelves on Thursday.

  The annual Bantam Draft is taking place in Calgary, with the Brandon Whaet Kings holding the 20th overall pick in the first round.

  Note: Technically, it's the 21st pick but Portland is still forfeiting its first round selection so Brandon's selection will actually be 20th overall.

  "It's a big day.  Our staff has put in a lot of time in the rinks and on the road and in meetings, discussing players and this is the final presentation," said Wheat Kings' Director of Scouting Wade Klippenstein, "It's always an exciting time as a scout when you get to the table, go through your draft list and finally make those selections."

  Like drafts at every level, the WHL Bantam Draft is an inexact science but the Wheat Kings, like other WHL clubs, try to take into account as many different factors as they can when it comes to assessing the players available.

  "People see us in the rinks, watching the players, but maybe want they don't see is the process.  We interview close to 200 players either through a questionaire, on the phone or face-to-face.  A lot of times in the rink, you not only talk to the player but to the parent and try and gather as much information as you can," said Klippenstein, "Players have all different kings of personalities and interests and you want to make sure you're selecting players that want to play in the WHL, wants to be Brandon Wheat Kings and recognize the commitment level going forward of what it takes to be a WHL player."

  There's no doubt that talent and skills are the major factor when it comes to assessing a player, but there are also some other things that might contribute to a team like the Wheat Kings choosing similarly skilled players over each other.

  Klippenstein admits they have a penchant for prefering players who have a phone number that starts 204, but there are also some other things teams value.

  "I think different teams have certain traits (they look for).  When you're out scouting, you can watch certain players that you say he looks like a guy that would fit in nicely with Team X," said Klippenstein, "You look for the best player, you look for guys that have played a lot of important hockey games, teams from winning programs.  There seems to be a coorelation between kids that win in Bantam and Midget that find a way to win in the WHL as well so that's very important for us."

  The Wheat Kings hold all their own picks in Thursday's draft and have an extra ninth round pick from a trade with Prince George.

  They also owe the Spokane Chiefs an 11th round pick from an early season trade.

  Two of the top Manitobans eligible for today's Bantam Draft are from Westman.

  Brandon's Trent Minor is a 6-foot-0 goaltender who's expected to be a first round pick while Vista's Cole Muir is a 6-foot-2 forward who could go in the first or second rounds.

  Other top Westman players include Dylan Halliday and Tristen Robins, a pair of forwards from Brandon.

  Thursday's draft begins at 9:30 a.m. (CDT).

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Provorov, Kaspick Net WHL Awards

  The Western Hockey League dished out its hardware Wednesday, with two members of the Wheat Kings walking away with trophies.

  Ivan Provorov became just the second Wheat King to capture the Defenceman of the Year award while Tanner Kaspick was recognized as the Scholastic Player of the Year.

  Provorov led all WHL players with a +64 rating during the regular season while also leading all blueliners with 73 points -- becoming just the third defenceman in the last 20 years to record 70+ points and have a +60 rating or higher.

  "There's a lot of great defencemen in the league this year, and it's an honour to receive this award," said Provorov, "As well, there's a lot of great defencemen that have won this award in the past and to be included in this group is pretty special."

  Kaspick, meanwhile, maintained a 96% average in the first semester and a 98% average in the second semester at Vincent Massey High School in becoming the sixth player in Wheat Kings' history to win the Doc Seaman Memorial Trophy.

  "I've always kept school as a high priority for myself.  I take a lot of pride in my work as well," said Kaspick, who also scored 31 pointsin 53 games during the regular season, "For the league to recognize my academic success with this award is a huge honour, and I'm very grateful for it."

  The Wheat Kings were also runner-ups for the WHL's Business and Marketing Award, with the Victoria Royals taking home that honour.

  Other award winners included Moose Jaw's Dryden Hunt as Player of the Year, Everett's Carter Hart as Goaltender of the Year, Matthew Phillips of Victoria as Rookie of the Year and Dave Lowry of the Royals as Coach of the Year.

Hello Beardies

Mitch Wheaton may have the Wheat Kings'
best playoff beard.
  They're itchy and scratchy and well worth the trouble.

  Welcome to the world of the playoff beards -- a hockey tradition that's been around for more than three decades.

  "It's just a tradition that we do.  I don't know when it started, but it's just something that you always do," said Brandon defenceman Mitch Wheaton, "I remember my first year playing junior, if a guy shaved you get in trouble so it's just something we grow up doing."

  The tradition of the playoff beard is credited to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup dynasty years in the early 1980's, and that influence may have come from Swedish players who followed the lead of tennis player Bjorn Borg, who never shaved during the Wimbledon tournament.

  "I've had my goatee for about four years, just trimming it here and there, but never gone this long without a trim," said Wawanesa product Jordon Thomson, "Not a fan, but you have to do what you have to do."

  Brandon's lengthy playoff run so far this spring gives a true assessment and evaluation of who grows the best facial hair.

  Thomson credits his fellow blueliner Wheaton with having the 'best' playoff beard on this year's club, but Wheaton also gave some props to a pair of his younger teammates.

  "My D partner Kale Clague grows a great beard for a younger guy.  It's already filling in," said Wheaton, "We always joke that we kind of have the same beard, mine is just a little longer.  He, for sure, has a great one and (Stelio Mattheos), for a young guy, has a great beard going as well."

  The Wheat Kings are preparing for the start of the Western Hockey League Final.

  They'll open the Championship series against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday and Saturday at Westman Communications Group Place.