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.
|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|
|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%|
|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|
|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|
|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%|
|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|