Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Wheat Kings Anxious for Game #3

The Brandon Wheat Kings host the Calgary Hitmen Tuesday night in Game #3 of the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference Final (6:38 p.m., CKLQ).

The teams split the opening two games in Calgary over the weekend.

Brandon took Game #1 4-2 behind a 33 save effort from goaltender Jacob De Serres while Calgary won Game #2 in overtime on Ian Schultz's goal 2:23 into extra time while the Hitmen enjoyed a 5-on-3 power-play.

"We now have a series that's a Best-of-Five with three of the next four games being in Brandon," says Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "It's an opportunity for our team to play well on home ice and gain an advantage in the series."

Tuesday's game will be just the second one in the 2010 WHL playoffs where teams are tied 1-1 after the opening two games but, statistically speaking, it's a critical game.

Over the last four years, the team winning Game #3 when it's tied 1-1 going in have gone on to win the series 13 of 17 times.

"We're certainly looking forward to Game #3 in our building, it feels like we haven't been here in forever," says Brandon co-captain Brayden Schenn, "It should be a fun and exciting game to be playing in."

The Wheat Kings got solid performances in both games in Calgary but Schenn feels there's still some things they need to do better.

"We still have to limit our turnovers, I think we're giving them a little too much," says Schenn (above), "I think, as a forward group, we have to cycle the puck more, wear their defencemen down. That's when our team is pretty dominant in the offensive end is when we're cycling pucks and getting the pucks to the net so I hope we're going to be doing a little more of that (Tuesday)."

Brandon got solid performances out of everyone in the opening two games, but particularly goaltender Jacob De Serres and defenceman Travis Hamonic.

De Serres stopped 61 of 66 shots in the two games and is currently third in the WHL in GAA (2.72) and SPCT (.913) among netminders that have played more than 300 minutes in the playoffswhile Hamonic had two goals and three points and was a physical force to bout.

"If we could have played Game #3 right after Game #2, we definitely would have done it," says Hamonic, who was named the WHL Player of the Week on Monday, "We want to come with a huge effort here at home. We've got some of the best fans in the WHL here in Brandon and the support we've been getting has been huge and everyone is excited to have these next two games at home and, hopefully, we can take advantage."

Hamonic enters Tuesday's contest with a five-game point streak, having tallied two goals and seven points in that span.

Chaff...Brandon finished with the best home-ice record in the WHL (28-6-0-2, 58 points) during the regular season and are 3-2 in the playoffs so far…D Brodie Melnychuk has played in 156 consecutive games…Paul Ciarelli's goal in Game #2 was his first career WHL playoff goal...Brandon has scored at least one power-play goal in 11 of 12 playoff games, with Game #3 of their first round series with Swift Current being the only exception.

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