Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wheat Kings' Like Underdog Role

The Brandon Wheat Kings seem to be relishing the underdog role they’re playing in their first round series with Medicine Hat.

Brandon (32-31-1-8) finished 27 points behind the Tigers (46-18-4-4) during the regular season, but have a 2-1 series lead heading into Game #4 on Thursday night in Winnipeg (7:35 p.m., MTS Centre).

“It’s playoff time and anything can happen,” says fourth-year Brandon defenceman Brodie Melnychuk, “If you look at our end to the season, we’ve been as good as any team so I don’t know if you’d even call us an underdog but Medicine Hat has been a good matchup for us and we have to continue to work hard against them.”

Unlike the past couple of seasons, when Brandon was the favourite for many of their playoff matchups, the expection outside their own dressing room of what the Wheat Kings might be able to accomplish is less in 2011.

That might have reduced some of the pressure on the 12 first-year players on Brandon’s roster, which means the club is playing very loose in their first round series with the Tigers.

“There’s only a few guys that would actually know what they expectation feels like, there’s been so much turnover over the last couple of years,” says Melnychuk, “There’s a core here that knows what it is like but the young guys are just starting out for the first time, and it’s good for them to have no pressure on them and just play…it makes things a lot easier and they’re taking advantage of it.”

The Wheat Kings are expected to be without right-winger Brenden Walker on Thursday night after he suffered a suspected concussion during Game #3 on Monday from a blind-side hit from Tigers’ forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who has been suspended for one by the WHL for the infraction.

David Toews looks like he’ll be bumped up to Walker’s spot on a line with Scott Glennie and Michael Ferland while Dominick Favreau will likely draw into the lineup for the first time in the series and make his WHL playoff debut on Thursday.

Chaff…As mentioned above, the WHL finalized Shinkaruk’s suspension at one game for the hit on Walker Monday, meaning the 16-year old will be eligible to return to the Tigers’ lineup for Game #5 on Saturday…Kale Kessy is eligible to return to Medicine Hat’s lineup Thursday after he served a one-game suspension on Monday for a checking-from-behind double minor in Game #2 last Saturday… Brandon’s regular season success on the power play has continued into the post-season. After the club went 24-for-69 (34.8%) in their last 15 regular season games, the Wheat Kings are 6-for-17 (35.3%) with the man advantage in the first three games of this series… Scott Glennie has 34 career playoff points, and is four points shy of tying Kelly Smart and Bob Brown for 15th-place on the club’s all-time playoff scoring list… Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon is three wins shy of becoming the 14th coach in WHL history to record 50 or more playoff victories…former Wheat King Andrew Hayes saw his junior career end on Wednesday as his Cape Breton Screaming Eagles fell 4-0 to the Saint John Sea Dogs, who swept Cape Breton in the first round QMJHL playoff series. Hayes made 32 saves for the Screaming Eagles while Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, filling in for ex Wheat King Jacob DeSerres, made 15 saves for the shutout for Saint John.

No comments: