Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wheat Kings Down Pats, Finish Sixth

Brodie Melnychuk scored a pair of goals in his
318th and final regular season game with the
Wheat Kings
Brodie Melnychuk saved the best for last.

Melnychuk scored a pair of goals in helping the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 7-2 win over the Regina Pats on Saturday night.

The outburst was the first multi-goal game of Melnychuk's five-year career with the Wheat Kings.

"The stars lined up for me tonight," said Melnychuk on CKLQ's post-game show, "That's the first one of my career and my last one, considering it was my last regular season game but it was good."

Melnychuk's shorthanded goal in the first period tied the game 1-1 while his power-play marker in the second period gave the Wheat Kings a 6-2 lead, and was the third of four goals in span of 5:51 that turned a tight 3-2 game into a 7-2 contest.

Mark Stone added two goals and two assists for the Wheat Kings to finish with 123 points on the season including 41 goals.

The point total is the most for a Brandon player since Peter Schaefer finished with that same total in 1996-97, however, Stone will finish second in the WHL scoring race behind Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans.

His point total during the 2011-2012 season would have won the scoring title in any of the previous 12 seasons.

Saturday's victory allowed the Wheat Kings to move into sixth-place in the Eastern Conference and sets up a playoff matchup with the Calgary Hitmen for the third time in four years.

"They're a very good team, they're playing extremely right now and they're going to be a very tough opponent but we're confident right now," said Brandon coach Cory Clouston, "It's going to take a solid team effort, we have to prepare for a long series and we have to prepare to play the way we have been as of late."

Brandon had a 15-4-0-2 record over their final 21 games of the regular season, the best record in the WHL over that span and finished with an overall mark of 39-28-1-4.

"We have a lot of guys with experience on this team that want to win and if we all get our mind set in the right direction, I think we can do a lot of damage," added Melnychuk, "We lots of guys with skill...on any given night, we can really outplay a team if we really bring our A game."

Calgary beat Brandon in three of four regular season meetings between the two teams but they haven't played since January 25th.

Here's a look at the schedule for the series, which will follow a 2-3-2 format.

Brandon Wheat Kings vs Calgary Hitmen
(Best-of-Seven Eastern Conference Quarter-Final)

Thursday, March 22 - Brandon @ Calgary, 8 p.m. (CDT)
Friday, March 23 - Brandon @ Calgary, 8 p.m. (CDT)
Sunday, March 25 - Calgary @ Brandon, 6 p.m. (CDT)
(at MTS Centre, Winnipeg)
Tuesday, March 27 - Calgary @ Brandon, 7 p.m. (CDT)
(at MTS Centre, Winnipeg)
Thursday, March 29 - Calgary @ Brandon, 7 p.m.
(at MTS Centre, Winnipeg)
Sunday, April 1 - Brandon @ Calgary, 5 p.m. (CDT)
Tuesday, April 3 - Brandon @ Calgary, 8 p.m. (CDT)

**Tickets on sale Monday morning (March 19th) at all Ticketmaster locations, including the Keystone Centre box office, online at http://www.ticketmaster.ca/ or fans can also call Toll-Free at 1-855-985-5000.

Chaff...Brandon actually tied with Saskatoon for sixth-place in the standings but the Blades had the tiebreaker of most victories...the other Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals include the Reinhart family feud as Edmonton faces Kootenay while Moose Jaw will play Regina and Medicine Hat will take on Saskatoon...attendance Saturday was 4,942, pushing the Wheat Kings' season total to 149,071 (4,141 per game). That's down a total 4,882 from 2010-2011...Brandon also doled out their 2011-2012 awards during Saturday night's contest. Here were the winners...

Most Valuable Player - Mark Stone
Scoring Champion - Mark Stone
Fans Choice Award - Michael Ferland
3 Star Award - Michael Ferland
Most Sportsmanlike Player - Mark Stone
Most Improved Player - Eric Roy
Top Graduating (20-year old) Player - Brodie Melnychuk
Top Defenceman - Ryan Pulock
Top Manitoban - Mark Stone
Scholastic Player of the Year - Eric Roy
Most Inspirational Player - Brodie Melnychuk
Hardest Working Player - Bruno Mraz
Top Rookie - Alessio Bertaggia
Most Community Minded Player - Paul Ciarelli
Unsung Hero Award - Brenden Walker

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