Friday, 6 April 2012

Wheat Kings Ready for Series Start

Brodie Melnychuk and the Wheat Kings begin
the second round of the WHL playoffs Friday
in Edmonton
After an eight-day wait, the Brandon Wheat Kings open their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Friday night when they visit the Edmonton Oil Kings (7:35 p.m., 880 CKLQ or online here)

The Wheat Kings are facing a team that not only finished atop the overall standings but also had the most goals for (310) and allowed the fewest goals against (189) in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re playing the best team in the league, standings-wise, coming up here so we’re going to have to bring our A game,” said fifth-year Brandon defenceman Brodie Melnychuk after the Wheat Kings’ practice in Edmonton on Thursday, “We’ve worked for everything we’ve got to this point so it’ll be a good series.”

Brandon allowed just ten goals against in five games in their first round series victory over Calgary including a combined four in Games #3, #4 and #5.

The Oil Kings boast nine forwards who scored 15 or more goals during the regular season including Winnipeg product Michael St. Croix, who stopped the team with 45 goals and 105 points.

“We try to be a defence first team and for me, personally, I have to play the game from our end out and keep pucks out of our net before we’re scoring goals,” said Melnychuk, “Hopefully, we’re not giving up too many and we’ll go from there.”

The Wheat Kings defensive record has been pretty solid since the last time they faced Edmonton back on January 27th.

The Oil Kings won that night by a 6-2 score, with Corbin Boes relieving starter Curtis Honey at the start of the third period and stopped 13 of 14 shots.

Including that 20 minutes of action, Boes is 16-5-1 with a 2.34 goals against average and .933 save percentage in 23 appearances including stopping 171 of 181 shots against the Hitmen in the opening round.

“There’s probably very few teams in the league that have seen really what this team that we have can do,” added Melnychuk, “We’re excited, we’re ready to go and we’re going to try and work our hardest.”

One advantage the Wheat Kings may have is playoff experience.

The Oil Kings are in the second round of the WHL playoffs for the first time in their franchise history, with none of their players having gone beyond the first round in their WHL careers.

By contrast, the Wheat Kings boast six players that played in the 2010 Memorial Cup and a combined 310 games of playoff experience.

Chaff…Edmonton defenceman Mark Pysyk and Wheat Kings’ captain Mark Stone were teammates on the bronze medal winning Canadian Junior Team this year…it was revealed on Thursday that Game #5 of the WHL’s Royal Battle between the Wheat Kings and Oil Kings next Friday (April 13th) would be the network’s CHL Friday night Game of the Week…the Western Canadian Bantam Hockey Championship is taking place in Spruce Grove this week, about 25 kilometres West of Edmonton. The host Parkland Athletic Club Saints include Ryley Miller’s younger brother James while the Saskatchewan champion North East Wolf Pack include Tyrel Seaman’s younger brother Caleb, and are coached by his father Darren.

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