Thursday, 5 April 2012

Whole New Ball Game for Wheat Kings

Mark Stone paused during Wednesday's practice
at WCGP.
The Brandon Wheat Kings open their second round playoff series in Edmonton on Friday night.

The Oil Kings won three of four against Brandon during the regular season, but those three victories all came during the Wheat Kings' downslide in December and January.

"I don't think we were to happy with our season series against Calgary either," said Brandon captain Mark Stone earlier this week, "I don't think we should be looking too much into that...we should just be focusing on the way we're playing."

There's no doubt the Wheat Kings are a much different and much better team now than they were the last time they played the Oil Kings on January 27th.

In fact, the Wheat Kings were a .500 team (24-24-1-2) after that 6-2 loss in Edmonton but have gone 19-5-0-2 in 26 games (including playoffs) since.

Even playing as well as they are, Brandon will likely need to bump it up one more notch against a team that won the Scott Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL's regular season champions.

"We know Edmonton has a good offensive group and a good defensive group and they're a pretty well-balanced team," said Stone, who was named the WHL's Player of the Month for March, "If we're going to beat them, we have to compete for a full 60 minutes every night."

The Wheat Kings will practice in Edmonton on Thursday in preparation for the series opener.

Brandon is nearly 100 per cent healthy heading into the series, with only rookie forward Dylan Kuczek still on the sidelines.

Chaff...while Brandon and Edmonton have never met in the WHL playoff series, there is a small playoff history between the teams. During the second incarnation of the Oil Kings in 1978-79, Brandon, Saskatoon and Edmonton played in a first-round round-robin with Brandon (7-1) and Saskatoon (3-5) advancing while Edmonton (2-6) was eliminated...Oil Kings' rookie defenceman Ashton Sautner is the son of former Brandon Bobcats' captain Blaine Sautner...ex Wheat King Klarc Wilson was a healthy scratch for the Oil Kings in the final two games of their four-game sweep of Kootenay in the opening round of the playoffs.

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