It’s was a stark contrast in playing styles, but one the Brandon Wheat Kings will need to get used to.
The Wheat Kings generated scoring chances almost at will in their first round series against the Regina Pats, but will have to show a little more patience and ingenuity to produce scoring chances in the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Brandon will visit Edmonton for Game Two on Saturday afternoon (12:35 p.m., 880 CKLQ) and will need to try some different things in their offensive attacks to generate scoring chances against the team that was the stingiest in the Western Hockey League during the regular season.
“With how well of a job Edmonton did in blocking shots (Thursday), those glorious opportunities tend to be few and far between,” said Brandon forward Peter Quenneville on Friday, “It’s going to be really, really important that we are able to focus and put those home.”
The Oil Kings do a lot of things to stifle their opponent’s offensive rhythm; including blocking shots in front of stellar netminder Tristan Jarry.
“They made it really difficult and they were to direct a lot of pucks to the corner,” said Quenneville, “I think if we’re able to change our angles and use some cutters to throw the D off and change up the attack, I think that should allow us to get some better looks.”
Brandon’s track record indicates they should be able to generate scoring opportunities, and those chances may not come directly off rushes as often against an accomplished and attentive defensive team like Edmonton as they do against some other squads.
That means the Wheat Kings will likely need to show some patience and increase their offensive zone possession time in order to make things happen.
“As a team, we talked about not forcing plays on the rush because they do a good job in taking away our mid-lane drive. I think, for us, getting the puck deep and really working it on the cycle will bring success,” said Quenneville, “Not forcing pucks, if we’re able to just put a soft-chip in and gain control down there, hopefully we can sustain some pressure and create some opportunities.”
Another interesting battle moving forward will be the special teams.
The Wheat Kings boasted the WHL’s second-best power-play during the regular season at 25.3%; the Oil Kings also boasted the WHL’s second-best penalty-kill at 85.3%.
However, only one team (Lethbridge) was shorthanded more times than Edmonton during the regular season, meaning Brandon should get its share of man advantages during the course of the series.
Chaff...missed this earlier, but Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon became the club’s franchise record holder for playoff wins during the Wheat Kings’ first round series against Regina. McCrimmon recorded his 51st win in Game Four against the Pats, passing Bob Lowes on Brandon’s all-time list...following Game Two Saturday, the series shifts to Brandon for Games Three and Four on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Keystone Centre Box Office will be open Sunday from 12 – 5 p.m. Fans can also order tickets online at www.wheatkings.com or by calling (204) 726-3555.