Friday, 17 April 2015

Wheat Kings' Depth Challenged as They Look to Advance

Ryan Pilon is the latest Wheat Kings' player
to hit the injury list.
  The Brandon Wheat Kings have a chance to move into the Western Hockey League's Eastern Conference Final on Friday night when they host the Regina Pats (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Brandon holds a three games to one lead in the Best-of-Seven as they look to use home-ice to their advantage to end the series Friday.

  "We're just excited about the opportunity.  Anytime you get a chance to close out a series and especially close it out at home in front of a home crowd, you're going to everything you can to win that game," said Brandon captain Peter Quenneville on Thursday, "The fourth game is always the hardest to win so we're excited for the challenge."

  Exactly what the Wheat Kings' lineup might look like for Game #5 Friday is definitely up in the air, and will likely remain so until closer to game time.

  Brandon did not practice Thursday, but defenceman Ryan Pilon is the latest to join a long Wheat Kings' injury list after leaving Wednesday's Game #4 in the third period after being kneed by Regina's Connor Hobbs.

  D Colton Waltz. F Jayce Hawryluk and F Rihards Bukarts have all missed the last two games with injuried and F Morgan Klimchuk has missed six straight games with an undisclosed injury.

  In their absence, the Wheat Kings have been getting some big contributions from younger players including Wednesday's overtime hero, Tanner Kaspick.

  "All the credit is due to our older guys.  They've really put us through the paces and they've really taught us how to be good players, especially down the stretch here and in the spring, how to be good playoff player and we're fortunate enough to have so much experience in that dressing room," said Kaspick on Thursday, "It really helps us out and I thnk we're just using their experience and just trying trying to do whatever we can to contribute."

  Brandon's sucess in their current series, and certainly in the playoffs as well, is that they've been able to take advantage of their opponents' undisciplined play.

  After being second in the WHL during the regular season with a 25.7% success rate on the power-play, the Wheat Kings have done even better in the playoffs, going 11-for-34 (32.4%) including a 5-for-17 mark (29.4%) in their series with Regina.

  More importantly, a lot of their power-play goals have come in key situations including the game-tying goal in Game #4 on Wednesday.

  "Something we talk about is never knowing when you're going to get another opportunity," said Quenneville, who has a team-high 15 power-play goals in the regular season and playoffs combined, "You might get one, and it might be in the first minute of the first period or you might get one in the last minute of the third period so anytime you get one, you have to be ready to make it count and that's just something that weve focused on and I think that's an important aspect."

  Brandon's penalty-kill has also been highly successful after looking like it was the team's achilles heal for much of the season.

  The Wheat Kings' are 29-for-35 (82.9%) in the playoffs after finishing the regular season by allowing just five power-play goals against in their last 12 games.

Chaff...Peter Quenneville is tied for the WHL playoff lead with three power-play goals...Brandon is 8-0 the last eight times they've had a chance to finish a playoff series...former Wheat Kings' captain Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators sustained a microfracture and ligament damage to his right wrist in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.  His availability for the remainder of the series is unknown...all four of the WHL's second round series on back on the ice on Friday night...former Wheat Kings' co-captain Braden Schenn was added to Canada's roster for the 2015 World Hockey Championship on Thursday.

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