Monday, 27 April 2015

Wheat Kings / Hitmen -- Game #3 Preview

Nolan Patrick
  The Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final is set to resume Tuesday night when the Brandon Wheat Kings visit the Calgary Hitmen (7:35 p.m. CDT, 880 CKLQ).

  The Wheat Kings have a two games to none lead after back-to-back home-ice wins to open the series, and were one of the WHL’s winningest teams on the road during the regular season.
  One of those franchise-record tying 26 regular season road victories was a 5-4 win in Calgary on January 11th, a victory that ended a seven-game regular season losing streak at the Saddledome for the Wheat Kings.
  “It helps, having played there a few times and playing in Edmonton’s rink as an NHL rink as well,” said Brandon rookie Nolan Patrick on Monday, “We’re not too worried about the rink, we’re just going to have to show up and play our game.  It’s a tough rink to play in, and they’re playing for their lives here, so we have to be ready to play.”
  One of the matchups in the first two games of the series saw the WHL’s top playoff scorer, Adam Tambellini of the Hitmen, quite often going head-to-head with Patrick during 5-on-5 shifts and on Calgary power-play chances.
  There’s no guarantee the matchup will remain the same with Calgary holding the last change, but Patrick says it’s a challenge he’s enjoying.
  “It’s fun playing against top players,” said Patrick, “As a young guy, it’s going to improve my game, playing against those top guys, learn from it a little bit and try and shut them down so it’s fun.”
  Special teams are also taking on a heightened role in the playoffs, and the Wheat Kings have been excelling in both so far.
  Brandon is 15-for-50 (30.0%) in the post-season including a 4-for-11 mark in the first two games of this series, which shouldn’t come as a complete surprise considering Brandon finished 2nd in the WHL in the regular season with a 25.7% success rate (79-for-303).
  However, Brandon was 17th in the league in penalty-killing at 77.1% in the regular season  but vastly improved in the final six weeks of the regular season, eventually going 28-for-32 (87.5%) over their final 12 regular season games and are now 40-for-47 (85.1%) in 12 playoff games, including a 6-for-7 mark against Calgary.
  “Just play with structure.  Their power-play has very skilled players, and we’re just doing out best to keep the puck out of our net.  Paps (Jordan Papirny) is doing all he can and that’s always our best penalty-killer is our goalie,” said Brandon defenceman Reid Gow Monday, “Our penalty-kill is just keeping guys outside, shoot from the outside so that they don’t get too many good looks.  We’ve had a pretty good penalty-kill and we hope to keep it rolling.”

The Brandon Wheat Kings' flag is now
flying at Brandon City Hall.
  Gow adds that he expects the rest of the games in the series to be similarly tight as was the case in Game #2 on Saturday, a 3-2 overtime victory for Brandon.
  That game was Brandon’s seventh 3-2 game in 12 playoff contests, with the Wheat Kings emerging victorious in six of those contests.
Chaff...F Tanner Kaspick, D Kale Clague and F Reid Duke were all absent from practice Monday and are not expected to play for Brandon in Game #3 on Tuesday night...Brandon captain Peter Quenneville takes a five-game goal streak into Tuesday’s contest (5 G, 4 A)...Brandon F Jayce Hawryluk is on a four-game goal streak (4 G, 2 A) and an eight-game point streak (7 G, 5 A)…Wheat Kings’ F John Quenneville was named the WHL Player of the Week on Monday...Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon recorded his 62nd career playoff coaching win Saturday, moving him past former Brandon and Calgary bench boss Dean Clark and into 9th-place on the WHL’s all-time list.

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