The Brandon Wheat Kings saw their season come to an end on Wednesday night with a 3-0 loss to the Kelowna Rockets.
The victory allowed Kelowna to sweep the Western Hockey League’s Championship series in four games, and claim their fourth WHL title in their franchise history.
The game was goalless through 40 minutes, when Leon Draisaitl and Rourke Chartier scored shorthanded goals 19 seconds part in the opening minute and a half of the third period to give Kelowna a 2-0 lead.
“Unfortunately, giving up as many shorthanded goals as we did...which is quite strange for our power-play,” said Brandon captain Peter Quenneville on CKLQ’s post-game show, “It seemed to be our Achilles heal through the series and it might have ended up being the difference.”
Nick Merkley added the third Kelowna goal with 5:30 left in the contest while Jackson Whistle made 19 saves to record the shutout in the Rockets’ net.
The Rockets scored eight of their 17 goals in the series in either the first 90 seconds or last 90 seconds of a period.
“We didn’t play with a lead at all in this series,” said Brandon captain Eric Roy, “Give them credit, they played hard. It’s going to be a long summer, thinking about this, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Giving up key goals at key times was only part of the issue for Brandon in the series.
The Wheat Kings never found an answer for the Draisaitl, Chartier, Merkley line that finished the series with a combined 11 goals and 22 points.
It’s a tough end to a great season for the Wheat Kings, who captured the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular season champions with a 53-11-4-4 record and advanced to the WHL Final for the first time in a decade.
“I think there’s a lot of positives. Certainly, the disappointment is going to override any of that here in the short term,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, “Just really disappointed we didn’t play better in the league final...that’s as simple as I can put it.”
The Wheat Kings will make the trip home from Kelowna on Thursday, with the club expected to conduce exit interviews with the players before they go their separate ways for the off-season.
But, this year’s Wheat Kings’ club is one which will be close to the heart of many of its players for a long time.
“A year that I’ll never forget. We became so close as a group, we were like a family, and I wouldn’t want to do this with any other group of guys,” said Quenneville, “We had a tremendous season, we had a lot of young players develop tremendously well throughout the year and I really believe we laid the foundation.”
Chaff...F Reid Duke made his first appearance of the WHL Final on Wednesday, returning to the Brandon lineup after missing eight games with an injury...D Kale Clague also played for the first time in the series Wednesday...Brandon scratches were F Braylon Shmyr, F Ty Lewis, F Stelio Mattheos, D Mark Taraschuk, D Mark Matsuba and F Quintin Lisoway...attendance Wednesday at Prospera Place was 6,428...Leon Draisaitl of the Rockets was named the WHL Playoff MVP...Kelowna will open the 2015 Memorial Cup a week from Friday against the host Quebec Remparts.