Thursday, 7 April 2016

Wheat Kings, Warriors Set for Game One

Ivan Provorov
  The Brandon Wheat Kings open their Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday night as they host the Moose Jaw Warriors (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place)

  The Wheat Kings are coming off a six-game series victory over Edmonton in the first round, winning the final game on home-ice on Tuesday night.

  Moose Jaw, meanwhile, ousted Prince Albert in five games in the first round and have been idle for a week heading into the series opener.

  "They're rested and healthy and, from what we can see from watching video, playing really well," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon after Thursday's practice, "We've played well against Moose Jaw this year so we need to continue to do the things that have given us success.  We're rested and healthy and ready to go as well."

  The Wheat Kings did win seven of eight regular season meetings between the East Division rivals, who are meeting in the WHL post-season for the first time since 2006.

  Nolan Patrick led Brandon with 14 points (8 G, 6 A) in the eight games against the Warriors while Dryden Hunt was Moose Jaw's top point-producer with 15 points (7 G, 8 A) in eight games.

  Hunt is the Eastern Conference nominee for WHL Player of the Year, and plays on one of the top lines in the WHL with World Junior captain Brayden Point and WHL Rookie of the Year finalist Noah Gregor.

  Limiting Hunt and Point's effectiveness in particular will be one of the keys for the Wheat Kings to have success in the series.

  "Those are two really good players," said Brandon defenceman Ivan Provorov, "We have to play hard against them and take away time and space."

  "It's never the job of one line because they play more than any one of our lines does so it'll a shared responsibility, it'll be awareness when they're on the ice," added McCrimmon, "I think, as well, we want to try and force them to play some defence too."

  McCrimmon also added that the Warriors are far from a one-line team, and felt that Moose Jaw's trio of Brett Howden, Tanner Jeannot and Jayden Halbgewachs might have actually been their best line in their first round series against Prince Albert.

  While a lot of the questions ahead of the series were about their opponents, Brandon forward Jayce Hawryluk feels focusing on their our game and how they play will be just as key.

  "Playing good defence, making sure they don't get momentum, shutting those guys down," said Hawryluk, "Secondly, focusing on keeping the way we're playing.  We're playing good hockey right now, we're putting up a lot of shots per game, we're playing smart, we're playing the right way and we just need to keep playing that way."

Caiden Daley
  The Wheat Kings' forward core will get a bit of a boost Friday when Tyler Coulter returns to the lineup.

  He missed the last two games of the Edmonton series because of a suspension.

Chaff...F Caiden Daley and F Rylan Bettens, Brandon's first and third round picks in the 2015 Bantam Draft, have joined the Wheat Kings for the rest of the post-season and practiced with the team on Thursday...the Medicine Hat Tigers and SMG, the company that manages the new Canalta Centre, reached agreement on a lease on Thursday...former Warrior Theoren Fleury, Jordan Eberle and Wendal Clark were named #17, #16 and #15 in the WHL's countdown of the Top-50 player of all-time on Thursday...David Quenneville, brother of Wheat Kings' F John Quenneville, was one of seven WHL players named to Canada's U18 Roster Thursday for the World Under-18 Hockey Championship.  The U18 team's pre-competition camp begins in Winnipeg Friday, and includes exhibition games Sunday and Tuesday at the MTS IcePlex.

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