Not only are the Wheat Kings vying for their first WHL title in 20 years, but the club also features six hometown players on their roster in Tyler Coulter, Duncan Campbell, James Shearer, Tanner Kaspick, Ty Lewis and Connor Gutenberg.
There’s a seventh player involved in his series with a significant Wheat City connection in Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward Keegan Kolesar.
“I was born here in Brandon back in 1997 and spent four years here before me and my mom moved to Winnipeg for work,” said Kolesar before Game Two on Saturday, “It’s always nice coming here whenever I can. I have all my aunties, uncles, grandpa’s, cousins here so whenever a get a chance to come back here in the summer, I do and I enjoy it a lot.”
Kolesar got his first introduction to the game of hockey on the outdoor rinks in Brandon, though he doesn’t remember specifically which Community Centre he frequented.
“My cousins owned Kellington Floors over there,” said Kolesar, “They were the ones that really got my to enjoy hockey and love it...they were the first ones to take me on the ice.”
After that first introduction to the game, Kolesar’s minor hockey took place in Winnipeg after he and his mom moved there when he was four years of age.
But, another big moment in his hockey career happened while he was in the Wheat City.
After scoring 19 goals and 38 points in 64 games during the 2014-2015 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets chose Kolesar in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft last June.
When that happened, Kolesar was visiting family in Brandon.
“My brother had a baseball tournament. They always have the same one here every year and I remember playing in it when I was his age,” said Kolesar, who was the lone Manitoban selected in the 2015 NHL Draft, “I had all my family here together at my grandpa’s house and we were following it and, luckily enough, I was picked up.”
Kolesar took his game up another level in his third full WHL season this year, scoring 30 goals and 61 points in 64 games while adding six goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games.
Kolesar and the Thunderbirds will host Brandon Tuesday night in Game Three of the WHL Championship Series (8:40 p.m., 880 CKLQ).
The Wheat Kings hold a 2-0 lead in the Best-of-Seven after back-to-back overtime wins on home-ice this past weekend.