The club has been trying to prepare for this tournament by comparing each and every game to a Game Seven in a playoff series, but only a few of the players have actually played in this type of pressure cooker situation before.
Among them is John Quenneville, who experienced the ultimate pressure cooker earlier this season when he played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
“It’s a whole lot different than when you’re playing a long seven-game series where you maybe have a little more breathing room,” said Quenneville, “It’s a Game 7 mentality every time you play now, and that’s just the way it is. It’ll be the team that can get comfortable with that the most and take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of us.”
There’s plenty of spotlight to go around at the Memorial Cup, but solid goaltending will be one of the keys in winning a tournament like this.
Brandon netminder Jordan Papirny has plenty of WHL playoff experience, having played the 4th-most playoff games in league history, and he feels very comfortable with what’s ahead.
“We’re going to do a real good job of managing what we do best. Once we get on the ice for warm-ups, just blocking everything else out and just sticking to how we play,” said Papirny on Friday, “For myself, it’s just going to be like very other game...just track the puck, use my skating to my advantage and stop the puck.”
The Wheat Kings seem to have already embraced what the event is all about, a credit to the experience of GM/Head Coach Kelly McCrimmon and the rest of the coaching staff.
A little bit of experience playing on the big stage amongst the club’s leadership group also helps.
“I think I’ve played internationally at a couple of tournaments. It’s about being a big guy at a big time, and there’s no bigger time in junior hockey,” said Quenneville, “This is the Memorial Cup, and for all our guys, it’s really no time to wait around. When the puck drops on Saturday night, we need to be ready to go...that’s the way it works.”
Brandon dressed the same lineup for their final 15 games of the WHL playoffs, and it’ll likely be a 16th straight game Saturday night.
Blueliner Jordan Thomson was injured in Game Five of the WHL Championship Series but practiced the last couple of days and will be in the Brandon lineup Saturday.
Chaff...the officiating crew includes Winnipeg’s Kelsey Mahoney, who frequently is a linesman at Brandon’s home games...Brandon’s return to the Memorial Cup comes six years to the day of one of the club’s biggest victories in franchise history. Jay Fehr’s overtime winner on May 21, 2010 thrust Brandon past Calgary in the 2010 Memorial Cup semifinal on their home-ice, pushing them into the final two days later against Windsor...the Wheat Kings were pretty popular among Westman politicians this week with Brandon-East MLA Len Isleifsen and Brandon-West MLA Reg Helwer both saluting Brandon in the Manitoba legislature and Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire elbowed his way into a private member’s statement Friday in the House of Commons.