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Jensen will taste playoffs -- at last

Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Kade Jensen has travelled a long way to get his first taste of the Western Hockey League post-season. The Calgary product will finally play in the first WHL playoff game in his four-year career tonight in Medicine Hat.

PERRY BERGSON/THE BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Kade Jensen has travelled a long way to get his first taste of the Western Hockey League post-season. The Calgary product will finally play in the first WHL playoff game in his four-year career tonight in Medicine Hat.

Kade Jensen, meet Olli Jokinen.

The Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and the now retired National Hockey League veteran have something very much in common.

Kade Jensen joined the Brandon Wheat Kings at the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10.

Enlarge Image

Kade Jensen joined the Brandon Wheat Kings at the WHL trade deadline on Jan. 10. (PERRY BERGSON/THE BRANDON SUN)

Jokinen set an NHL record by playing 799 regular-season games over 11 seasons before he finally tasted the playoffs as a member of the Calgary Flames in the spring of 2009.

Jensen, who has played in 252 career regular-season Western Hockey League games over four seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos, will be making his playoff debut after joining Brandon in a trade-deadline deal in January.

"I think I’m a little more excited than anybody else," Jensen said. "It will be my first time playing in a playoff game so I’m going to be a little more nervous than everybody else probably. I’m excited and ready."

Jensen will see his first WHL playoff action tonight as the Wheat Kings visit the Medicine Hat Tigers in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.

The Calgary product, who has a goal and four assists in 30 games since joining the Wheat Kings, has certainly had some bad luck.

In his 16-year-old season, the Hurricanes went 12-55-2-3 and finished last in the league. A year later, they improved to 20-44-5-3 but again missed the post-season.

In July 2015, he was acquired by the Broncos, who missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons by going 24-38-7-3.

"Playing in Lethbridge, those were two tough years," Jensen said. "We kind of knew that the playoffs weren’t a topic we were going to talk about or think about. The two years there were pretty tough with lots of grinding moments.

"And then I went to what I consider a winning organization in Swift Current — and they do pretty well there — thinking that I was going to play in the playoffs. But you never really know. You can’t be too certain about who’s going to make the playoffs and who’s not."

This season, on a Broncos team solidly holding down third place in the East Division, the playoffs seemed like a lock. Then on Jan. 10, he came to a Brandon team fighting for a wildcard spot. Fortunately for him, Brandon locked down the top wildcard position, finishing ahead of the Calgary Hitmen and the Saskatoon Blades.

"This being my fourth year, you’d think I would have played a playoff game by my second or third year," Jensen said. "Obviously that’s not the case but that’s no problem. I think any time you make the playoffs it’s pretty special so I’ve got to soak it all in. It’s going to be a big experience for me because I’ve waited four years."

Jensen, who is six-foot-three and weighs 204 pounds, has brought a physicality to Brandon’s back end with fellow deadline pickup Dmitry Osipov.

Brandon head coach David Anning said Jensen has been a steady presence for the Wheat Kings.

"He was a nice addition at the deadline for us," he said. "It solidified our back end. He’s a player who’s hard to play against, a veteran guy who is at his best when he plays a simple style. He gets the puck moving and he’s efficient defensively."

Jensen’s bad luck with the playoffs extend back into midget and even bantam, with the big blue-liner playing just seven post-season games in the three years prior to entering the WHL.

Tonight it might begin to change.

"I don’t want build my hopes up too high or get too low but I’m very confident in our group and very confident that we’ll go a long way if we’re playing the right way," Jensen said. "No expectations. I’m just really excited to get things going."

» pbergson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @PerryBergson

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 24, 2017

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Kade Jensen, meet Olli Jokinen.

The Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and the now retired National Hockey League veteran have something very much in common.

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Kade Jensen, meet Olli Jokinen.

The Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and the now retired National Hockey League veteran have something very much in common.

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