TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Wheat Kings coach Kelly McCrimmon diagrams a play in practice on Thursday at Westman Place.
Ryan Pulock got two pieces of good news Thursday.
First, the Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman was named to the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference first all-star team. Shortly afterward, the Wheat Kings announced that should the team’s first-round playoff series with the Regina Pats go to a sixth game, it will be played in Dauphin, a short jaunt down Highway 5 from his hometown of Grandview.
The all-star nod was the second of Pulock’s career. He was a first-teamer two years ago, but was left out of the awards in an injury-plagued 2012-13 campaign.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound 19-year-old, who was chosen 15th overall by the New York Islanders in last year’s NHL draft, bounced back this season to pile up 23 goals and 63 points in 66 games, finishing second among WHL blue-liners in goals and fourth in points.
"Coming into this year I knew I could be one of the best defencemen in the league," said Pulock, who won three team awards last week, including the Wheat Kings’ player of the year trophy. "That was my goal, to have a good season throughout and just keep getting better, so it’s an honour."
Winnipeg Jets draft pick Josh Morrissey, who led all rearguards with 28 goals and tallied 73 points in 59 games, was also a first-team all-star and topped Pulock to earn the Eastern Conference nomination for WHL defenceman of the year, an award that will go to either the Prince Albert Raiders standout or Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks.
A pair of Jets prospects were Western Conference all-stars, with Portland’s Nicolas Petan, who was second in the league with 113 points, named to the first team, and Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie making the second team.
The only other Manitoban to join Pulock on an all-star team was Kelowna Rocket Madison Bowey, a Winnipegger who made the Western Conference second team on defence.
SECOND HOME: The Wheat Kings are banking on Dauphin’s Credit Union Place to give them home-ice advantage for a potential Game 6 with the Pats.
Westman Place is unavailable for the March 31 game due to the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, while the Wheat Kings’ usual fallback, Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, is tied up by the Juno Awards, which take place one day earlier.
"We thought Dauphin gave us the opportunity to play in an arena close enough that people from Brandon can get to the game, and with the makeup of our roster, we have Ryan Pulock right from Grandview, Rene Hunter from Ebb and Flow, Jayce Hawryluk from Roblin, so I think that it’ll be exciting for those players and probably be a good atmosphere in terms of giving our team an advantage, which is what you’re hoping to do with your home games."
McCrimmon said the Wheat Kings and the Dauphin Kings, who shuffled their Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoff schedule —the Kings will host the Virden Oil Capitals on April 1 — to make room for Brandon, are working to make sure the arena meets WHL requirements.
The building seats more than 1,700 with a maximum capacity of about 2,500, including standing room, and Pulock said he’s excited about the idea of playing there.
"If it goes that far it would definitely be kind of cool for me," said Pulock, who was born in the Dauphin hospital and played Midget AAA hockey in the city with the Parkland Rangers. "I mean, I’ve played a lot of hockey in that rink, and it would be almost like playing at home."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 21, 2014