On a night the Brandon Wheat Kings collected the hardware, the Regina Pats collected the goals, but local hockey fans had an encouraging look at the future.
In the final game of the regular season for both teams, and on a night when the Wheat Kings handed out their annual player awards at Westman Place, the Western Hockey League’s regular-season champs were just too much for their short-staffed hosts, winning 6-0.
Brandon was without impact veteran forwards Tyler Coulter, Nolan Patrick, Reid Duke and Tanner Kaspick, and top defenceman Kale Clague, along with rookie Garrett Sambrook.
In his place, 15-year-old defenceman Braden Schneider made his WHL debut. The Prince Albert, Sask., product was selected in the first round of the 2016 bantam draft.
Ultimately, that might be what the game is remembered for.
"It was a good debut for him," Brandon head coach David Anning said. "He’s going to be a good player for us and our organization for many years. You can tell that he has some poise with the puck, he plays hard, he plays for keeps every shift. You wouldn’t know that he was 15 years old. Nice debut for him, we’re happy to have him with our group."
Defenceman Schael Higson agreed.
"He had a challenge coming in," he said. "It was his first game playing against one of the best teams in Canada and I think he played well. With spots open, a few of the young guys at forward and the back end had a chance to show their potential and I think a lot of them did."
The game had no bearing on the standings as the Pats (52-12-7-1) have clinched first overall in the WHL and the Wheat Kings (31-31-7-3) are locked into the first wildcard in the Eastern Conference. They will face the Central Division champions, the Medicine Hat Tigers, in a series that begins in Alberta on Friday.
Connor Hobbs broke a Regina record for goals by a defenceman with his 31st of the season, with Jonathan Smart, Austin Wagner, Dawson Leedahl, Adam Brooks and Filip Ahl also scoring for the Pats.
Regina goalie Jordan Hollett was sharp, stopping 34 shots for his second career shutout. Thompson made 38 saves.
Anning noted that on a night when many of the team’s difference-makers were out of the lineup, the team’s youngsters put in a spirited effort.
"I’m happy with the performances from (Rylan) Bettens, Caiden (Daley) and (Cole) Reinhardt, I thought those three guys really took initiative and went out with a purpose every shift," he said. "They competed hard, they tried to play fast. I’m obviously disappointed with the score, but you could see some things where guys got more experience in front of a big stage against a good team."
Brandon heads to Medicine Hat on Thursday to begin the playoffs a night later. While Anning said getting outscored 13-1 in their final home-and-home series — they lost 7-1 in Regina on Friday — wasn’t exactly ideal, his team has time to regroup.
"It is was it is," he said of the two Regina games. "We were short-staffed, we had limited bodies at our disposal, and we had guys who were able to play a lot of minutes. It’s good for those guys to keep playing and keep comfortable against good teams. We’ll gain from that experience, regroup, have a good week of practice and be ready for Friday."
The health of the injured players will be re-evaluated today. Like the team’s fans, Higson is keeping his fingers crossed.
"Obviously, we’re hoping our guys get healthy by then," Higson said. "I think when we’re healthy we’re definitely one of the best teams and we’ll give Medicine Hat a run for their money."
<Bt$>ICINGS: Coulter sat out the third game of a three-game suspension he earned for a hit on Kaden Elder of the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday. With Brandon’s home dates in their first-round playoff series headed to Dauphin, the Wheat Kings will have to beat the Tigers for Coulter to play again in Westman Place … Kaspick, Clague and Duke were all scratched with
upper-body ailments, while Patrick had a lower-body problem. Sambrook also remains out of the lineup indefinitely with an illness that is not the mumps …Daniel Bukac returned after a scary collison with the boards that left him on the ice motionless for several minutes. He was guided into the end boards by Nick Henry. The Portage la Prairie product received boarding and fighting majors plus a game misconduct for a hit that may be reviewed by
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The Brandon Wheat Kings’ 2016-17 player awards, which were handed out at Westman Place on Saturday night:
• Meighen Haddad LLP most valuable player — Nolan Patrick
• Manitoba Hydro Turk Broda top Manitoba-born player — Nolan Patrick
• Shoppers Drug Mart fans’ choice award — Nolan Patrick
• Brandon Sun scoring title — Reid Duke
• Mazergroup 3 Stars award — Reid Duke
• Canad Inns hardest working — Tanner Kaspick
• Coca Cola Rob Stouffer most inspirational player — Tanner Kaspick
• Dennis Truscott UCT most improved player — Logan Thompson
• Precision Toyota unsung hero award — Dmitri Osipov
• Brad McCrimmon defenceman of the year — Kale Clague
• McDonalds most community-minded player — James Shearer
• Maggie Janz scholastic player of the year — Connor Gutenberg
• Keystone Centre most sportsmanlike player — Ty Lewis
• Art Marshall top graduating player — Tyler Coulter
• MNP rookie of the year — Daniel Bukac
• Graduating overagers — Tyler Coulter, Reid Duke and Dmitry Osipov