Captain Ryan Pulock fires a puck in Brandon Wheat King practice on Thursday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Wheat Kings centre John Quenneville takes a water break in practice Thursday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon Wheat Kings have pulled off some great escapes during their current five-game winning streak against the Regina Pats.
The Wheat Kings have trailed in the first period of four of those contests, coming from two goals down in their final two regular-season meetings with Regina and giving up the opening goal in Game 2 of their first-round Western Hockey League playoff series with the Pats before notching the next four goals. On Wednesday at Westman Place, they did their best Houdini act yet, rallying from a 4-1 first-period deficit to earn a 5-4 win and a chance to sweep the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final tonight.
It was an impressive show to be sure, but one that Wheat Kings head coach/general manger Kelly McCrimmon would rather not see his team try to duplicate in Game 4.
"We were fortunate to be able to get the win (Wednesday) night in a game where I didn’t think we played as well as we needed to, to go up 3-0," he said. "The first time you have the chance to eliminate an opponent, you want to make good. We still are very respectful of our opponent. We know that it’s important we not give them life or give them momentum, and we’ll work to end the series in our building on Friday."
While Wednesday’s game wasn’t exactly a blueprint for success, it did give the Wheat Kings another shot of confidence. Despite the 3-0 series lead, Brandon has faced a number of different situations in this series, from big leads to a big deficit to tight games as Wednesday’s turned out to be after the first period. Both teams have had to play with key players out of the lineup or at less than 100 per cent, so Wheat Kings centre John Quenneville believes his team is prepared to face anything.
"Adversity’s going to make us a lot stronger," said Quenneville, who has two goals, four assists and an impressive plus/minus of +6 through three games. "(Wednesday) night was a great example. I mean, we battled to get back in the game and (it was) a real exciting moment for us to get the goal with five minutes left and stop the bleeding right there (and) make sure we were able to shut the door on them for the last five minutes of the game. It was a real confidence builder for us."
It was also the best game of the series for the Pats, however. Game 3 was the most physical contest yet and Brandon defenceman Ryan Pilon said he expects the intensity to remain high tonight.
"It’s playoff hockey," said Pilon, who has a goal and two assists and is +3 in the series. "Everybody’s looking for a win, everybody’s looking for that extra hit. That’s what comes with playoff hockey and it should be fun."
ONE-TIMERS: Quenneville was rated as one of the WHL’s top 10 prospects for this year’s National Hockey League draft in a list of the top prospects in each league released Thursday by NHL Central Scouting … In addition to RW Jayce Hawryluk, who was hospitalized with dizziness and shortness of breath after leading the Wheat Kings on Wednesday with three goals, including the winner, Brandon practised without RW Peter Quenneville on Thursday … Only two teams have come from down 3-0 to win a WHL playoff series, but it happened last year when the Kelowna Rockets came from behind to beat the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round. The other team to accomplish the feat was the 1996 Spokane Chiefs … The Kootenay Ice tweeted on Thursday that LW Tim Bozon, who has been in Saskatoon while being treated for meningitis, will be released from hospital today. Bozon will perform a ceremonial faceoff on Saturday in Cranbrook, B.C., where the Ice will host the Calgary Hitmen in Game 6 of their series.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 28, 2014