They may have put together a pair of impressive playoff road victories, but the Brandon Wheat Kings know they have yet to see the best the Regina Pats have to offer.
The Wheat Kings are expecting that to change on Wednesday at Westman Place (7 p.m.) when the Wheat Kings host the Pats in a pivotal Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round WHL playoff series.
"I think it’s critical we understand where we’re at in the series and we expect the Pats’ best game (Wednesday) and we will need to respond with our best game of the series as well," head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Monday, as the Wheat Kings held off-ice workouts and meetings, but did not skate.
"... Going into Game 2 we talked about the importance of trying to build a two-game lead in the series as opposed to coming home even at 1-1 and now that we’ve done that, our focus is on Game 3 and it’s a big swing game. It’s going to be a 3-0 series lead with momentum, or a 2-1 series lead with Regina having momentum, so it’s a big game for both teams."
The Wheat Kings return to practice today to prepare for a pair of home games on Wednesday and Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Westman Place, with a chance to end the series here in Brandon. Both teams have had significant players out of their lineups in the series, with the Wheat Kings missing a pair of drafted 19-year-olds in defenceman Eric Roy and right-winger Peter Quenneville (undisclosed injuries) in Game 2 on Sunday night when Brandon rocked Regina 8-4.
For their part, the Pats got sniper Dyson Stevenson (broken hand) back for Game 2 after he sat out Brandon’s 6-3 victory in Game 1, while goaltender Daniel Wapple (sprained ankle) sat out both games.
With WHL teams not required to provide injury information in the playoffs, McCrimmon did not offer any updates on the status of Roy and Quenneville for Game 3.
"I understand you asking and I know you understand me not answering," McCrimmon said.
After playing in front of a boisterous standing-room-only crowd of 6,200 at Regina’s Brandt Centre in Game 1 on Saturday and another loud crowd of 5,014 in Game 2 on Sunday, the Wheat Kings are hoping to have a full house for Wednesday’s Game 3 and Friday’s Game 4 at Westman Place.
"In Regina, it was completely sold out on Saturday and it was a near sellout on Sunday and it was a loud building, so we’re hopeful that ours can be the same," said McCrimmon, whose team has the rare benefit \of playing its first-round home playoff games at Westman Place because the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is scheduled a week later than usual. "... It’s not often we get home games in the first round, so the fact that we’ve got two this week is so important for our team. It’s great to be playing in our building and we hope our fans come out and support us."
As of the end of the business day on Monday, there were still close to 2,500 tickets available for Wednesday’s Game 3.
ICINGS: Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock picked up WHL player of the week honours after leading Brandon to back-to-back road victories with two goals, four points and an impressive +5 plus/minus rating. The 19-year-old defenceman is currently riding a five-game point streak with four goals and 12 points ... Right-winger Jayce Hawryluk has also had a strong start to the playoffs with a goal and three assists in two games after returning to the lineup following a four-game suspension, while centre John Quenneville scored in both games for Brandon.