Brandon’s Mark Stone tries to deflect a shot past Medicine Hat netminder Deven Dubyk on Monday night. (PHIL HOSSACK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
WINNIPEG -- The Brandon Wheat Kings were ousted from the Western Hockey League playoffs on Monday night, but at least they put on a show.
The Medicine Hat Tigers outgunned the Wheat Kings 7-5 at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, another wild game in a series that produced 26 goals in the last two contests.
With the win, the Tigers clinched the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series 4-2, earning a second-round matchup with the Red Deer Rebels.
"I think our team put up a good battle," said Wheat Kings captain Shayne Wiebe, whose team trailed by as many as four goals before making a late charge in the third period. "... I'm proud of our boys that they didn't give up. We pushed back and we made it a tough series on them."
Mike Ferland scored three times for the Wheat Kings for his second career post-season hat trick. Tyrel Seaman and Paul Ciarelli also scored for Brandon, which was 11 games under .500 at one point this season before rallying to make the playoffs with an 18-6-0-1 record in their last 25 games.
The youngest team in the WHL, at an average of 17.8 years old, the Wheat Kings looked poised for an upset with a 2-1 series lead after Game 3. However, the Tigers, who finished 27 points ahead of the Wheat Kings in the regular season, roared back to claim the last three games.
"I think that our team showed tremendous improvement in a lot of areas, and at the same time, in the playoffs there were some times, certain situations where we were exposed as not being experienced enough at times to have success in the playoffs," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "Tonight's game is probably a case in point in a lot of respects.
"I thought that our effort was a winning effort and yet there were just some things that didn't go our way that needed to happen tonight."
Kellan Tochkin and Emerson Etem led the Tigers with two goals each, while Wacey Hamilton, Reid Petryck and Cole Grbavac added singles. Linden Vey had three assists to finish with a series-high 12 points.
The Wheat Kings had a 12-6 edge in shots in the first period but came out of the frame down 2-0 on goals by Etem and Tochkin, who scored on a 5-on-3 power play.
The Wheat Kings had a 5-on-3 of their own that started late in the first period and ended early in the second, but were unable to score and Hamilton came out of the box on the second of those penalties, got the puck and beat Brandon goalie Corbin Boes for a 3-0 lead.
Ferland put on a show after that, scoring twice in the second and once in the third, but the Wheat Kings could never draw closer than two goals.
With Brandon down 7-3 in the third period, Seaman and Ciarelli scored goals 1:27 apart, but the Wheat Kings couldn't capitalize on a late power play to make it any closer.
Both teams had some key injuries to contend with. But for the Wheat Kings, who lost goaltender Liam Liston and forward Brenden Walker to concussions, they were too much to overcome, especially without any home games at Westman Place due to the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
Ferland said it's tough not to think about what could have been.
"We talked about how it maybe would have been (if the games had been) in Brandon, but it is what it is," he said.
"Especially with Walker out, he's one of our key guys and it hurts us. But we've got to do what we could do and it was just unfortunate that we couldn't win."
ONE-TIMERS: Attendance was 3,007, the smallest crowd at the MTS Centre in this series by more than 2,000 fans ... D Ryley Miller returned to Brandon's lineup after missing Game 4 with an illness, while the Wheat Kings' scratches were G Liam Liston (concussion), RW Brenden Walker (concussion) and D Spencer Galbraith ... Medicine Hat scratches included G Tyler Bunz (concussion) and RW Tyler Pitlick (broken ankle).
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 5, 2011 B1