The Brandon Wheat Kings have found strength in numbers in the first two games of their Western Hockey League playoff series with the Regina Pats.
Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon gave plenty of ice to all four of his lines in Brandon’s 6-3 and 8-4 victories in Regina and got production from throughout the lineup.
Of the 20 skaters who suited up for at least one of the two weekend games, 14 hit the scoresheet, while the Pats, who seldom used their fourth unit, at times seemed overwhelmed in their own zone by the waves of Wheat Kings coming at them.
It’s a blueprint that McCrimmon seems content to stick with as the series shifts to Brandon for Game 3 of the best-of-seven set tonight (at 7 o’clock) at Westman Place.
"We’re a better team when we play four lines," McCrimmon said. "Some teams are better when they play three lines.
"For our group, I think when we’ve played our best is when we’ve really utilized all 12 forwards, and that’s what we did through the first two games."
Brandon’s depth was especially evident on Sunday. Playing without Peter Quenneville — one of the Wheat Kings’ top offensive threats — Quintin Lisoway moved up from the fourth line to skate in his spot with Tim McGauley and Richard Nejezchleb, with the trio combining for three goals and eight points.
The fourth line didn’t suffer, either, with Tyler Coulter stepping into the lineup with Ryley Lindgren and Jens Meiller, and they shared two goals and three assists among them, finishing the night plus despite occasional turns against Regina’s top unit.
"We’re just trying to do our job out here and all four lines are contributing, and that’s what helps us out and helped us to get the wins on the road," said Lindgren, who had a goal and an assist on Sunday.
"I think it gives our team a lot of energy, and it really helps the other lines to contribute."
Masked somewhat by all the offence the Wheat Kings generated was that they weren’t exactly stingy themselves, giving up seven goals, although six of those came at times when Brandon already had commanding leads.
"All that matters is how many we give up (tonight)," McCrimmon said. "… They were different games in that we had a 4-0 lead one night, a 7-2 lead the next night; that’s pretty uncommon. I expect the game (tonight) to be very close, so defensively our team will have to be strong," McCrimmon said. "(The Pats) have got good offensive personnel and we need to be respectful and mindful of their top guys."
ONE-TIMERS: Quenneville and D Eric Roy, who missed Game 2 with undisclosed injuries, did not take part in Tuesday’s practice. Also missing the session was Jordan Papirny, with McCrimmon refusing to give a status update on his No.1 goalie … C/RW Nolan Patrick, a 15-year-old midget call-up, lost his first career WHL playoff goal on a scoring change from Sunday’s game. The goal is now credited to veteran C Chad Robinson, whose pass to Patrick went in off a Pat … As of late Tuesday afternoon, about 2,700 tickets had been sold for tonight’s game … Five Shilo military families, reunited after the last Canadian mission to Afghanistan was completed, will be special guests at tonight’s game. A number of tickets for the game have also been given to children through Hockey Brandon, KidSport and the YMCA Strong Kids program.