Wheat Kings await second shot at Hitmen
BRANDON, Man. — Brandon Wheat Kings goalie Jacob De Serres grew up a Calgary Hitmen fan and is even friends with a few of the players, but come Wednesday night, he’ll be out for redemption.
The Calgary-born goaltender wants revenge after the Hitmen ended the Brandon’s playoff bid in Game 5 of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final.
“The fact we lost to them in the playoffs is really in our heads, it’s really eating away at us,” says De Serres. “We definitely don’t want to lose to them again. We want to send a message. We believe that we could’ve easily won that series if just the littlest things went a different way.
“We’ve got another crack at it, how many teams get to say that. We’re going to take advantage of that.”
Officially, this week as about trying to win the 2010 Memorial Cup but there’s also a score to settle between the only true rival teams at the tournament and De Serres wants to be left standing when the dust settles.
Of course, that’s assuming he gets the start.
Wheaties head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon chose Andrew Hayes to start against the defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires on Friday despite having only played three of 15 playoff games this spring.
And while the 9-3 annihilation of the tournament hosts was a shared responsibility of everyone on the Brandon bench, the goaltending choice had most observers scratching their heads, De Serres included.
“I was pretty upset about not getting the start on Friday,” says De Serres. “But I respect Kelly’s decision. He’s a great GM and coach and he has a reason for ever decision he makes.”
By the time McCrimmon finally replaced Hayes with De Serres at the start of the second period, Brandon was already down 5-0 and another four went through De Serres.
McCrimmon called it a “gut feel” decision based on what he saw in practice during the 20 days off Brandon had prior to the start of the tournament.
Presumably his gut will tell him to start the goalie that earned the 4-0 shutout over the Moncton Wildcats on Sunday in a stellar bounce back performance by De Serres and the entire squad. But McCrimmon won’t reveal his choices until game day.
“There’s nothing better for a goalie than to bounce back, to battle back and brush everything off,” says De Serres. “That shutout felt great.”
De Serres was traded to Brandon from the Seattle Thunderbirds in October after three straight losses.
He says he was happy to end up in Brandon where his idol Ron Hextall was born and played junior hockey. De Serres was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008 (third round, 84th overall), where Hextall played the bulk of his NHL career.
“I got an e-mail from Hextall before the game (Sunday),” says De Serres. “He wished me good luck and said ‘don’t worry about the last game.’ That meant a lot, it gave me butterflies when I got it.”
Having grown up in Calgary, De Serres got to know several of the Hitmen players he’ll face on Wednesday.
He’s either played with or against Kris Foucault, Ben Wilson, Brandon Kozun and Ian Schultz. As triple-A midget player with the Calgary Buffaloes, he and Edmonton Oilers prospect Jordan Eberle — currently playing for Team Canada in the IIHF world championship in Germany — went all the way to the 2006 TELUS Cup national championship final only to lose in triple overtime to the Prince Albert Mintos.
De Serres says he won’t speak to his Hitmen friends until after the tournament is wrapped up.
“After its all said and done, we’ll get together,” says De Serres. “I hang out with Schultz a lot in the summer, we’re good buddies.
“But right now, there’s no friends until its over. You’re only friends are the guys in your dressing room.”
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