Wheat Kings would love a taste of revenge
BRANDON, Man. — The Brandon Wheat Kings are seeking a piece of redemption with a second crack at the team that knocked them out of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Beating the Calgary Hitmen Wednesday in the MasterCard Memorial Cup final round robin game would certainly taste sweet for the Wheat Kings.
The Wheaties plan is to attack, and not let up.
“You don’t get a second chance in life very often, let alone in hockey season, so it’s an opportunity we want to grasp with both hands and make sure that we hold on to it and make the best of it,” said Brandon defenceman Travis Hamonic.
“This might be the last time we play them, we don’t know. We want to make sure we rewrite the history and take things to a better page. It’s the last game of the round robin. We want to make sure we finish on a high note.”
The Hitmen topped the Wheat Kings in the WHL Eastern Conference final 4-1 in April, and swept them in four straight in the same series last year.
The Wheat Kings haven’t forgotten and want a some payback.
They had a tough start as hosts of the Memorial Cup losing 9-3 to the Windsor Spitfires in the tournament opener on Friday after going three weeks without playing a game.
But they came back to defeat the Moncton Wildcats 4-0 on Sunday giving them four periods of shutout hockey and six unanswered goals.
The second line of left-wing Toni Rajala, centre Jay Fehr and right-wing Aaron Lewadniuk has nine points between them.
“In the third period of that Windsor game, I think we planted our feet and started to push back and started to do some proper things,” said Hamonic. “It pushed over into Sunday. That’s the Wheat King team that everyone’s used to seeing and that’s the Wheat King team we’re comfortable being. We got to make sure we build on that. The tournament wasn’t won because we beat Moncton Sunday afternoon.
“We know that every day we have to get better.”
That’s the mantra of head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon who said having a strong effort against Calgary Wednesday will be crucial to having a chance to continue on to the final on Sunday.
“It’s a big game for us against Calgary,” said McCrimmon. “We’re not a team that played great on Friday, great on Sunday and can afford to take a day off. We’re a team that had a really poor start in Game 1, bounced back from Game 2 and need to build on that.
“Sunday was a starting point for our team, that’s how we’ve framed it with our guys.”
McCrimmon hasn’t said which goaltender he’ll start, sticking with his habit of announcing the netminder on game day. But considering Andrew Hayes was shelled for six goals in the first period and pulled on Friday, Jacob De Serres is a pretty sure bet to be rewarded for his shutout performance Sunday.
The Calgary-born goalie said the he felt long break after the WHL final allowed him to work on improving aspects of his game.
“I watched a the tape (of the Hitmen series) a lot, watched myself,” said De Serres. “It’s not things I’d like to do different against these guys in particular, it was things I wanted to do differently for myself no matter who I was playing.
“I felt the two weeks of practice was good for that, I could work on particular things and I felt ready coming into this tournament.”
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