Brandon, MB — Members of the Brandon Wheat Kings hit the ice at Westman Communications Group Place on Tuesday afternoon as they continue preparations for their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Calgary Hitmen.
The Wheat Kings, who finished sixth in the WHL's Eastern Conference this season with a record of 39-28-1-4, will open up the best of seven series with games one and two in Calgary on Thursday and Friday nights.
The series will then shift to Winnipeg's MTS Centre for games three, four and five (if necessary) on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, March 25th, 27th and 29th.
Brandon's home playoff games in round one will be played in Winnipeg – for the second straight year – due to the fact that the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair moves into the Keystone Centre next week. With the team arriving in Calgary and practicing at the Saddledome on Wednesday, that means the Wheat Kings won't have the opportunity to practice at Westman Place again until the second round of post-season play.
The Wheat Kings are in the playoffs for a club record 12th straight season and feature more Manitoba born players than any other club in the WHL. Brandon enters the series with nine Manitobans, including three Winnipeggers on their active roster. Captain Mark Stone and veteran Paul Ciarelli is joined by 17-year old rookie Dylan Kuczek, who was a valuable member of last year's Winnipeg Thrashers club that captured the National Midget Championship.
Rounding out the Wheat Kings list of Manitobans are local product Michael Ferland, who led the team with 47 goals this past season, Rene Hunter (Ebb 'n Flow), Brenden Walker (Ste. Anne), Ryan Pulock (Grandview), Jens Meilleur (Elie) and Daniel Asham (Headingly).
By comparison, the Hitmen feature three Manitobans – goalkeeper Chris Driedger, Brooks Macek and Brock Sutherland.
In fourteen games played at the MTS Centre, Brandon is 10-4-0. In six playoff games however, the Wheat Kings are 3-3-0.
MTS Centre: (Opened in Fall of 2005)
(Games #3, #4 and #6 of Eastern Conference Quarter-Final)
April 4, 2011 – Medicine Hat Tigers 7 Brandon Wheat Kings 5
March 31, 2011 – Medicine Hat Tigers 5 Brandon Wheat Kings 4
March 28, 2011 – Brandon Wheat Kings 6 Medicine Hat Tigers 3
(Game #3 and #4 of Eastern Conference Quarter-Final)
March 30, 2006 – Moose Jaw Warriors 4 Brandon Wheat Kings 1
March 27, 2006 – Brandon Wheat Kings 3 Moose Jaw Warriors 2
Regular Season Games (2005-2006 season)
March 11, 2006 – Brandon Wheat Kings 5 Saskatoon Blades 4 (SO)
March 8, 2006 – Brandon Wheat Kings 6 Moose Jaw Warriors 4
February 8, 2006 – Brandon Wheat Kings 5 Lethbridge Hurricances 0
December 10, 2005 – Regina Pats 3 Brandon Wheat Kings 2
(Game #2 of Eastern Conference Quarter-Final)
March 27, 2005 – Brandon Wheat Kings 5 Moose Jaw Warriors 1
Regular Season Games (2004-2005 season)
March 16, 2005 – Brandon Wheat Kings 4 Moose Jaw Warriors 2
February 23, 2005 – Brandon Wheat Kings 7 Regina Pats 3
February 2, 2005 – Brandon Wheat Kings 2 Calgary Hitmen 1
January 19, 2005 – Brandon Wheat Kings 7 Saskatoon Blades 3
In the past twenty years, the Wheat Kings have been forced to play 22 playoff games in Winnipeg due to the Fair. In addition to the six at MTS Centre, Brandon played a total of sixteen at the Winnipeg Arena and wound up compiling an 11-5-0 record.
During this year's season series between Brandon and Calgary, the Wheat Kings were 1-3-0. In 2010-11, the two teams split the 4-game series with two wins each and in 2010, the Hitmen may have defeated the Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference Final but thanks to Jay Fehr's overtime goal, it was Brandon who came out on top in the MasterCard Memorial Cup sudden death semi-final in May.
Tickets to Brandon's first two playoff home games are on sale now at all Ticketmaster locations, including the Keystone Centre box office. Fans can also order online at ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855-985-5000.