Wheat Kings draw first blood in WHL East final against Rebels
John Quenneville finished what he started.
The Brandon Wheat Kings sniper, who opened the scoring, sniped the winner 2:53 into overtime to give the hosts a 4-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels.
The Wheaties lead the Eastern Conference final 1-0. The two teams will get right back at it Saturday night.
The series returns to Red Deer for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Wheat Kings youngster Stelio Mattheos appeared to snipe the game-winner with 44 seconds remaining in regulation time but Rebels D-man Haydn Fleury forced free hockey with five ticks on the clock.
“We managed to get ourselves back in the game in the third (period),” Quenneville told Shaw TV.
“Stelio made a great shot to put us ahead, but things happen.
“I don’t think we blinked. We came out hard and managed to have a good overtime and luckily, I finished one off.”
Ivan Provorov also scored for the Wheaties while Evan Polei and Adam Helewka struck for the visitors during regulation time.
The Rebels certainly have their hands full with the Wheaties but it would be impossible for them to not have one eye on next month’s Memorial Cup.
The Rebels know about every entrance to the Centrium but they’re intent on strolling through the front door at the CHL championship. Even if they don’t win a WHL crown, they are at the very least staying sharp by extending their season to the third round of the playoffs.
Rebels power forward Jake DeBrusk said it would have been tough to stay sharp had his squad lost in the first two rounds.
“It’s tough not to look at the big picture, but you’re so focused on a series and the games that you don’t think about it,” DeBrusk said.
“But if you look at it, you don’t want to be sitting at home for six weeks, that’s for sure.”
Teammate and fellow first-round NHL draft pick Haydn Fleury was in complete agreement.
“You don’t want to be sitting around for a month doing nothing but bag-skating before playing in one of the biggest tournament in the world,” Fleury said.
The 2013 Saskatoon Blades, the last WHL team to host the Memorial Cup, gave everyone a blueprint of what not to do.
The Blades went down in the flames in the first round and were forced to sit for 51 days before the championship tourney got underway.
Needless to say, things didn’t go their way.
“They didn’t really have any success in the playoffs and then it’s hard to gain any kind of momentum going into a tournament like that,” Fleury said.
Other hosts have enjoyed more success.
The host Shawinigan Cataractes won the 2012 Memorial Cup after a 30-day vacation. The Cataractes had been eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs in Game 7 of the second round by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
The 2007 Vancouver Giants made the most of their home-ice advantage to win the Memorial Cup. The Medicine Hat Tigers had captured the WHL crown, but had outlasted the Giants in a seven-game marathon in the final, so there was no significant layoff.
MARCHAND STILL STINGY
Chase Marchand has more shutouts than goals-against.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies goaltender actually gave one up Friday night.
But his 26-save effort was more than enough to give the CHL’s topranked club a 4-1 victory over the Moncton Wildcats in Game 1 of the QMJHL semifinal series. Francis Perron had a goal and a helper for the Huskies.
BANDITS WIN AJHL TITLE
Brooks Bandits defeated defending champion Spruce Grove Saints 4-1 Friday Friday in Spruce Grove to win the Alberta Junior Hockey League title in five games.