Lethbridge, AB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings season is over.
Logan Flodell turned aside 32 shots, backstopping the hometown Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory over the Wheat Kings Friday night and a five game series win over Brandon.
The win earned Lethbridge a date in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final against the winner of the series between Moose Jaw and Swift Current.
Brad Morrison opened the scoring in the first on a breakaway, Logan Barlage fired a powerplay goal in the second and Morrison added another in the third – into an empty net – and that accounted for all of the scoring in this one.
Flodell was solid between the pipes for Lethbridge, making a number of key saves, especially in the opening period when the Wheat Kings fired eleven shots in his direction, including several excellent chances.
In making his ninth consecutive playoff start, Dylan Myskiw made 27 saves for the Wheat Kings and finished the series with an overall 5-4 playoff record.
“I thought we had a good effort (tonight),” Brandon coach David Anning told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun. “I thought the guys were working and we had some sustained pressure in the first period and couldn’t find a way to get the puck into the back of the net. I thought the second and third we could have used a little bit more sustained pressure and put some better shifts together.”
As for special teams – Brandon went 0 for 3 with the man advantage while the ‘Canes finished with one powerplay goal on four powerplays.
While special teams may have been somewhat important in this series, two keys or turning points in the 5-game set had to be stretches of game two and four in Lethbridge and Brandon respectively.
In game two, the Wheat Kings jumped out to a 4-0 second period lead before Lethbridge rallied and eventually won in overtime. Then in game four Wednesday night at Westoba Place, the Hurricanes scored four goals on their first seven shots and Brandon was unable to overcome that 4-0 first period deficit.
Despite the series loss, Anning says the Wheat Kings have no reason to hang their heads.
“I thought down the stretch we had a great run where we were playing hard and the playing the right way….and guys took a step,” Anning told the Sun.
The club finished the regular season strongly, winning 40 games and beat the Central Division champion Medicine Hat Tigers in round one of post season play.
The strong finish came after an eventual WHL trade deadline that saw Brandon general manager move all stars Kale Clague and Tanner Kaspick to Moose Jaw and Victoria respectively. In return, Wheat Kings’ general manager Grant Armstrong picked up four first round picks, an early second rounder, forward Luka Burzan, defenceman Chase Hartje and prospects Jonny Lambos and Ty Thorpe.
Friday’s loss marked the end of the WHL careers for at least three Wheat Kings – captain James Shearer, El Segundo, California’s Evan Weinger and goalkeeper Logan Thompson. Thompson, who finished his career in the stands recovering from a lower body injury, was named the club’s Top Graduating Player in March. Both he and Shearer were members of the 2016 WHL Championship club.
Weinger meanwhile was acquired from Portland in October and finished with a career year as a Wheat King.
In March, he signed a 2-year contract with San Jose of the American Hockey League.
Now that the curtain has come down on the season, the club’s scouting staff will take center stage as they continue preparations for what should be an eventful WHL Bantam Draft, scheduled for May 3rd in Red Deer.
The club will then host a Prospects Camp at Westoba Place in late May.
Photo courtesy of Lethbridge Hurricanes