Brandon, Manitoba – Veteran netminder Logan Thompson may not have been in the lineup but he was busy accepting hardware Saturday night as the Brandon Wheat Kings handed out the hardware before, during and immediately following their exciting Western Hockey League regular season finale against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.
A 20-year old Calgary product, Thompson took home the MazerGroup 3 Stars Award, the Meighen Haddad Most Valuable Player Trophy as well as the Art Marshall Top Graduating Player honour.
Thompson, who will close out his major junior career in this year’s playoffs, finished among the league leaders in games, shutouts and save percentage this past season. Thompson compiled a 3.41 goals against average, a .908 save percentage and three shutouts in 55 appearances. During his WHL career, the former sixth round bantam draft choice played in 122 games (tied with George Maneluk for 8th in club history), 6,935 minutes (7th all time), recording 4 shutouts (tied for 10th with Jomar Cruz and Joe Caligiuri) and a 3.26 goals against average, which is sixth best in franchise history.
Joining Thompson as a multi-winner Saturday night was Connor Gutenberg. The 18-year old local product captured the Coca Cola Rob Stouffer Most Inspirational Trophy as well as the Canad Inns Hardest Working Player Award.
Ten other Wheat Kings won awards, including Ty Lewis and Stelio Mattheos. While Lewis won the Brandon Sun Scoring Trophy for leading the club with 46 goals and 100 points, Mattheos was named winner of the Manitoba Hydro Turk Borda Trophy that goes to the Wheat Kings top Manitoba born player. The Carolina Hurricanes’ draft choice finished among the league scoring leaders this past season with 90 points, including 43 goals.
Lewis became the first local product to reach the 100 point plateau since defenceman Cam Plante had 140 during the 1983-84 campaign.
Rounding out this year’s award winners were Schael Higson (Brad McCrimmon Top Defenceman), Braden Schneider (MNP Rookie of the Year), Cole Reinhardt (Dennis Truscott UCT Most Improved Player), Caiden Daley (Keystone Centre Most Sportsmanlike), Baron Thompson (Shoppers Drug Mart Fans Choice Award), James Shearer (McDonalds Frank King Most Community Minded), Marcus Sekundiak (Maggie Janz Scholastic) and overage right-winger Evan Weinger (Precision Toyota Unsung Hero).
For the ninth consecutive season, the Wheat Kings annual awards were given out before, during and immediately following the game, which saw Brandon rally from a 4-0 second period deficit to beat the Warriors 5-4 in a an overtime shootout before a sold out crowd of over 5,600 fans. Former Warrior Luka Burzan was the hero of the game, scoring twice, including the equalizer with 1:07 to play and then capped off an outstanding performance by scoring the shootout winner.
Weinger and Lewis rounded out the scoring for the Wheat Kings, who finished the season with a record of 40-27-3-2 and the first wild card spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Gutenberg added two assists for the winners, who outshot Moose Jaw 35-21.
With Thompson on the sidelines, Dylan Myskiw got the win between the pipes, making seventeen saves, including two breakaway stops in overtime.
Brandon will not meet the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Friday night in Alberta. Due to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair that will occupy the Keystone Centre from March 26th to April 1st, the Wheat Kings will be forced to play their opening round playoff home games in Dauphin for the second consecutive year.
This also marks the second straight year that Brandon will meet Medicine Hat in post-season play.
To purchase playoff tickets for games three and four, to be played Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27th and 28th, fans can visit the Keystone Centre box office, call (204) 726-3555 or go online at keystonecentre.com
Photo Courtesy of Tim Smith