Thursday, May 20, 2010

20 minutes and a wrap: Hitmen harvest Wheat Kings in 1st period

After 20 minutes in last night's final game of the Memorial Cup round robin phase between the host Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen, the score was 5-1, Hitmen and that's how it all ended, with the potential for some nastiness when the two meet again tomorrow night in the semifinal game rematch.

It was the Jimmy Bubnick (Atlanta) and Kris Foucoult (Minnesota) show last night, with each tallying four points in the thrashing of the Wheaties.

There's just not much to say about this game, because it wasn't one where the 2010 draft prospects did a whole lot to stand out.

Calgary defenseman Matt MacKenzie was his solid self and didn't attract much notice.

Brandon's Michael Ferland tuned another '10 prospect I haven't mentioned-- Calgary forward Cody Beach-- in a fight after Ferland knocked defenseman Ben Wilson down. Wilson went back at Ferland and he was getting ready to drop the gloves with the smaller, but feisty defender when Beach jumped in. Bad move for Beach, because Ferland dropped him quickly with a flurry of rights.

This may have been a pyrrhic victory for Calgary, however. Top scorer Brandon Kozun is on the shelf after suffering an ankle sprain in the WHL championship series against Tri-City and hasn't played since the opener against Moncton. To add to his loss, the Hitmen could be without Foucoult, who got taken out by Shayne Wiebe with a knee-on-knee hit. He did not return, nor did hard-nosed forward Ian Schultz, who blocked a hard shot with his hand and left the game in the third. If all three are out on Friday, then Calgary could be in trouble. I expect that Kozun will play, albeit in a limited role, but Foucoult and Schultz may have larger injuries to contend with.

It was a frustrating game for Brandon, who failed to capitalize on a four-minute two-man advantage in the third period on a five minute power play. Although goaltender Jacob De Serres recovered from his nightmarish first period and settled in, the Wheaties couldn't get anything other than Jay Fehr's opening frame marker past Martin Jones, who has been quite good.

Bottom line: Brandon boasts an outstanding offensive attack with high-end scorers in Matt Calvert (Columbus), Brayden Schenn (L.A.), Scott Glennie (Dallas) and Aaron Lewadniuk-- all who scored more than 30 goals this year. They simply haven't pulled their weight so far. Give credit to Jones, who stoned them all night, but we're talking about a pair of top-10 NHL draft picks in that group (Schenn, Glennie)...they simply have to pick it up if they want to play for the championship on Sunday.

Given the hitting and cheap shots I witnessed in the final 20 minutes of the game, I'm expecting one intense battle with a lot of potential for spillover on Friday if things get out of hand early as they did last night.

Textbook WHL hockey, right?

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