This game came as chippy as advertised, with both the Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings making their dislike for one another known early.
The tempo was pretty high to start, and both goaltenders Martin Jones (Calgary) and Jacob De Serres (Brandon) made some good saves to keep the game 0-0.
None was better than the stop Jones made on Matt Calvert while Brandon was shorthanded, however. With Brayden Schenn taking the puck into the zone on the right side, he cut into the circle and then dished a perfect pass to Calvert who snapped it on net. Amazingly, Jones, who had stayed square to Schenn, respecting the puck carrier, shot his right leg out in a perfect reflex to rob the Wheaties' sniper of what should have been a beauty of a shortie.
Calgary broke the deadlock at 15:34 of the opening frame when Joel Broda collected his own rebound and beat De Serres on a low shot he had no chance on. Broda had been allowed to stand alone and unmolested in front of the Brandon net, and he made the home team pay with his second goal of the tourney. Brandon Kozun and Michael Stone (brother of Brandon forward Mark) assisted on the play.
Just nine seconds later, Ian Schultz struck to make it 2-0, Calgary when he took a feed from Cody Sylvester and snapped off a high rising shot that found the back of the net on a rush after the Hitmen controlled the faceoff and broke in on De Serres.
Brandon, for their part, had 13 shots on Jones in the first, and quite a few of them were glittering chances that the Kings prospect made routine-looking stops on. I've always admired goalies who make tough saves look easy, and Jones did exactly that.
The Jones aura of invincibility gave way early in the second period, however, when Brandon defenseman Alexander Urbom swooped in from the left point, corralled the puck at the top of the left circle, and fired a shot over Jones' shoulder and into the net to make it 2-1. The smooth Swede is a prospect of the New Jersey Devils, having been selected in the '09 draft.
With Brandon on the power play and a little over 10 minutes remaining, Tyler Fiddler scored a back-breaking goal for Calgary to make it 3-1. With Brandon gassed after an extended shift, a long slap-pass from Tyler Shattock to Fiddler off the boards gave him the puck alone in the Wheatie's zone high near the right boards. He wound up and drilled a low shot that somehow slipped under De Serres' blocker and into the net off the left post. The commentators called it a "deflating" goal and they were right; it's the kind of goal De Serres has given entirely too many up of in the tourney so far. He was way out of the crease to take the net away, but he let Fiddler find the post behind him. Just not a good goal to give up in a one-goal game.
But, Calvert got one back to make it 3-2 in the second when he gathered the puck along the right half-wall, accelerated and skated into traffic, then used a Calgary player as a screen to rip a wrister high on the glove side past Jones. The Brandon native and Blue Jackets prospect has been impressive with his ability to generate scoring chances, and the home crowd was ecstatic that he was able to finish this one off to get his Wheaties back to within one strike from an even contest. Defenseman Travis Hamonic (NY Islanders) and Schenn assisted on the play.
Once again, Brandon peppered Jones with shots in the period, forcing him to come up big. There simply was no room for mediocrity in net for Calgary, and Jones gave them as solid a performance as you can have to preserve the one-goal lead going into the last couple of minutes. But then, Sylvester took a bad elbowing penalty to give Brandon their third consecutive man advantage late in the second.
It was all the Wheat Kings would need to find the equalizer.
Just like that, Hamonic's point blast hit a body (Dale Cowan?) on the way and fluttered over a screened Jones' blocker arm to make it a 3-3 game with less than a minute remaining in the period. Schenn and Scott Glennie drew the assists on Hamonic's first goal of the tournament and made it a 20-minute game going into the final period.
Brandon continued to surge early in the third period and it seemed only a matter of time before they would take the lead.
That opportunity came about five minutes in, when Ben Wilson took a highsticking penalty. Right off the faceoff, Schenn won the draw and pulled the puck back to Glennie, who slid it along the blue line to Colby Robak, who wound up and gunned a slapper past Jones to give the Wheaties a 4-3 lead at 5:09.
Ah, a Tyler Seguin sighting at Westman Place...he's in the stands tonight, nominated for three CHL awards (to be announced tomorrow night in Brandon). He reiterated that he wants to go to the team that wants him the most (see my two minutes in the box interview with him posted last month) and just wants to have a long NHL career and win a Stanley Cup. Seguin said that he's enjoying the energy of the game and just being a fan in the stands for this one. Real nice kid-- probably the next Boston Bruin to wear No. 19 when all is said and done. I think he'll be the pick for them in L.A., with Hall going 1st to Edmonton. And Bruins fans should be absolutely thrilled with that if it comes to pass.
Now, back to the game...
Jones then made a big stop on Jay Fehr who picked off a Kozun pass (after Toni Rajala hassled and hooked him) just outside the Calgary blue line and skated in for a good, quality scoring chance.
Brandon had Jones under seige in his own end down past the halfway mark of the third period, with chance after chance that the Calgary netminder turned aside on Rajala, Glennie and Raedeke.
With a little over eight minutes left, De Serres made a tremendous side-to-side stop on Kozun after Giffen Nyren got a pass out to the wide open shooter off to the left of the Brandon net.
Calgary would benefit from a break thanks to the lively end boards and glass at that one end of the Westman Place when Kozun blasted a shot over De Serres' head that bounced back out to the goalie's right and onto Misha Fisenko's stick. The Russian swept the puck into the open side, vacant because De Serres had come out to the top of his crease to cut down Kozun's amount of net to shoot at. Fisenko tied the game with 5:04 left in regulation.
The game ended in a 4-4, going to overtime after Brandon carried the majority of the play after the first few minutes of the second period. Jones made 42 saves in regulation.
Last year, we were in the same boat, with Windsor and Drummondville going to OT in the semifinal match as well. We all know how that one ended up...B's prospect Yannick Riendeau and the Voltigeurs made a game of it, but came up short (Windsor thanks sudden death hero Adam Henrique).
It's over! Fehr scores early in OT after Rajala set the table with some fancy in-and-out moves to open up the ice before sending a drop pass to Fehr for the big blast 3:16 into OT: 5-4 Brandon. It was the 48th shot for the Wheat Kings to win it.
It's Kelly McCrimmon vs. Bob Boughner. Wheaties-Spitfires on Sunday-- 7:00 pm EST.