After falling behind two-games-to-none in their opening round Western Hockey League playoff series with the 2017-18 Central Division champion Medicine Hat Tigers, the Wheat Kings stormed back to win four-straight contests, finishing off the Tigers ‘at home’ in Dauphin Sunday evening.
In losing the series’ first two games 7-2 and 7-3 in Medicine Hat last weekend, the Wheaties rebounded with 5-3 and 5-2 victories in Dauphin on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Brandon then picked up the series’ first road team victory on Friday in a 5-2 drubbing in Alberta, giving the Wheat Kings a 3-2 series lead.
In a back-and-forth affair Sunday, Brandon proved victorious in overtime, off of a phenomenal performance by Linden McCorrister. The third-year Wheat King picked up the game-tying goal with just over eight minutes to play, before potting his fourth of the series in dramatic fashion – winning the game and series in overtime, midway through the 20-minute frame.
The Wheat Kings also received tremendous support from their netminder, backup Dylan Myskiw. The Winnipegger was thrust into action following an injury to Logan Thompson in game two of the series. The 19-year-old stopped 52 shots in victory Sunday, and played lights out throughout the opening round of the WHL playoffs.
Brandon also collected goals from Stelio Mattheos (third of the postseason) and Evan Weinger (second of the postseason) on Sunday. Ty Lewis, Connor Gutenberg (2), Luka Burzan, Braden Schneider and Weinger also picked up assists in game six.
Medicine Hat’s Mark Rassell did all he could in an attempt to tie up the series with Brandon, recording a hat trick in the loss. It was yet another dominant performance from the 21-year-old who strung together four multi-point games, and was only held off the scoresheet once in the Tigers’ six playoff games.
Rassell is tied for second in playoff points (13) and goals (8) after six stellar contests with Medicine Hat in the final WHL playoff series of the Tigers’ captain’s career.
Brandon will now face the Lethbridge Hurricanes (who easily handled Red Deer 4-1) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Wheat Kings went 3-1 against Lethbridge in the 2017-18 regular season including 6-0, 3-0, and 5-1 victories.
Although boasting seven more regular season victories, a significantly higher win percentage, and 13 more points than the Hurricanes, the Wheat Kings will not have home ice advantage in the second round of the playoffs, as Lethbridge qualified as the second ranked team in the Central Division, compared to Brandon, who snuck in as the first Eastern Conference Wild Card team.
Second round WHL playoff action begins from the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge on Friday and Saturday with 8:00 P.M. puck drops. The series will then shift back to Brandon for Tuesday and Wednesday 7:00 P.M. contests. All times presented are Central Standard Time.
By Carter Brooks
Photo by Jeff Miller