On Wednesday evening from Brandon’s Sportsplex, the hometown AAA Wheat Kings proved victorious over the heavily favoured Winnipeg Wild for the third time in four games, winning the provincial title three-games-to-one thanks to a 4-1, game four triumph.
After finishing the 2018-19 regular season with a 41-5-2 record in 46 games, the Wild sat a solid 12 points up on the 35-win Wheat Kings. Playing without team captain Drayson Collyer, Brandon was led by 39-goal, 94-point scoring machine Nolan Ritchie. The boys in gold bounced back after falling behind through one game of the final series with three-straight victories – including two on home ice.
The Wild – who had won the last three Provincial AAA titles were denied a fourth-straight league championship, thanks in large part to the play of Wheaties’ point-leader Ritchie, netminder Dawson Green and burgeoning star forwards Rylan Thiessen, Calder Anderson and Mason Kaspick.
Much like the case in each of their final series victories, the Wheat Kings outscored the Wild in the game’s opening 20 minutes, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a late even-strength Kaspick go-ahead marker that beat Winnipeg netminder Brett Murphy. The Wild’s backstop saw his night come to an early end just five minutes into the second period, as Tanner Morrison added to the Wheaties’ lead, capitalizing on a poor Winnipeg turnover.
With the Wild’s Tyson in the box for holding, Brandon’s Mitch Thiessen gave the home team a three-goal lead with just two minutes to play in the second frame. As anticipated, Winnipeg came out flying in the third period, scored the first goal of the final stanza. Reese Belton brought the Wild within two goals seven minutes in, but Ritchie sealed the deal for Head Coach Ken Schneider’s boys with a shorthanded tally late in the third.
The championship series victory gave Brandon its first Provincial Midget title in 12 years. Post celebration, Wheat Kings’ forward Rylan Thiessen was presented with the 2018-19 playoff MVP award for his five-goal, 19-point performance in 11 postseason games.
With the win, the Wheat Kings punched their ticket to the Western qualifier of the 2019 Telus Cup. Taking place in Tisdale, SK. from April 5th-8th, Brandon will do battle with the Thunder Bay Kings, the Tisdale Trojans and one of the Saskatoon Blazers or the Notre Dame Hounds. The Hounds currently lead the SMAAAHL best-of-five finals two-games-to one. The 2019 Telus Cup will begin on April 22nd in Thunder Bay, ON.