Thursday, April 17, 2014

Canada Opens U18 with Win

  Canada opened the World Under-18 Hockey Championship with a 3-1 victory over Sweden on Thursday.

  Jake Virtanen of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen scored twice while Matt Barzal of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds had the other goal for Canada.

  The Canadian team includes the Wheat Kings' trio of John Quenneville, Jayce Hawryluk and Ryan Pilon along with Elkhorn's Travis Sanheim of the Hitmen.

  Hawryluk did not play for Canada after arriving in Finland on Wednesday, but did skate Thursday and is expected to play Saturday as he continues to come back from the upper body injury that caused him to miss Game Five of the Wheat Kings second round series against the Edmonton Oil Kings.  

  Canada's next game is Saturday against Germany (8 a.m. CDT).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hawryluk, Pilon Join Team Canada

Jayce Hawryluk (left) and Ryan Pilon are both joining Canada
for the World Under-18 Hockey Championship in Finland
  There will now be three members of the Brandon Wheat Kings playing for Canada at the World Under-18 Hockey Championship.

  Forward Jayce Hawryluk and defenceman Ryan Pilon have both been added to the squad by Hockey Canada, joining teammate John Quenneville with the team.

  Hawryluk's availability was up in the air after he missed Brandon's final playoff game due to an upper body injury.

  The duo flew to Finland today, with Canada opening the round-robin portion of the championship tomorrow against Sweden.

  Hawryluk and Pilon were both members of the Canadian team that won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic last summer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nejezchleb Banned for Two Games

Richard Nejezchleb has been give a two-game suspension
  Brandon Wheat Kings' F Richard Nejezchleb has been handed a two-game suspension by the Western Hockey League for the clipping major he received late in the third period of Game Five of the Eastern Conference semifinal series in Edmonton on Friday night.

  Nejezchleb laid a low-bridge hit on Edmonton forward Henrik Samuelsson with 3:48 remaining in the contest, which the Oil Kings led 5-1 at the time of the infraction and went on to win by that same score.

  Nejezchleb, who would be a 20-year old next season, would be forced to sit the first two games of the 2014-2015 WHL regular season should he return to the Wheat Kings (or another WHL team).

  Meanwhile, the Victoria Royals were hit hard by the WHL, with the team fined $10,000 and players Steven Hodges and Brandon Magee suspended for five and 12 games respectively.

  The fine and suspensions stem from incidents in from the fifth and final game of Victoria's Western Conference semifinal series loss to the Portland Winterhawks.

  Kootenay Ice coach Ryan McGill has also been fined $500 after being tossed late in Game Six Monday of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Medicine Hat.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wheat Kings Gather One Last Time

Jens Meilleur took to Twitter to express
his gratitude to the Wheat Kings organization
  The Brandon Wheat Kings' season concluded on Friday night.

  Sunday, the 2013-2014 editiion of the team met for the final time.

  It isn't often a team is satisfied when losing out in the playoffs, but a second round exit this season has to be considered a successful one for Brandon considering where the team was at just 12 months ago.

  The Wheat Kings not only missed the playoffs in 2012-2013, but the organization also seemed to have lost its winning culture.

  "Being able to have an effective playoffs and know that doing what I did out there gave my younger teammates playoff experience is going to be huge for the future," said Meilleur on Sunday, "I'm looking forward to see how the boys do next year, that's for sure."

  "I'm happy with what everyone did.  You look at the team last year, and they didn't have much success," added goaltender Jordan Papirny, "For my rookie year to come in and have success on this team is unbelievable for us and it'll give us confidence moving forward."

  Meilleur and fellow 20-year olds Rene Hunter and Chad Robinson played more than 600 games combined in a Wheat Kings' uniform, with their contributions during the 2013-2014 season not only measured by goals and assists.

  "One of the things where they brought a lot of value is we needed to change some things.  We finished in 12th-place last year, we missed the playoffs, so we had things we needed to change and those guys demonstrated a lot of leadership in helping those changes take place.  That's probably the biggest contribution they made to our team," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on Friday night, "I told each of them after the game that they should feel real proud of what they did for our team this year.  I think we've got our culture where it needs to be to be poised to win.  The older players are always watched by the younger players, whether they know it or not, how they carry themselves, how they handle themselves,  their work ethic, all of those things are observed every day of the season and I think those three guys really acquainted themselves on our team this year."

  "I remember Day one like it was yesterday, how the organization brought me in and treated me like family right off the hop," added Meilleur, "They do that with all their players, and I think that just what makes this organization first class."  Meilleur obtained his German passport last year and is hoping to use it to play professionally in Germany next season.

Ryan Pilon also took to Twitter to express his
feeling about his first year with the Wheat Kings
  Meanwhile, his teammates are already buzzing about what could be in future years.

  The club is loaded with talented young players who are confident that this year could be the start of something special for the group, if they put in the time and effort.

  "Our team moving forward the next couple of years is going to be awesome.  You can see it out there and in the room.  Everyone is so tight," said Papirny, "The leadership group we had this year was awesome and, moving forward, that's going to carry on with the younger guys."

  Papirny is one of 22 players that finished the season wtih Brandon that are eligible to return next year.

  In addition to the three 20-year olds, captain Ryan Pulock will play professionally next season.

  In fact, Pulock has joined the New York Islanders' farm team and could make his AHL debut on Monday night when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers host Adirondack.

  Meanwhile, defenceman Eric Roy, a fifth round pick of Calgary in 2013, has joined the Flames' AHL farm team in Abbotsford and John Quenneville will play for the Canadian team at the World Under-18 Hockey Championship that begins later this week.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wheat Kings Season Comes to End

Jordan Papirny stopped 214 of 233 shots in the series.

  The Brandon Wheat Kings’ season came to an end in, basically, 128 seconds  on Friday night.
  The Edmonton Oil Kings blew open a 0-0 game by scoring three times in a two minute and eight second span late in the first period, with Henrik Samuelsson, Brett Pollock and Reid Petryk doing the damage for Edmonton.
  The victory gave the Oil Kings a four games to one victory in the Eastern Conference semifinal series and ended Brandon’s 2013-2014 season.
  The Wheat Kings started the game well enough and were outshooting Edmonton 6-5 at the marketing timeout with 8:28 left in the opening frame.
  Brandon then killed off a Taylor Green penalty immediately after the break, but things unravelled from there.
  “The second half of the first period, we just weren’t good enough.  They scored, but it wasn’t the first goal, it was our response to the first goal that hurt us,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “All of the sudden, it’s three goals in two minutes and eight seconds.  That was the tale of the tape, we chased the game the rest of the night.”
  The score remained 3-0 until early in the third period when Eric Roy gave the Wheat Kings some life with a 5-on-3 power-play goal 2:55 into the final frame but Brandon couldn’t get any closer.
  “Had some more good looks on the remaining 5-on-4 power-play.  If we could have continued to keep them from scoring, then you’re fighting to get the second one and all of the sudden make it a one-goal game,” said McCrimmon, “If got away from us, gave up the fourth goal, and that really hurt us.”
  Cody Corbett and Mitch Moroz tallied Edmonton’s final two goals while Tristan Jarry stopped 19 shots in the Oil Kings’ net.
  Jordan Papirny stopped 33 shots to finish the five-game series with 214 saves.
  Despite the second round exit, one would likely consider Brandon’s 2013-14 campaign a success.
  The team rebounded from a 24-win season and 12th-place finish in 2012-2013 to make the post-season and play into the second round.
  The experience gained by a team that includes 19 first or second-year players should prove to be invaluable down the road.
  “I’m  a big proponent of playoff experience making players better,” said McCrimmon, “Over the years, some of the real good teams we’ve had that have had real deep runs, those players become better players and they learn what it takes.”
  While the Wheat Kings’ season ended Friday, the year could continue for three players.
  Captain Ryan Pulock, the Islanders first round pick in 2013, could be asked to join New York’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport for the rest of their season while sources told me that John Quenneville and Jayce Hawryluk may be asked to join Canada’s team for the World Under-18 Hockey Championship that begins in Finland next week.
  The injury that sidelined Hawryluk for Game Five on Friday night could complicate his ability to answer Hockey Canada’s call.
20-year olds Jens Meilleur (left), Rene Hunter (centre) and Chad Robinson (right) all played their final WHL games Friday