Sat May 22 12:36am EDT
BRANDON, Man. -- Post-game storylines following the Brandon Wheat Kings' 5-4 overtime win over the Calgary Hitmen in the MasterCard Memorial Cup final on Friday:
It's in them to give: The Wheat Kings were even-keel after an upset win that extended their season, stressing how much they felt they cheated themselves out of their best effort in two earlier losses.
Windsor is the favourite, but Brandon has maintained it could do better, and finally did on Friday.
"That's one game, we still have one game to play," said co-captain Brayden Schenn, who counted three assists. "We didn't feel we were as good as we could be throughout the first week of the tournament, we took our fans on a bit of a roller-coaster ride."
The Wheat Kings were out of it early against Windsor and Calgary in the round-robin. They trailed by two goals twice and fought through before Jay Fehr ("I was a little nervous, being one of the 20-year-olds") scored the decider 3:16 into overtime.
Bring on the Spitfires: Fehr echoed Schenn, noting, "we owe Windsor a better game" after the Wheat Kings were hammered 9-3 eight days ago.
"We were rusty to begin with in that game and kind of took things for granted," Schenn said. "There were quite a few chirps in that game, (Windsor) trying to put a fire in our belly. We've come back from that and I think you'll see a highly focused group on Sunday."
Rust city for Spitties? Some will wonder if Windsor's four-day rest might backfire, like the layoff between their second- and third-round OHL series did. Windsor dug itself a 3-0 hole against Kitchener after sitting around for a week following a sweep of the Plymouth Whalers. You know the rest of that story, though.
Heartbreak at home: Calgary overage left wing Del Cowan, a former Wheat King from Hartney, Man., seemed to be the most despondent of the Hitmen.
"What stings the most is in an elimination game you want to have no regrets," he said. "I think we have a few of them ... If you go out there and give it everything you've got (and lose), you tip your cap to them. This hurts. They were building off the crowd. We couldn't get a shift to go our way. Other than Jonesy (goalie Martin Jones), there was quite a few of us who could have played better."
'Tender matters: One day-after question will be if Brandon can
beat Windsor with th goaltending it has received from Jacob DeSerres (four goals on 29
shots in the semifinal).
DeSerres was beaten for a short-handed goal with no screener on Friday and has not had as good a tournament as Windsor's Philipp Grubauer.
Windsor won last season with middling netminding. The Wheat Kings, who scored 321 goals in the WHL regular season, might be able to match Windsor's firepower, at least for one night with a Manitoba crowd backing them.
Jones (43 saves on 48 shots) was spectacular at times, robbing Schenn and Matt Calvert in the first period and making a half-dozen game-saving saves in th third period. In today's hockey, a dominant goalie only does so much for a team. Brandon kept swirling in the offensive zone and getting the puck to guys who can rip it and put it on net.
All five goals came on shots from the outside, with traffic in front of the net, including the Travis Hamonic tally with 11 seconds left in the second period that tied it 3-3. Hamonic's partner, Colby Robak, also scored right off a faceoff.
"My hat's off to the job the forwards did for us tonight," Hamonic said. "I don't think Jonsey saw the last couple goals."
So, the question for Sunday is whether Brandon can have Windsor similarly frazzled in its own end.
Powered up: The Wheat Kings power play broke out with a 2-for-5 output, albeit it with a short-handed goal against. They were in a 3-for-38 slump coming into the game.
"Our power play wasn't as good as it needed to be before tonight," Schenn said. "Hopefully it's where it neds to be.
Circle of love: Brandon had its best start after huddling together on the ice -- almost like a football team in the last seconds before kickoff -- whooping and shouting before the faceoff. They didn't do that early in the tournament.
"Schenner (Schenn) suggested we do it, just to change things up," Calvert said. "We just pulled everyone in together and said, 'I love you guys, let's go out and get it done. 'It's something we all did in minor hockey and it usually worked then."
Deja vu? As a franchise, Calgary has now been eliminated in overtime by the host team in each of its Memorial Cup trips. It lost the final 7-6 in OT to the Ottawa 67's in 1999.
Point being, Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio has kept the team strong enough year in, year out to get agonizingly close a couple times.
Those 67's, you might recall, were heavy underdogs going into the final and hadn't even reached the championship series of their own league. That sounds a little like where Brandon stands going up against the Spitfires.
Entertainment value: A+
As good a Canadian Hockey League game as you are likely to see.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.