April 21, 2009
Business trip home for starsBrandon boys think hockey first
By SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA
Alex Plante and Carson McMillan are back home.
As the Calgary Hitmen team bus rolled into Brandon early yesterday morning, the two veterans could have acted as tour guides in their native town.
But with the Hitmen two games away from nailing down their first trip to the WHL final since 1999, there's no time for sight-seeing.
"I'm excited to go back home, but we have a task, and we're focused on that," Plante said.
McMillan, who shares the captaincy with fellow overager Kyle Bortis, is in agreement.
"It's always nice to be playing in front of family and friends," McMillan said. "But it's going to be a heck of a battle."
The Wheaties gave the Hitmen all they could handle in Game 2 at the Saddledome.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Wheaties will likely be even more determined tonight (6 p.m., Fan 960) at the Keystone Centre, where the home team has a perfect 4-0 record in the post-season.
The Wheat Kings posted a .681 winning percentage on home ice during the regular season, second best in the Eastern Conference to the Hitmen's league-best .903.
"Brandon's a competitive team. (In Game 2), we got some bounces at the end," Plante said of his squad's 13th straight victory.
"It was back-and-forth, and we ended up on the right side of things."
This is Plante's sixth playoff trip to his old stomping grounds.
He made the lengthy journey three times during the 2005 seven-game marathon and twice more during the '07 post-season. And as much as he's fond of his hometown, he hopes this is the last time he'll be paying a visit.
If Plante's forced to come back for Game 6, it'll mean the Wheat Kings have jumped back into the series.
"It's a long bus trip," Plante said. "I'm sure both teams don't want to travel back and forth because it takes a lot out of you. But it goes both ways."
McMillan, who anchors the team's checking line, is also content to wait until the summer to catch up with familiar faces.
"It's always nice to go back to your home town," McMillan said. "But if we have to go back, it's a long trip."
Plante was involved in the controversial tying goal in Game 2.
The big blueliner snapped a shot on net that winger Ian Schultz redirected out of mid-air and past Wheaties goalie Andrew Hayes. Schultz claimed after the game he made contact with the puck near his waist.
It probably wasn't that low, but Plante backed up his teammate's assertion the goal was legal.
"I don't think (the shot) was too high," Plante said. "I'm not trying to take anybody's teeth out. Our own guys are standing there, too.
"I saw Schultzy's stick start up high and then connect down low. From my point of view, which is a pretty good point of view ... who knows where he connected. But you have to take into consideration it's not where he started the swing down. The video replay guys took a look at it. You never know but that's part of the bounces in hockey."