Wheatie nominated as top rookie

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

The biggest question concerning the Brandon Wheat Kings has now been answered with a rookie of the year nomination.

Coming into the 2004-05 season, the Western Hockey League club knew they had the offensive firepower and the defensive ability to be an elite team in the East division.

Goaltending was the unknown, with little used Mike Nichol and first-year Tyler Plante between the pipes.

The two split time in the first half of the season, until Plante took the reins and established himself as the next outstanding netminder to wear Wheat Kings colours.

"It's a great honour, especially when I think of all the great players who have gotten it in the past," Plante said after being named the Eastern conference nominee for the WHL rookie of the year award yesterday. "It's a nice confidence booster going into the playoffs here."

Like the Brandon native really needs it.

In 49 appearances, Plante finished with a record of 34-12-2 with a 2.59 goals against average.

Included in those numbers are six shutouts, a new franchise mark for the Wheaties that surpasses the old mark of five set by Josh Harding last season.

Harding was just one of the many Brandon netminders Plante looked up to before making the jump to the WHL.

"Watching him and taking things from his game was great," Plante said. "Other guys like Jomar Cruz and Rob McVicar-- great goaltenders to see play and that helped me, learning from them and watching how they play."

Now his name resides alongside former Brandon stoppers like Glen Hanlon, Trevor Kidd, and Jamie Hodson -- something that makes the 17-year-old a little uneasy at this early stage of his career.

"Just to be listed with those guys is a great feeling," he said.

The last Wheat King to win the freshman honour was current Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden in 1994.

Plante wasn't the only Wheatie to receive some good news yesterday.

Head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon was selected as the Eastern conference nominee for the Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy for the WHL executive of the year, an honour the former Wheat King captain won in 1995.

High-scoring forwards Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone were also selected to the East conference all-star team.

Fehr (who was also named the WHL player of the month for March) led the WHL with 59 goals and 111 points while linemate Stone finished second, with 99 points.

Brandon will take on the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round of the playoffs starting tomorrow at the Keystone Centre. Game 2 will be in Winnipeg at the MTS Centre on Sunday at 2 p.m.


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