Wheaties vet finds his groove

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

If familiarity breeds contempt, these clubs must hate each other.

The Brandon Wheat Kings and Prince Albert Raiders will renew acquaintances at the Keystone Centre today (7:30 p.m.), with both teams looking for the advantage in the WHL Eastern Conference final.

The best-of-seven series is deadlocked at two games apiece. Game 6 is in Prince Albert on Sunday, with Game 7 (if necessary) back in Brandon on Tuesday.

Despite a regular season where the Wheat Kings dominated their East division rivals (Brandon held a 6-2-1 mark), there's been little to choose between the clubs in the post-season.

Both goaltenders, Brandon's Tyler Plante and Prince Albert's Rejean Beauchemin, have at times been outstanding.

At other times, they've looked unsettled.

One player on the Wheaties who has looked more comfortable is forward Tim Konsorada, who has six points (two goals, four helpers) in the series.

Head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon says the Brandon captain is finally finding his stride after missing three weeks and the first round matchup against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

"He's a five-year player, he's played over 300 games in the league, and he's gone deep in the playoffs on three occasions, so he knows what it takes," McCrimmon said of his captain, who has eight points in 11 games against Calgary and Prince Albert this year.

'HIGH CHARACTER'

The 20-year-old sits in seventh place on the club's all-time playoff point list with 48, and is three shy of Winnipeg's Cory Cyrenne for sixth spot.

"What he brings as a leadership component is huge and a high character," McCrimmon said. "That comes off on other players. Plus, he's a big part of both special teams."

Some coaches, when things are rolling along, are hesitant to insert returning players -- even key cogs to the offence -- into the lineup for fear of upsetting the delicate chemistry during playoff time.

So did McCrimmon have any reservations about throwing Konsorada back onto the ice, especially during the post-season battles?

"Absolutely not," McCrimmon said. "None whatsoever. He's earned it."

The other semifinal is not as close.

Following a 5-4 overtime win on Wednesday, the Kelowna Rockets lead the Western Conference series 3-1 over the Kootenay Ice.

Game 5 goes tonight in Cranbrook, B.C.

NEW BLOOD: The Wheaties announced Winnipeg defenceman Andy Zulyniak was recalled from the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League as an affiliate player yesterday.

Zulyniak played with Prince Albert during the 2002-03 season.

NEW MARK: Forward Lance Monych will climb further up the WHL playoff games ladder when he takes to the ice against Prince Albert.

Monych will appear in his 70th playoff game tonight, moving him into seventh spot on the all-time list.


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