Wheat Kings itching to go

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

In many ways, the Brandon Wheat Kings are like a caged animal ready to pounce.

The Wheat Kings didn't plan on having nearly three weeks off before hosting the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup at Westman Place, but that was the reality after they were eliminated by the Calgary Hitmen in the Eastern Conference final.

With the tournament only a few days away, the Wheat Kings can't wait to get back into action.

"The boys are getting real pumped up and we can't wait to play our first game," Wheat Kings co-captain Matt Calvert said from Brandon on Tuesday. "It's what we've been thinking about in the back of our minds all year. I don't think we're going to be too worried about our excitement level. We're going to be ready and we're going to be working hard.

"It's going to be a packed in the barn and we get to play the defending champs."

The Wheat Kings open their quest for Canadian Hockey League supremacy at Westman Place on Friday at 7 p.m. against the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, who captured their first Memorial Cup championship last spring in Rimouski, Que.

Facing the defending champs right off the bat is a challenge the Wheat Kings welcome.

"It's a good test for us," said Wheat Kings defenceman Travis Hamonic. "Sometimes to be the best you've got to beat the best and there's no better way to do it than on Friday night in front of our home crowd and in front of the best fans in the Western Hockey League."

Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon had an opportunity to scout the Spitfires live during the OHL final and knows his club is in for a stiff test.

"They have a real good team. They're deep offensively and their team game is real strong," said McCrimmon, who watched the Spitfires defeat the top-ranked Barrie Colts in Games 3 and 4 to secure a series sweep. "They've demonstrated real resiliency over the last two years and they're going to be the favourite for a reason."

After getting bounced by the Hitmen, McCrimmon gave his team a week off but they've come back motivated to end the season on a high note.

"We've made the best use of our time as possible," said McCrimmon, who reported the Wheat Kings are back to full health. "We had a chance to rest, re-energize, put the (Hitmen) series behind us and came back with our focus on the Memorial Cup."

Calvert delayed the start of his professional hockey career to return to the Wheat Kings as an overage player and as a Brandon product, he knows how special it would be to capture the first Memorial Cup in franchise history on home ice.

"It could be unbelievable," said Calvert. "There's obviously lots of work to do ahead of us. Everyone is going to put in 100% effort and we're going to do all the little things it takes to win a championship and hopefully we'll be successful."

The Hitmen, who captured the WHL title, and Moncton Wildcats, who defeated the Saint John Sea Dogs on Monday to win the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion and earn their berth, round out the four-team field at the Memorial Cup.


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