Wheat Kings ready for Spitfires

Brendan Walker and the rest of the Brandon Wheat Kings are ready to face the OHL champion Windsor...

Brendan Walker and the rest of the Brandon Wheat Kings are ready to face the OHL champion Windsor Spitfires tonight. (QMI Agency/Mike Drew)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:40 PM ET

BRANDON, Man. -- Who's going to start in goal for the Brandon Wheat Kings?

It was the morning of the first game of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup and this was the million-dollar question following the Wheat Kings morning skate.

Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon had no interest in divulging the name of his starter for Friday's opener against the defending champion Windsor Spitfires.

"Oh, it's one of these interviews," said McCrimmon. "We don't (name) our starting goaltender until we have our team meeting and we'll address it at that time. Guys are completely comfortable with both goaltenders. They've been a tandem all year and have gained confidence in his teammates."

Since Jacob De Serres was acquired by the Wheat Kings from the Seattle Thunderbirds, McCrimmon has maintained that he and the team had faith in both De Serres and incumbent Andrew Hayes.

And while De Serres had the bulk of the work during the Western Hockey League playoffs (playing in 12 of the 15 games), Hayes looked to be a legitimate option.

It's possible McCrimmon was merely using it as a smoke screen, but Hayes was first to leave the ice and De Serres stayed on for at least 15 minutes of extra work .

De Serres is known as a workhorse, though it's odd to require extra work on a game-day for a team that hasn't played in nearly three weeks.

Regardless of who is starting in net, the Wheat Kings will need a huge effort from their goalie to knock off the Spitfires, an offensive juggernaut that boasts Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Greg Nemisz and defenceman Ryan Ellis, all members of Canada's world junior team.

"We have real trust in our goalies," said Wheat Kings Brayden Schenn. "They can do the job. They've done it all year. I'm sure they'll do the job just fine. We have lots of confidence in both of them. We don't prepare any different. Both have been in the league for a long time, they've been around. It's not like we're throwing in a 16-year-old goalie."

Wheat Kings defenceman Travis Hamonic simply chuckled when asked if he knew who was starting in goal.

"I don't know. That's one of those things we'll find out after warm-up," said Hamonic. "Both are confident goalies. Whoever is in there, we know they're going to be kicking for us. Another thing they both do is play the puck well and that makes our jobs easier."

After going 0-2 to start the Memorial Cup last spring in Rimouski, Que., the Spitfires are hoping to start the tournament off on a winning note this spring.

"We can't put ourselves in that hole, I don't think we have enough comebacks in us," said Hall, whose squad overcame an 0-3 hole in the Ontario Hockey League conference final against the Kitchener Rangers. "If we go down like that, I don't know if we can come back. There's four good teams here and it's going to be tough.

"We have to play well right off the bat."

The puck drops at 7 p.m. at Westman Place in Brandon.


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