Wildcats prove winning isn't everything

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

BRANDON — With all due respect to Vince Lombardi, winning isn’t everything.

At least it wasn’t Wednesday night at the 2010 Memorial Cup.

The final roundrobin game of the junior hockey championship was rendered all but meaningless after the Moncton Wildcats bowed out of the event with an 0-3 record Tuesday night.

Sure ‘home ice’ was technically up for grabs. But the Brandon Wheat Kings will always have that advantage.

That means Wednesday night’s game between the Cup-host Wheaties and the Calgary Hitmen was played for home-(ITAL)team(END ITAL) advantage — the right to have the final change in Friday’s semifinal.

Of course, a coach will never say a game is meaningless.

“There’s always something on the line,” said Hitmen bench boss Mike Williamson. “Both teams were trying to gain traction and improve their game.

“And there’s a rivalry that’s already set up.”

That — and a seething rink full of Hitmen-haters — was enough to ensure Wednesday’s playoff preview didn’t take on the feel of a pre-season game.

“There’s enough of a history between the two teams — not just this year, but dating back — that there’s pride involved,” Williamson said.

“Dating back to the start of the year, when we came in here, you could feel it right away. We knew Brandon was going to have a good team and re-tool for the Cup. And we knew where we should be, so there was a pretty good rivalry already.”

By getting last change, Williamson can make sure his checking line is out against the Brayden Schenn/Matt Calvert/Scott Glennie trio.

That, in itself, was worth lacing up the skates for Wednesday’s game, said Hitmen defenceman Zak Stebner.

“Home-ice advantage is huge,” Stebner said. “Especially against a team like (the Wheaties). Their top line can do some damage, and they’re at the top of the country in scoring.”

For Hitmen goaltender Martin Jones, it was an opportunity to stay in the heads of the Wheat Kings, a team he had rattled off four straight wins against heading in.

“We’ve had success in here, but that was a long time ago,” Jones said.

“They’re a good hockey club, and we’ll have to be at our best.”

Calvert said his team was just looking to gain back some of the confidence that was stripped away during the Eastern Conference semifinal loss.

“We were pretty decent at the start,” Calvert said. “Then, we trailed off and our confidence got a bit low.

“But we’ve had a chance to refresh, and we feel we’re a better team now.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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