Wheat Kings, Hitmen brace for battle

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:37 PM ET

BRANDON, Man. -- No more excuses and no more second chances.

The Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen are set to meet in the semifinal of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup on Friday night at Westman Place.

The Hitmen have won five straight post-season meetings and have eliminated the Wheat Kings in three of the last four Western Hockey League playoffs.

If the host Wheat Kings are to advance, they’ll have to find a way to solve Hitmen goalie Martin Jones and avoid a slow start.

“Any player in the tournament has thought about that final weekend, with the magnitude of the games,” said Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon. “For our team, having played Calgary as many times as we’ve had, this is the biggest one.

“The one that matters the most is tonight’s outcome. The stakes are high. Everybody easily motivates themselves for a game like this. You have to find that balance where you’ve got lots of energy to your game, but at the same time you’re working your way through the game and playing the type of game you want to play.”

That wasn’t the case on Wednesday, when the Wheat Kings were frustrated out of the gate and were down 5-1 after the first period, losing by the same score.

Might the law of averages suggest the Wheat Kings are due to turn the tables after five straight losses to the Hitmen?

“Yeah, hopefully it’s coming,” said Wheat Kings defenceman Travis Hamonic. “Pretty can say whatever they want to say but they can’t take away how hard you work. No matter what the outcome is tonight, we want to make sure we can hold our head’s high.

“We’re a pretty resilient group and we know what we have to do.”

Wheat Kings winger Scott Glennie is expected to play after leaving Wednesday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

The Wheat Kings only have two lines from their top line of Brayden Schenn (one goal, two points), Matt Calvert (one goal, two points) and Glennie (one assist) and the trio needs to pick it up in order to change their luck against the Hitmen.

“Our line is counted on to score and we haven’t done it as much as we wanted to,” said Glennie. “We have to show the media and the fans that our line is ready to go. We’ve got to score for our team. We need to work the puck harder down low and keep the game a little more simple. Us three are trying to do too much and it’s just not working for us.

“This is the biggest game of our lives and our team understands that.”

For the Hitmen, forward Brandon Kozun is set to return from an ankle injury that has limited to six or seven shifts in the tournament.

The Hitmen have exuded confidence the last couple days and are eager for an opportunity to punch their ticket to Sunday's championship final.

“Throughout the playoffs, your nap gets shorter and shorter, so you’re kind of used to it by now,” said Jones, when asked about the emotions of playing in big games. “Obviously, everyone is excited to play. These are the games you play for. We’re all looking forward to it.”

“If you can’t get up for this one, you probably shouldn’t be here,” added Hitmen co-captain Ian Schultz.


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