Brandon in Memorial Cup final with OT win
The Brandon Wheat Kings will play for the Memorial Cup title in their own building after getting sweet revenge on the Calgary Hitmen in a 5-4 comeback victory on Friday night.
Jay Fehr scored 3:16 into overtime at Keystone Centre to lift Brandon, which twice fought back from two-goal deficits.
Martin Jones was heroic in goal for Calgary, stopping 42 shots in regulation, but was beaten between the pads by Fehr. The winner was set up by a drop pass from Toni Rajala.
Calgary had beaten Brandon five consecutive times heading into Friday's game, including a 5-1 drubbing on Wednesday. Some of the Hitmen talked publicly the following day about their desire to get another crack at the Windsor Spitfires.
Instead, it will be Brandon who will try to prevent Windsor from becoming the first team in 15 years to repeat as Canadian junior hockey champions on Sunday afternoon.
"They're a good hockey club," Jones said. "We just weren't at our best."
The Hitmen were partially done in by penalty trouble, taking four consecutive minors in just over 20 minutes in the key middle section of the game.
The Wheat Kings, who have never won the Memorial Cup, will be playing in the franchise's fifth final.
Brandon can become the seventh host in the last 16 years to win the championship but the task is huge. Windsor scored five in the first and led 9-1 after two periods over the Wheat Kings in the tournament opener on May 14. Brandon would ultimately lose 9-3.
New York Islanders prospect Travis Hamonic helped spark Brandon's comeback against Calgary with a goal and two assists. Brayden Schenn was all over the offensive zone for the winners, setting up three goals and narrowly missing a goal of his own on more than one occasion.
"That's going to be a memory for the rest of my life," Hamonic said of Fehr's winner. "That's something that's planted in your mind, in your brain, and it was a special moment. But the championship wasn't won here."
Jones was in top form early, stopping Brent Raedeke and Matt Calvert in the first.
The Calgary skaters staked Jones to a two-goal lead by scoring nine seconds apart late in the period.
Brandon goalie Jacob De Serres did well to stretch for a stop on Joel Broda in the slot on the first goal, but the Hitmen centre and Washington Capitals prospect knocked the rebound home at 15:34.
Brandon was clearly unsettled by the turn of events, as they allowed Calgary to storm the defensive zone immediately after the ensuing faceoff. Ian Schultz, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, took a pass from Tyler Fiddler and snapped a shot past De Serres.
Schenn was instrumental in leading his team back, although he couldn't squeeze the puck between Jones and the post during a rush to the net late in the first. Schenn was sent in alone in the first minute of the second period, but Jones made a pad save. The two players are potential future teammates, as both are property of the Los Angeles Kings.
Brandon finally broke through by taking advantage of some sloppy Calgary defensive zone play. Alex Urbom fired a high shot from the left circle that beat the Hitmen netminder at 1:34 of the second.
The Wheat Kings had two cracks on the power play to tie the game, but on the second opportunity, Calgary's Fiddler was left alone in the neutral zone for an outlet pass. He skated down the right side, stopped, and fired a slapper that De Serres couldn't handle.
Brandon was unfortunate at almost exactly the midway point of the game, with Rajala drawing Jones wide but unable to beat him with a backhander.
The hosts weren't discouraged, with Calvert taking a long pass from Hamonic and beating a screened Jones with a wrister at 11:58.
The Wheat Kings had a fitting end to a period in which they held a 21-5 shots advantage, with Hamonic blasting one from the point into the short side of the net with 11 seconds left to tie the game.
"We seized up a little bit at times," Hitmen coach Mike Williamson said. "It certainly wasn't a matter of not wanting to work hard or do the right things. I think we had a lot of guys standing around and watching a little bit, and maybe with a false sense of security with where the score was."
Calgary's Michael Stone made a tremendous defensive play early in the third, getting his stick in the way to prevent Rajala's wraparound attempt.
The Hitmen soon took their fourth consecutive penalty, however, and a clean face-off win set up Colby Robak's slapper from the point for the first Brandon lead of the game at 5:09.
Brandon had chances to go up by a pair but Jones foiled Raedeke on a 3-on-1 with a pad save and got an arm on Fehr's bid not long after.
Calgary rewarded his effort with some aggressive forechecking. Misha Fisenko beat a Brandon defender to the puck as it caromed hard off the end boards and slipped it past Philadelphia Flyers prospect De Serres.
Overtime took place almost entirely in Calgary's zone, with Rajala and Hamonic setting up the winner to join teammate Scott Glennie with two assists on the night.
With files from The Canadian Press