Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WHL Playoff Preview - Broncos / Wheat Kings

This is the preview of the Broncos / Wheat Kings series from the Western Hockey League

CALGARY, AB -- The quest for Western Hockey League supremacy and a chance to join the Brandon Wheat Kings and compete in the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Brandon, MB, begins as the 2010 WHL Playoffs kick off on Thursday, March 18th.
The Brandon Wheat Kings may be the host team for the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament, but they’ll face some tough battles in the playoffs if they want to get to the tournament as WHL Champions. What about the Calgary Hitmen? Do they have what it takes to make their way back to the WHL Championship series after finishing in first place in the WHL standings for a second consecutive season? The Tri-City Americans squeaked into the top spot in the Western Conference, but will they be the best in the West through the 2010 WHL playoffs? The Portland Winterhawks have finally ended their playoff drought, but will they be able to turn a strong regular season into playoff success? The Giants have been the B.C. Division’s best for five years, but can they enjoy another lengthy springtime playoff run?

Here's a look at the first-round Husky WHL Eastern and Kal Tire WHL Western Conference Quarter-Final match-ups (Also find attached).

2009-10 regular-season record:
Brandon: 50-18-1-3, 104pts (L10: 8-2-0-0)
Swift Current: 37-30-1-4, 79pts (L10: 6-3-1-0)

2009-10 head-to-head record:
Brandon: 4-2-0-0, 8pts
Swift Current: 2-4-0-0, 4pts

2009-10 head-to-head top scorers:
Scott Glennie: 6gp-3g-3a-6pts
Aaron Lewadniuk: 5gp-2g-4a-6pts

Swift Current:
Brad Hoban: 6gp-4g-4a-8pts
Justin Dowling: 6gp-5g-1a-6pts

The Brandon Wheat Kings meet the Swift Current Broncos in the post-season for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Jordin Tootoo and the Wheat Kings defeated Ian White and the Broncos four games to one in the second round of the 2002 WHL playoffs.

As the host team for the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament, the Wheat Kings already know they’ll have a shot at hoisting the storied trophy. Yet, their goal is to get to the tournament through the front door as WHL champions. Fortunately, the Wheat Kings have looked the part of potential champions for most of the season, rolling to their first 100-point season since ‘95-96. Offensively, no WHL team can match the firepower of the Wheat Kings. The team scored 45 more goals than their nearest competitor, boast five players who topped the 80-point mark and eight players who scored at least 23 goals. The Wheat Kings were also the Eastern Conference’s second-best defensive team, surrendering 117 fewer goals than they scored. Having a healthy Travis Hamonic in the lineup will bolster their defense
corps even more.

In goal, Andrew Hayes and Jacob DeSerres split the workload during the regular season. Hayes has the experience of a trip to the Conference championship series last year, while DeSerres has played consistently down the stretch.

The Broncos are in the post-season for a fifth straight season. With the Women’s World Curling championship taking over the Credit Union I-Plex in Swift Current, the Broncos are forced to play their “Home” games for the series in Regina. The Broncos may not match the offense of the Wheat Kings, but they still have some dangerous offensive players. Cody Eakin potted a team-leading 47 goals this season, while Justin Dowling, Michael Stickland and Stepan Novotny all scored at least 25 times. Offense will be needed from the likes of Matt Tassone, Taylor Vause and Brad Hoban if the Broncos are to keep up with the Wheat Kings. Defensively, the Broncos are in the middle of the pack in the Conference, in terms of goals-against, but do own the WHL’s fourth-best penalty killing unit. Derek Claffey and the Broncos’ defense corps will need to be sharp to stymie the Wheat Kings’ attack, particularly in 5-on-5 play, where the Wheaties have dominated opponents. In goal, veterans Mark Friesen and Morgan Clark posted similar numbers during the regular season. Friesen is the only one with any playoff experience, however.

Series Schedule
#1 – Swift Current @ Brandon; Friday, March 19 (7:30pm)
#2 – Swift Current @ Brandon; Saturday, March 20 (7:30pm)
#3 – Brandon @ Swift Current; Tuesday, March 23 (7:00 pm) In Regina
#4 – Brandon @ Swift Current; Wednesday, March 24 (7:00pm) In Regina
#5 – Swift Current @ Brandon; Friday, March 26 (7:30pm)**
#6 – Brandon @ Swift Current; Monday, March 29 (7:00pm) In Regina**
#7 – Swift Current @ Brandon; Wednesday, March 31 (7:00pm) In Regina**

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