BRANDON, MAN – A high-tech sound system was no match for the voices of 5,235 fans at Westman Place who drowned out the announcer’s call of Jay Fehr’s overtime winner, giving the Brandon Wheat Kings a 5-4 victory over the Calgary Hitmen and a berth in Sunday’s 2010 Mastercard Memorial Cup final against the Ontario League champion Windsor Spitfires.
“That’s probably the No. 1 goal of my career here,” said Fehr of his tally 3:14 into the first overtime period.
Calgary and Brandon are familiar foes. The two teams have faced off four times in Western League playoffs over the past six years and Wednesday the Hitmen beat Brandon 5-1 to earn home-ice advantage for the semifinal. Hometown advantage, however, was with the Wheat Kings.
“This builds character,” said Fehr of the win. “It was a hard fought game all night long and we just kept responding. (Goalie) Jake (De Serres) made a lot of big saves for us in the third period.”
It was Calgary that scored first, 15:34 into the first period. Joel Broda tapped a pass from Brandon Kozun past De Serres.
The ink on the scoresheet hadn’t yet dried when, nine seconds later, Ian Schultz scored his first of the tournament, making it 2-0 Calgary.
Throughout the first period, there was a battle of wills between Wheat Kings captain Brayden Schenn and Calgary goalie Martin Jones.
“From the beginning of the game I had a lot of chances and just kept on going,” said Schenn. “ We just wanted to put pucks on net with traffic. That was our main focus and it felt good to come out on top tonight.”
Brandon’s road to victory started at 1:35 of the second period when defenseman Alexander Urbom put the Wheat Kings on the board.
Calgary restored their two-goal lead with a shorthanded marker. With Calgary’s Del Cowan halfway though a tripping penalty, Tyler Shattock made an outlet pass to Tyler Fiddler on the rush. His shot beat De Serres blocker-side for a 3-1 Hitmen lead.
“Those things go in, but we knew Jake would make saves for us, which he did,” said Brayden Schenn. “He made some big ones for us in the third period…That’s what we need from our goalie. We’ll battle for him if he battles for us.
“We felt like we had a lot of hockey left, which we did; a never quit attitude. We battled back from 2-0, then 3-1. We have an older club and we didn’t want it to be our last game together.”
Amid heavy pressure and crease crashing, the Wheat Kings began their comeback when Matt Calvert scored at 11:58 to cut Calgary’s lead to 3-2
With 11 seconds remaining in the second period, Travis Hamonic scored the first of Brandon’s two power play goals, tying the score and sending the crowd into a raucous frenzy.
The Wheat Kings second goal with the man-advantage came at 5:43 of the third stanza. Schenn won a faceoff to the right of Jones and dropped the puck back to Scott Glennie. His tape-to-tape pass flew from Colby Robak’s stick behind Jones making it 4-3.
The lead lasted less than 10 minutes, though. Calgary center Misha Fisenko got his stick on a puck that had bounced off the boards and zigzagged behind De Serres. The goal was reviewed, but the call stood making it 4-4 before Fehr’s OT-winner.
“In a little while we can look back and appreciate what a good season we had,” said Jones. “We got off to the start we wanted, but they’re a good hockey club over there. We’re not gonna kid ourselves. They’re a very skilled hockey club. We’re not going to win every single game against them, but it’s disappointing that we didn’t get this one.”
NOTES – Brad McCrimmon, who dropped the ceremonial puck, is tied into the hockey history of both Calgary and Brandon. Currently an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings, McCrimmon played for the Brandon Wheat Kings from 1976 to 1979 before manning NHL bluelines for 18 seasons and winning the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Calgary Flames.