In an article penned by Josh Sweetland of MastercardMemorialCup.ca, he outlined three options for the Brandon Wheat Kings going into their final round robin game of the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament. They could just win the game and force a tie-break game on Thursday, they could win by three or more goals and go directly to the semi-finals to face the winner of a Red Deer-Rouyn-Noranda Huskies tie-break game or they could lose and their season would be over.
Despite a hard fought game against the Red Deer Rebels, one in which they held the lead for a good portion of the contest, it was option three that was the outcome at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta on Wednesday.
This rematch of the WHL Eastern Conference Finals would see a Red Deer team come out with a chip on their collective shoulder. Former Devils bench boss, now coach of the Rebels, Brent Sutter, had them motivated to exact revenge on the Wheat Kings, the team that eliminated them from a chance at the WHL championship.
The first period ended with no score, as the Rebels held the slight lead in shots, 8 to 7.
The Wheat Kings would finally break through to take a 1-0 lead midway through the second period when Tim McGauley scored his first goal of the tournament unassisted.
Red Deer would not get even until the 14:55 mark of the third period when Adam Musil scored from the hash marks on the far faceoff circle (assists to Haydn Fleury and Kayle Doetzel). It was knotted up at one and that was how it would stay for the remainder of the third period.
Going into the overtime period, Brandon knew what was at stake and might have even put a little too much pressure on themselves. They had chances to put the game away and make it 2-0 early in the third, including a 3-on-1 at about the 17:00 mark.
But it was not to be. As it was, going into OT tied at one, they could do no better than the tie-breaker scenario, since they had not outscored Red Deer by three or more goals.
And at the 3:50 mark of the first OT period, the Rebels struck. Evan Polei scored from nearly the same place Musil did to give Red Deer the 2-1 victory. Conner Bleackley had the lone assist on the game winner. The hometown fans were sent home happy as their Red Deer Rebels had finally vanquished a rival that had been a thorn in their side this season.
The goaltenders were both solid in this low-scoring affair. Jordan Papirny of Brandon stopped a couple of breakaways and came up big for his team at times, including a huge save early in OT.
The Rebels’ Rylan Toth was named the second star and made 33 saves on the night. Brandon fired 34 shots at him, outshooting their opponent again, as they did in the game against London on Monday. The Wheat Kings’ Papirny made 30 saves on 32 shots fired by Red Deer. He was named the game’s third star. Evan Polei, with the game winner, was named star number one.
John Quenneville’s stat line saw him a minus-1 with four shots on goal and 2-for-5 in the faceoff circle.
So from here, the Rebels go on to face Rouyn-Noranda in the semi-finals with a chance to face the London Knights, who have already qualified for a spot in the championship game on Sunday.
Brandon put up a good fight, but was just seemed spent throughout the Memorial Cup tournament. They still had quite a season and winning a Western Hockey League championship gives them nothing to hang their heads over. Good luck to John Quenneville as the Devils now decide what is next for him coming out of this year’s training camp.
In other news, congratulations to former Devil Jay Pandolfo, who was named an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins today. “Pando” is a good hockey mind and will make a nice addition behind the Bruins’ bench.
Also, congratulations to former Devils coach Pete DeBoer who got the San Jose Sharks to their first Stanley Cup Final tonight with a game six win over the St. Louis Blues. This marks DeBoer’s second trip to the Finals, as he previously led the Devils there until falling in six games to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. The Sharks get their first chance to play for the Cup in their 25th season of existence.