Belarus, Wheat Kings Eliminated

The quest for a championship has come to an end for two Devils prospects. Artur Gavrus and Belarus fell to Canada in the quarterfinals of the IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic. At roughly the same time half way around the world, John Quenneville’s Brandon Wheat Kings were being swept out of the Western Hockey League’s championship series. Both teams made great runs but fell just short.

For Belarus, it was like hitting a buzzsaw. Canada blitzed them 9-0 as Brent Burns scored 27 seconds into the game and they never looked back. Tyler Seguin had a hat trick and Burns and Ryan O’Reilly had two goals each as the Canadians cruised to victory. Tyler Ennis and Jason Spezza rounded out the scoring for Canada. They will now face the winner of Tuomo Ruutu’s Finland club versus the Czech Republic, to be played later on May 14 at the O2 Arena in Prague.

Gavrus finished up as the fourth leading scorer for Belarus with two goals and three assists for five points. He also tied with Andrei Kostitsyn for the team lead in shots. They each had twenty. Belarus finished seventh overall, the second straight World Championship tournament that they have done so.

In addition to Ruutu and Finland still being alive, Jacob Josefson and the Swedes will faceoff with Russia in the next round. That game, a rematch of last year’s semifinal, should be a good one. Sweden finished the preliminary round 4-0-2-1 with 16 points and was second in Group A. Josefson has two goals and two assists for four points in the tournament so far. Ruutu has one assist for Finland, who will also see a rematch from last year’s semifinal against the Czech Republic. Finland finished 4-2-0-1 with 16 points, one behind Group B winner Team USA (who will play Switzerland in the next round).

The Brandon Wheat Kings, led by John Quenneville, met a similar fate in Game 4 of the WHL Finals when they were shutout 3-0 by the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets completed the sweep and will head to Quebec City to play in the Memorial Cup Championship. The MVP of the playoffs was Kelowna’s Leon Draisaitl, who also had the Rockets’ first goal (a shorthanded goal) of the evening. The Rockets will now play the Quebec Remparts on Friday, May 22 in the opening of the round robin Memorial Cup tournament.

Quenneville finished the playoffs tied for second in scoring for Brandon. He had ten goals and nine assists for a total of nineteen points.

Although both guys came up short in the chance to win a title, their individual efforts for their teams were commendable. The Devils have taken notice, as the progress of both men was featured heavily on the Devils official website. Hopefully these performances bode well and their talent can translate to the NHL level if and when they get a chance to play with the big club (be it in training camp or out).

John Quenneville Impresses as Wheat Kings Move to WHL Final

The Brandon Wheat Kings are going to the Western Hockey League Final and Devils prospect John Quenneville is a huge reason for it. Brandon and Quenneville will take on the winners of the WHL’s Western Conference, the Kelowna Rockets beginning on Friday, May 8.

The Wheat Kings had dispatched the Edmonton Oil Kings (in which Quenneville had the Game 5 double overtime goal that allowed Brandon to move on) and the Regina Pats (in which he assisted on his brother Peter’s – a Columbus Blue Jacket prospect – overtime goal in Game 5 that got them into the WHL Eastern Conference Final). They then eliminated the Calgary Hitmen in five games to move on to the WHL Finals against Kelowna. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Brandon has only lost three games.

Kelowna’s road to the Finals saw them defeat the Tri-City Americans in a first round sweep, eliminate the Victoria Royals 4 games to 1, and beat the Portland Winterhawks 4 games to 2 in the Western Conference Final. They will now take on Brandon in the WHL Finals in a pretty even matchup, as the teams finished one-two in the overall standings.

The Wheat Kings are eyeing their first championship since 1996 (they reached the Finals in 2005 as well, but fell to Kelowna that year in five games), a win that would also get them into the round-robin Memorial Cup championship to be held at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City from May 22-31, 2015. Two teams for that tournament have already qualified: the Quebec Remparts (as the hosts of the Memorial Cup, they get an automatic entry) and the champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Rimouski Oceanic. The OHL and the WHL will crown their champions in order to round out the field. In the Ontario Hockey League, the Oshawa Generals are set to begin the Finals against the Erie Otters.

Brandon has the home ice advantage in the 2-3-2 best of seven series, having finished with the best record in the WHL. The Wheat Kings had 114 points to the Rockets’ 112 (Kelowna finished second overall in the league).

Quenneville has been on fire for the Wheat Kings, leading the team with 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in 15 playoff games. He had 10 of those points in the Eastern Conference Final alone against Calgary, including five points (2 goals and 3 assists) in Game 1. The Quenneville family are no strangers to winning championships. John is a second cousin to Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks coach (and original Devil), Joel Quenneville. Joel’s Blackhawks just advanced to the NHL’s Western Conference Final following a sweep of the Minnesota Wild in the second round of the NHL postseason.

It is nice to see a Devils’ prospect lighting up the score sheet right now. If Quenneville can keep up this pace on the NHL level (possibly after a year or two in Albany so as not to rush him) when the time comes, the Devils might not have to look far for more offensive firepower. On the other hand, guys who are goal scorers in juniors or college might not necessarily fill that role with their NHL clubs. But time will tell if he can keep it up or if he will take on another role if he eventually makes it to New Jersey.

One thing that is in order is a big congratulations to the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team and the city of Brandon, Manitoba. They have waited a long time and they have a championship within sight. Hopefully, with the scoring prowess of John Quenneville, they will be able to fulfill their destiny.