|Nolan Patrick (#19) had five-points on Friday for the Wheat Kings.|
BRANDON, Man. - Nolan Patrick might have cemented his status as a playoff hero for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The 17-year-old centre from Winnipeg had a dream game on Friday night. The sophomore posted a hat trick and a pair of assists to power the Wheat Kings to a 5-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels before 5,605 spectators at Westman Place. The win allowed Brandon to win the WHL Eastern Conference championship for a second straight year as they eliminated the Rebels in the best-of-seven set 4-1.
“It is obviously nice to get those numbers, but my linemates were unbelievable,” said Patrick, who isn’t NHL Entry Draft eligible until 2017 due to a late birthday. “Jayce (Hawryluk) made a great play on my second goal there.
“John (Quenneville) made a great pass on my third goal there, so I had to pretty much put it into an empty net. They were unbelievable all night, and I think everyone contributed tonight.”
Patrick came through at timely points in the contest. After Rebels right-winger Jake DeBrusk gave the visitors a 1-0 edge with a tipped in goal at the 7:16 mark of the first, Patrick wired home a wrist shot to tie things up at 1-1 just past the midway point of the opening frame.
The Rebels, who will host the Memorial Cup championship tournament in May, managed to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission off a gritty goal from left-winger Evan Polei. That tally created another opportunity for Patrick to make an impact.
|Nolan Patrick celebrates his hat trick goal with his teammates.|
With 47.2 seconds to play in the second and Red Deer on the power play, Patrick proceeded to set up Quenneville for his 13th tally of the post-season to give Brandon a 4-2 edge.
In the third, Patrick helped account for the final dagger slipping a beautiful back-door feed to pinching defenceman Kale Clague, who roofed home a marker that put the Wheat Kings up 5-2. The final Brandon goal came during a stretch of four-versus-four play due to offsetting penalties.
“He (Patrick) was special tonight,” said Wheat Kings head coach, general manager and owner Kelly McCrimmon. “He was really good.
“I’m not so sure the nicest play of the night might have been the assist on the fifth goal. It was a great play by Kale Clague to read it. It was a great play by Nolan (Patrick) to get it to him.
“The goals were really timely. We were down after one, so we needed to get that first one. I thought (Jayce) Hawryluk made a really good play to Nolan (Patrick) on the tieing goal there.”
|Jayce Hawryluk (#8) helped Nolan Patrick have a big night.|
Nolan’s uncle, James Patrick, had a lengthy NHL career that spanned 1,280 games from 1984 to 2004 patrolling the blue-line for the Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames and Sabres.
During the 2015-16 campaign, Nolan Patrick, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 195 pounds, had a break out year in Brandon appearing in all 72 of the Wheat Kings regular season games collecting 41 goals and 61 assists.
Quenneville was pumped to see Patrick take his game up to another level on Friday.
“It was incredible,” said Quenneville. “There is no secret of what kind of player he is.
“He took the game over all by himself, and he was the man. Having a guy like that step up for you is what you need at playoff time and what a job he did tonight.”
It wasn’t just Patrick’s play that allowed Brandon to advance to the WHL’s championship series. With the Wheat Kings holding on to a 4-2 edge early in the third, 19-year-old veteran goalie Jordan Papirny stoned Rebels captain Luke Philp on a breakaway to prevent the visitors from gaining any traction.
|Goalie Jordan Papirny had a key third period save for the Wheat Kings.|
The Wheat Kings, who are in search of their first WHL title since 1996, battled the Seattle Thunderbirds in a best-of-seven league title series. The Thunderbirds, who last appeared in the WHL final back in 1997, swept away the defending WHL champion Kelowna Rockets to take the Western Conference title.
Game 1 of the WHL championship series is set for this coming Friday at 8 p.m. Brandon time.
Patrick believes the Wheat Kings are most battled tested after beating the Rebels this year than after downing the Calgary Hitmen in last year’s Eastern Conference championship series in five games.
|The Wheat Kings salute the fans at Westman Place.|
“That was a better team to play before the finals. They were a great test for us, and hopefully, we can keep carrying this on to the finals.
“We have a lot of guys that know what it takes to win, and a lot of positive voices in the room who can help us in tight games. We have positive guys to get us through these games.”
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