Wheat Kings gave home faithful a night to remember
|The Wheat Kings celebrate a goal from Nolan Patrick.|
If you were inside Westman Place in Brandon on Friday night, you couldn’t help but be swept up in “the now.”
In an age where one is bombarded with social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it seems like people forget to interact with or even enjoy the actual real world around them. It feels like people keep seeking instant gratification of getting a tidbit of information in 140 characters or getting a post out there about something they have on their mind.
For those that saw the Brandon Wheat King play at Westman Place on Friday night, you were reminded that the real world can still be a cool place to be.
A total of 5,605 spectators packed into the Wheaties home rink that seats 5,102, and they had to admit they saw something special when the home side claimed the WHL Eastern Conference title with a 5-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. A couple of days later, you get a better appreciation for how cool it was to be focused on the current moment over a period of three hours.
The Wheat Kings entered Game 5 leading the best-of-seven series 3-1. There was an excitement in the air throughout Brandon and the atmosphere in Westman Place moments before game time was giddy. People decked out in Brandon jerseys and #Goldrush T-shirts were anticipating the Wheat Kings would win the conference title that night and advance to the WHL championship series for a second straight year.
|The "Gold Men" celebrate the Wheat Kings conference title win.|
During the singing of O Canada, the crowd gave an emphatic yell of the words “true north” and from that moment on you could feel the passion of the Manitoba-based hockey fan.
The Wheat Kings fed off the energy of the home crowd, and for the first seven minutes of the game, the Rebels rarely got out of their own zone.
The visitors were able to withstand that opening surge scoring the first goal of the contest and exiting the first period with a 2-1 edge. The Rebels were only delaying the inevitable.
Just 86 seconds into the second period, Wheat Kings star centre Nolan Patrick drove hard to the net and converted a nice setup pass from linemate Jayce Hawryluk to tie things up at 2-2. The tally was Patrick’s second of the contest.
He potted his hat trick goal with 3:41 to play in the second to put the hosts up 3-2. As hats rained down to the ice, it hit you that the 17-year-old Winnipeg product was indeed having one of those spectacular individual performances in a big playoff game that you would always remember. It would be the item that led almost all the media reports about that night’s game.
|The Rebels could not stop Nolan Patrick (#19) of the Wheat Kings.|
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 195 pounds, Patrick has the physical dimensions for a forward that are an NHL scouts dream to go along with his exceptional skill.
Due to his late in the year birthday, Patrick isn’t draft eligible until next year, which made his performance on Friday night look that much more amazing. Patrick’s big night also came from playing inside of Brandon’s system, and his stellar chemistry with his linemates produced the offensive outburst.
With 47.2 seconds to play in the second, Patrick became the setup man. He assisted on John Quenneville’s short-handed goal to put the Wheat Kings up 4-2.
Brandon’s momentum continued in the third when netminder Jordan Papirny stoned Rebels captain Luke Philp on a breakaway. The Wheat Kings proceeded to go up 5-2 with 7:52 to play, when Patrick hit pinching defenceman Kale Clague with a beautiful back door feed, and Clague roofed home a goal during a period of four-on-four play.
|Part of the 5,605 at Westman Place begin to celebrate the Wheat Kings win.|
The celebration started. With 5:30 to play in the third, the fans pulled a classic and started singing the “Goodbye” song to the Rebels. If anyone in the rink was dealing with worries regarding work or their home life, those worries were far from their minds at that moment.
The party hit a fever pitch when the final seconds expired and the Wheat Kings poured off their bench to mob Papirny.
Some laughs ensued during the presentation of the WHL Eastern Conference championship trophy. To superstitiously avoid bad luck, Wheat Kings captain Macoy Erkamps ensured he didn’t touch the trophy and snuck his hand underneath it to shake the hand of WHL vice-president of hockey Richard Doerksen.
Big cheers erupted a couple of times, when the Wheat Kings players raised their sticks to salute the fans.
The people in Westman Place that night were enjoying a big community moment they would always remember. All that mattered was right now, and it was a pretty good place to be.
Random observations – Valkyries get youth infusion
|Valkyries newcomer Emmarae Dale takes down a Storm ballcarrier.|
There are a lot of new young faces among the Saskatoon Valkyries women’s football team this season.
The Valkyries have 27 new players on their roster this season. A large number of the newcomers appear to be coming from the girls’ flag football league that exists in the Bridge City.
With the newcomers on the field, the Valkyries opened their 2016 campaign on Saturday downing the Edmonton Storm 30-17 in an exhibition tilt. Like a lot of early season football, the Valkyries had their moments when they looked good and other moments when you could tell some improvement was needed.
Under head coach Jeff Yausie and his staff, the Valkyries always improve a huge amount as the season goes along, and you can expect this campaign will be no different.
The Valkyries open their Western Women's Canadian Football League regular season this coming Sunday on road in Winnipeg against the Wolfpack, and their regular season home opener is set for May 15 at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field against the Manitoba Fearless.
- I wonder how many people are anxious to get their next Saskatchewan Rush hit. The local National Lacrosse League team won’t play again at the SaskTel Centre until May 21st at 7:30 p.m., when they host Game 2 of the Western Final. The Rush topped the Western Division standings with a 13-5 record. They have played in front of crowds of over 10,000 in each of their last six home games, which included drawing 15,027 to their final regular season home game on April 16, when they downed the Colorado Mammoth 11-8. I suspect a few people will avoid a lake trip during the May 21st weekend.
- I have a feeling that the magical 2015 Major League Baseball season for the Toronto Blue Jays will be a one off. The 2015 campaign came out of nowhere, and it was the Jays first post-season appearance since they won their last World Series in 1993. From 1985 to 1993, the Jays made the playoffs on a frequent basis. They currently don’t have that type of history and it might be showing in their 12-14 start. Expect them to miss the playoffs entirely this year.
- Expect the best-of-seven WHL championship series between the Wheat Kings and Seattle Thunderbirds to be must watch TV. Both clubs have exciting and talented rosters. Game 1 from Brandon is set for Friday at 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time on Sportsnet. Shaw takes over the rest of the way starting with Game 2 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time.
- It would be sweet of the Saskatoon Blades are successful in getting an inner city outdoor rink built in Saskatoon. One of those classic Canadian experiences is playing shinny on an outdoor rink during winter. I believe that type of facility would be well used. If you build it, the people will come.
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