Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Calgary vs. Brandon Preview

This preview was released by the WHL office today.

2011-12 regular-season record:
Calgary:                44-25-2-1, 91pts (L10: 8-2-0-0)
Brandon:               39-28-1-4, 83pts (L10: 7-2-0-1)

2011-12 head-to-head record:
Calgary: 3-1-0-0, 6pts
Brandon: 1-3-0-0, 2pts

2011-12 head-to-head top scorers:
Victor Rask                          4gp-2g-4a-6pts
Trevor Cheek                       4gp-4g-1a-5pts

Alessio Bertaggia                 4gp-4g-2a-6pts
Mark Stone                          3gp-2g-3a-5pts

The Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings meet up for their second playoff series in the last three seasons.  Brandon Kozun and the Calgary Hitmen defeated Brayden Schenn and the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-1 in the 2010 WHL Eastern Conference championship series.

The Hitmen are back in the post-season after missing the playoffs last year for the first time in 13 years.  After a slow start to the 2011-12 season, the Hitmen found their game and were among the WHL’s most consistent clubs from the midway point in November.  Calgary’s offense tied Brandon’s for the second-best in the Eastern Conference, having scored 273 goals.  A balanced attack was the key to the Hitmen’s offense this season, with six players who topped the 20-goal mark and another three players with at least 14 goals on the season.  Veterans Jimmy Bubnick and Cody Sylvester, along with defensemen Jaynen Rissling and Peter Kosterman, are holdovers from Calgary’s 2010 WHL championship side, giving them some valuable playoff experience.  Defensively, the Hitmen owned the WHL’s fourth-best penalty killing unit this season.  They will need a strong PK to shut down the Wheat Kings’ lethal power play.  Sophomore Chris Driedger and veteran Brandon Glover give Calgary two solid options in goal.  Both played very well this season, and both could be go-to guys in the playoffs.

The Wheat Kings charged their way to a sixth-place finish with a very strong stretch run, and come into the playoffs playing some of their best hockey of the season.  Offense is the key for the Wheat Kings, who boast six players with at least 20 goals this season.  Mark Stone, the WHL’s second-leading scorer, and Michael Ferland propel Brandon’s third-ranked power play, while Kevin Sundher, Brenden Walker, Alessio Bertaggia and Darian Dziurzynski add terrific offensive depth.  The Wheat Kings also boast two of the WHL’s best puck-moving, offensive defensemen in 17-year-olds Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy.  Defensively, the Wheat Kings will need to be vigilant to stop Calgary’s attack.  The Wheat Kings allowed 17 goals to the Hitmen over their last three meetings.  They will need to improve on that stat if they are to beat the Hitmen in the opening round.  Goaltender Corbin Boes has been outstanding down the stretch for the Wheat Kings, posting an 11-4-0-1 mark with a 2.48 GAA and a .928 save percentage over his last 16 games.  He could be a difference-maker in the series. 

Series Schedule
#1 – Brandon @ Calgary; Thursday, March 22 (7:00pm)
#2 – Brandon @ Calgary; Friday, March 23 (7:00pm)
#3 – Calgary @ Brandon; Sunday, March 25 (6:00pm) In Winnipeg
#4 – Calgary @ Brandon; Tuesday, March 27 (7:00pm) In Winnipeg
#5 – Calgary @ Brandon; Thursday, April 29 (7:00pm)** In Winnipeg
#6 – Brandon @ Calgary; Sunday, April 1 (4:00pm)**
#7 – Brandon @ Calgary; Tuesday, April 3 (7:00pm)**

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