By Aaron Bell
Five minutes into the opening game of the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup, the Brandon Wheat Kings looked like they were out of their league.
The Wheat Kings were in the tournament as the host team and allowed four quick goals to the defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires and dropped the opener 9-3. But a little more than a week later, the Wheat Kings have the chance to become the first team to win the national championship on home ice since the Vancouver Giants did it in 2007.
The Wheat Kings rallied from their tournament-opening loss with a 4-0 win over the QMJHL champion Moncton Wildcats on Sunday. After dropping a 5-1 decision to the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday, they pulled off a 5-4 overtime thriller over the WHL champs on Friday that gave them a berth in the championship game on Sunday (7:00 p.m. Eastern on Rogers Sportsnet and RDS).
“It’s hard to believe,” said Wheat Kings’ defenceman Colby Robak. “When the season started if you said we would be in the finals of the Memorial Cup that would be something I would definitely take. We’re all excited – the emotions are running high in the dressing room.”
The Wheat Kings were knocked out of the WHL playoffs by the Hitmen a month ago but their win on Friday obviously erased the bad memories of that series.
“The guys were really excited about the win last night,” said Wheat Kings’ forward Aaron Lewadniuk. “It’s really exciting and everyone is just looking forward to the opportunity to be able to win it on our home rink here.”
The Wheat Kings have been burned by early goals twice in the tournament already. They allowed five first period goals against the Spitfires and then the Hitmen in their round robin games and want to get out to a quick start against Windsor to make sure they keep their fans into the game.
“Obviously it was quite a goal differential in the first game,” said Wheat Kings’ co-captain Brayden Schenn. “But if you look at it, I think we’re a lot better team from the beginning of the tournament until now. We’re going to have to come out with a good start. That will be a key.”
Brandon has known that it would be the host of this tournament for more than a year and the players were focused on getting the rare chance to win it at home.
“They say that this is one of the hardest trophies to win,” Schenn said. “I don’t know if it gets much bigger than this. Not many guys have the chance to be in a Memorial Cup final in their junior career and tomorrow it’s going to happen to our team. We can’t wait to get it going.”
Photo: Aaron Bell/CHL Images