The game might not count for much in the Memorial Cup standings, but don't tell the Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen Wednesday's round-robin game is meaningless.
Yes, both teams will play again in Friday's semifinal following their game Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SPORTSNET). But there's a high level of distaste between players on both sides in this clash between Western Hockey League foes.
Brandon took three of four regular-season meetings, but Calgary finished three points ahead of them in the final standings, and eliminated the Wheat Kings in five games in the WHL semifinals en route to winning the league title.
Brandon and Calgary enter Wednesday's game with identical 1-1 records -- each beat Moncton and lost to Windsor -- and the players know momentum gained with a win here could carry over to Friday's semifinal match.
"If they pulled a win together against us, it could give them a boatload of confidence and we don't need that going into the semifinals of the biggest tournament of most of our lives," Calgary forward Kristopher Foucault, a 2009 fourth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, told the Calgary Herald. "From our team's standpoint, it looks a lot better to come out (of the round robin with a record of) 2-1 than 1-2. If we don't beat them, that could put a dagger into some of us."
Jimmy Bubnick, a 2009 sixth-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, leads the Hitmen with 4 points. He scored both Calgary's goals in Monday's 6-2 loss to the Windsor Spitfires. Tyler Shattock, a 2009 fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, has 3 points, including the Hitmen's biggest goal of the tournament so far -- he scored the winning goal with 1:18 left in the third period to cap a come-from-behind 5-4 win against the Moncton Wildcats on Saturday.
They'll have to be just as good Wednesday, as Calgary likely will be without leading scorer Brandon Kozun. The 2009 sixth-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings led the WHL in scoring in the regular season and playoffs, but an ankle injury left him on the bench for most of Saturday's win against Moncton and out for Monday's loss to Windsor.
Toni Rajala, a 2009 fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers, leads the host Wheat Kings with 2 goals and 4 points. In goal likely will be Jacob DeSerres, a 2008 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, who is coming off a 31-save shutout of Moncton Sunday.
Backed by their home fans, Calgary coach Mike Williamson expects Brandon to play fast, fierce and desperate.
"They're two good teams that have been building all year, there's a good rivalry," Williams said. "We kind of joke about the love to hate, but it's mutual respect as well. Both teams know they're capable of winning and have to make sure the A-game is there."
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