Brandon, MB - Jay Fehr scored at 3:16 of overtime to lead the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 5-4 win over the Calgary Hitmen in the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup semifinal on Friday night.
Despite jumping up to leads of 2-0 and 3-1, the Calgary Hitmen couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Wheat Kings, who seemed to thrive off of playing in front of a crowd of 5,235 at Westman Place.
“We were just upbeat and positive,” said Fehr, who took a drop pass from Toni Rajala before firing a shot past Calgary goalie Martin Jones much to the delight of the hometown crowd. “We had a lot of momentum. The crowd was great tonight and we had a lot of confidence in how we played all night and we just wanted to keep it going.”
The Wheat Kings now advance to play the defending champion Windsor Spitfires in Sunday's Memorial Cup final (5 p.m. MST).
For complete coverage, including video from the dressing room, visit www.hitmenhockey.com
“It should be exciting,” said Fehr, while noting the Wheaties hope to rebound from a 9-3 loss they suffered to the Spitfires on the opening day of the event. “We owe Windsor a better game than the first one of the tournament.”
With the loss, Calgary’s impressive playoff run came to an abrupt end at the hands of the Wheaties, who the Hitmen beat 5-1 just two nights earlier in preliminary-round action at the tournament.
“It’s definitely not the way we wanted this to end. It’s a great group of guys in here that deserve a lot better than we got,” said Hitmen co-captain Ian Schultz. “It breaks a lot of hearts in there to have to go home right now. We felt like we could do a lot of good things if we made the finals, but tonight just wasn’t our night.”
Jones made 43 saves to keep the Hitmen in the game and was named second star.
“It was a tough game and a tough way to go out, but we didn’t play our best tonight and I think that’s what’s going to hurt the most that we didn’t go out playing our best hockey,” Jones said. “Our goal was to get to the finals and to win the Memorial Cup this year. To fall just short is pretty disappointing.”
Travis Hamonic tallied a goal and two assists for the Wheat Kings, while Brayden Schenn set up three goals. Alexander Urbom, Matt Calvert and Colby Robak also scored for Brandon, while Scott Glennie recorded a pair of helpers. Brandon goalie Jacob De Serres stopped 25 of 29 shots he faced to record the win.
Tyler Fiddler led the way for the Hitmen with a goal and an assist, while Schultz, Joel Broda and Misha Fisenko also scored. After missing the final two games of the preliminary round with an ankle injury, Brandon Kozun returned to the Calgary lineup and chipped in with a pair of assists.
The Hitmen jumped out to an early 4-1 advantage on the shot clock before the Wheat Kings started to push back. Jones made back-to-back saves on shots by Glennie and Raedeke before Hitmen forward Del Cowan whistled a shot just wide of the Brandon net at the other end.
Calgary was awarded the first power play of the contest when Brandon’s Darren Bestland was sent to the sin bin for boarding. Despite playing shorthanded, the Wheaties had the best opportunity to open the scoring but were denied when Jones slid across his crease to make a nice pad save on a shot by Calvert.
Late in the opening frame, the Hitmen notched goals nine seconds apart by Broda and Schultz to take a 2-0 lead. After Broda backhanded his own rebound into the Brandon net, Schultz followed up on the next shift with a shot that found the top corner behind the outstretched glove of De Serres.
Unlike Wednesday’s final round-robin game when Brandon couldn’t rally back from a 5-1 deficit against Calgary, the Wheaties poured on the pressure in the second period and outshot the Hitmen 21-5 while outscoring them 3-1 to tie the game.
Just 95 seconds into the middle frame, Urbom pinched in off the point before squeaking a shot into the top corner, blocker side behind Jones.
The Hitmen were then forced to kill off back-to-back penalties to Cowan but somehow still found a way to take a 3-1 lead during the second disadvantage when Fiddler took a long pass from Tyler Shattock and blasted a slap shot past De Serres.
“We felt like we had a lot of hockey left, which we did,” said Schenn after the win. “We just had a never quit attitude. We’ve got an older hockey club and we didn’t want it to be our last hockey game together.”
The Wheat Kings answered right back when Calvert roofed a shot over Jones’ glove hand to pull the host squad within a goal. With just 10.6 seconds left in the second stanza and the Wheaties enjoying their third power play of the period, Hamonic blasted a point shot past Jones to tie the game and set the stage for a nerve-wracking final frame for both squads.
Just three seconds after Hitmen defenceman Ben Wilson was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking, Robak one-timed a pass from Schenn past Jones to put the Wheaties up 4-3.
Calgary had a great chance to tie up the game with eight minutes to go, but De Serres made a great blocker save to stymie Kozun.
The Hitmen then tied up the game with 5:12 to play in regulation when Fisenko scored his first goal of the tournament. Kozun took the initial shot which went high over the net and bounced off the glass right out front to Fisenko, who shovelled it just across the line.
The Hitmen couldn’t get anything going in overtime and had to watch as the Wheaties celebrated in front of their fans after Fehr’s heroics.
“It’s a tough loss,” Fiddler said. “We have a good group of guys in here and we thought we could advance to the final, but we just weren’t good enough tonight.”
The Hitmen are to return to Calgary Staurday between noon and 2 p.m. and fans are welceom to great them at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"The Hitmen are a group of gifted young men that made up one of our best teams ever. The group was magnificently led and coached. The players and everyone involved deserve our gratitude and respect," said Hitmen and Calgary Flames president Ken King.