Brandon, MB. — For the first time in five years the Brandon Wheat Kings have punched their ticket to the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final.
For the second straight game the Wheat Kings rallied from a 2-1 second period deficit to beat the Regina Pats 3-2 in overtime Friday to clinch their best of seven Semi Final series four games to one.
Peter Quenneville’s goal at the 6:15 mark of overtime gave Brandon the win and a date with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL’s Final Four.
After jumping out to a 1-0 first period lead on a shorthanded goal by rookie Nolan Patrick, the Wheat Kings surrendered back to back second period goals to trail through forty minutes.
In the third, the Wheat Kings dominated the Pats, outshooting them 20-5 but it took a Patrick one-timer with 6:21 to play to even the score and set the stage for Quenneville’s overtime heroics.
Jake Leschyshyn and Taylor Cooper scored in a losing cause for the Pats, who were outshot 51-27.
For the third straight game, netminder Daniel Wapple was brilliant in the Regina net, turning aside 48 Brandon shots. Jordan Papirny meanwhile made 25 saves to improve his playoff record to 8-2.
Friday’s win was particularly sweet for veteran left-winger Morgan Klimchuk. The Calgary Flames first round draft choice and former Pat returned to the Brandon lineup – after missing six straight playoff games – and wound up setting up Patrick’s third period tying goal.
A four year WHL veteran, Klimchuk was acquired from Regina at January’s trade deadline and the 19-year old Calgary product will be playing in his first ever Conference Final.
The Wheat Kings lost out to Calgary in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final, before rebounding to beat the Hitmen in the MasterCard Memorial Cup Semi-Final.
The Hitmen advanced to the Conference Final Friday night by beating the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-3 in double overtime.
The best of seven Eastern Conference Final will get underway next weekend with games Friday and Saturday nights at Westman Communications Place. The WHL is expected to release the entire 7-game schedule this weekend.