The Hurricanes have been preparing all week, but not many ‘Canes players know the ‘Wheaties’ better than Defenceman Calen Addison.
“I had season tickets with my Grandpa and my Dad every year,” Addison said. “It’s going to be pretty weird going back there playing in the playoffs, but it’ll be pretty cool to play in front of all the friends and family.”
Addison grew up in Brandon, Man. and wanted to be just like the players he watched at Wheat Kings games.
“Brayden Schenn, Matt Calvert, Ivan Proverov: guys like that,” Addison said. “Seeing those guys … I always wanted to play in the league after watching them.”
Now a WHL star in his own right, Addison is going head-to-head with his childhood team. It’s a hockey club that’s taken a similar path to the Hurricanes in making it to the final eight.
Both Lethbridge and Brandon traded away two star players, including their captain’s at the WHL trade deadline. The Wheat Kings dealt defenceman Kale Clague to the Moose Jaw Warriors and Captain Tanner Kaspick to the Victoria Royals. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes traded goaltender Stuart Skinner and Captain Giorgio Estephan to the Swift Current Broncos.
Both teams maintained they were building for the future without sacrificing today.
“I saw a headline that ‘The Hurricanes continue to sell off.’ Well, that one caught my attention because it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Hurricanes General Manager Peter Anholt said after the deals on January 10.
Further east, the same message was being delivered in Brandon.
“We had to look at it as what is best for our team,” Wheat Kings General Manager Grant Armstrong said on January 10. “What’s best for today, what’s best for tomorrow.”
In the head-to-head series this year, the Wheat Kings won three out of four match-ups — but it’s the play in the second half of the season that deserves the most attention.
After the trade deadline, the two teams really started to take shape into the groups fans will see Friday night.
The Hurricanes went (15-14-3) after the trade deadline, while the Wheat Kings ended the year (13-15-2-1).
Despite the below .500 record, the ‘Wheaties’ did win six of their last seven games. Brandon Sun Wheat Kings beat writer Perry Bergson believes the team improved down the stretch.
“Brandon kind of struggled a little bit after the trade deadline, it sounded like some of the guys were just trying too hard to fill the roles of the players that left,” Bergson said.
“But then they played their best hockey in March. One thing that Brandon saw in the Medicine Hat series is they got goals from twelve different players, so I think they approach this series as something the team is going to have to do.”
Bergson thinks fans are in store for a very compelling series.
“It is absolutely very competitive. There’s a lot of skill on both sides and both teams also bring some grit to the table. I really think this is going to be a terrific series,” Bergson said.
As for Addison, he expects Brandon to bring a familiar game to what they faced against the Red Deer Rebels.
The last time the Hurricanes and Wheat Kings met in the playoffs was in 2008, when the ‘Canes won the series 4-2.
The puck drops on the second round series Friday night at the Enmax Centre.