Seattle came back from a 3-1 deficit and even led, 4-3, late in the third period, but Brandon pulled away. Nolan Patrick, who many believe could be the top pick in June’s National Hockey League draft and was voted the playoff MVP, broke a 4-4 tie in the third period.
KENT — Thirty minutes after Brandon had scored two empty-net goals to win 8-4 and take home the Western Hockey League championship series over the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Wheat Kings players were still skating around the ShoWare Center snapping photos with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
That’s what happens when a team loses in the final one year and comes back to win it the next year.
The Wheat Kings scored four goals in the final period to take their first WHL championship since 1996.
Seattle had its chances, coming from down 3-1 to lead 4-3 late in the third period, but in the end the Wheat Kings had too much speed and too much skill.
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“It’s not a good feeling, that’s for sure,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “You go into every series thinking you can win and expecting to win, so it’s definitely disappointing.”
Nolan Patrick, who many believe could be the top pick in June’s National Hockey League draft and was voted the playoff MVP, broke a 4-4 tie in the third period and then assisted on the next goal to set up a pair of empty-net goals for the Wheat Kings.
“That was a tough one to give up,” Konowalchuk said. “He made a nice power move going to the net and there wasn’t much we could do about it.”
It’s the third league championship for Brandon, and all three have come in the United States. The Wheat Kings wrapped up the title in Portland in 1979. In 1996, the Wheat Kings clinched it in Spokane. And now, in 2016, Brandon skated with the Ed Chynoweth trophy in Kent.
Seattle went 13-5 with three OT losses in the playoffs, the most playoff wins in franchise history, but it was three straight 3-2 losses in overtime to start the series that was too much to overcome in the final.
“What a run we had,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s a season where we accomplished a lot. It was a real special run through the last part of the playoffs and it just didn’t happen in the finals.”
Jayce Hawryluk had a hat trick and five points, including his last goal into an empty net, to lift Brandon to its most impressive offensive game of the series.
“It was a 4-4 game going into the third perod, and I think our guys were a little mentally drained,” Konowalchuk said. “There wasn’t the kind of defensive pressure that our guys are used to applying. It’s been a long run and a lot of emotion. When you win those games, you are able to keep energy, but when you don’t it sucks a lot of energy out of you.”
After John Quenneville scored his league-leading 16th goal in 21 playoff games to give Brandon an early lead 3:15 into the first period, the Thunderbirds showed tremendous grit and determination when they killed off a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play for Brandon.
After the rare call that two Seattle players committed penalties at the same time, Turner Ottenbreit for slashing and Ethan Bear for tripping, the Thunderbirds gave up a lot of shots but Landon Bow was the equal to all of them, taking pucks off all parts of his body. He finished with 31 saves.