Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wheat Kings move playoff games to Dauphin . . . Is it time pollsters noticed Warriors?

Dauphin's Credit Union Place
(Photo: tourismdauphin.ca)

The Brandon Wheat Kings are relocating to Dauphin, Man., for a few playoff games.
The Wheat Kings haven’t yet qualified for the playoffs, but they hold down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot and appear headed to a first-round clash with the Medicine Hat Tigers, who are closing in on the Central Division title.
With the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair taking over the Keystone Centre from March 27 through April 1, the Wheat Kings announced Thursday that they will play at least two first-round home playoff games at Dauphin’s Credit Union Place, which contains 1,763 seats and has room for 752 standees. The facility, which is home to the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings, opened in April 2006.
Dauphin is located 165 km north of Brandon.
The dates have yet to be confirmed but that likely will involve Games 3 and 4 on March 28 and 29. Game 6, if necessary, would be played in Dauphin on April 2.
“Other potential options,” writes Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun, “included the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, the Portage Credit Union Centre in Portage la Prairie and Tundra Oil and Gas Place in Virden.
“Winnipeg used to be the go-to Plan B, but the MTS Centre has two (Winnipeg) Jets games, two (Manitoba) Moose games and a concert by the Lumineers that week, and the Portage Terriers and Virden Oil Capitals could still be active in the MJHL playoffs.”
In Dauphin, the Kings have four games left in their regular season and remain five points out of a playoff spot.
According to Bergson, “WHL officials did a walk-through in Credit Union Place in the past to clear it. The biggest hurdle is that Brandon has to remove its expensive video replay system from Westman Place and set it up in the Dauphin arena.”
From a Wheat Kings news release: “The announcement was made . . . as  the Wheat Kings rolled out plans for both the playoffs and their 2017-18 season-ticket prices. In addition to holding the line on season-ticket prices next (season), fans who purchase their 2017 playoff packages as well as renew their season tickets by the Monday, March 20 deadline will receive a $5 discount off regular playoff box-office admission prices for all games played in Brandon.”
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The Moose Jaw Warriors have been doing a terrific job of flying under the radar this season.
They are ensconced quite comfortably in second place in the East Division and appear headed to a first-round playoff meeting with the Swift Current Broncos.
The Warriors have won their past four games, including a 4-0 victory over the visiting Regina Pats on Saturday night. The Pats (43-9-7) have the WHL’s best record; the Warriors (36-17-8) trail them by 13 points. The Warriors, however, have proven they can play with Regina.
The Warriors are 6-3-1 in their past 10 outings, and they’ve been without top-end forwards Brayden Burke and Noah Gregor.
But, gee, it’s about that lack of respect.
It was on Nov. 1 when John Paddock, Regina’s GM and head coach, said of the Warriors: 
“I think they’re able to play off the fact that (we’re) all anybody talks about within an hour radius (of Regina). They don’t talk about Moose Jaw. Whoever does the dumb CHL poll has never hardly had them in the top 10.”
That was the case again this week, as Regina fell from first to second, behind the OHL’s Erie Otters, and there was no sign of the Warriors, not even as an honourable mention.
Last week, before losing to the Warriors, Paddock told Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post:
“They’ve got a really good goalie (Zach Sawchenko). It was sort of shocking that he wasn’t drafted last year.
“With the deals that (GM Al Millar) has made, they’ve got a deep group of forwards. There’s nobody leading the league in scoring, but they have Brett Howden and Brayden Burke, and Jayden Halbgewachs is having a big-time season. They’ve been missing forwards (due to injury), but they’ve probably got the deepest set of forwards in the Eastern Conference.”
It’s hard to argue with that, although, yes, Regina’s group of forwards is pretty good, too.
Here’s hoping that fans get treated to a Regina-Moose Jaw playoff series at some point.
With two games left in the season series, the Warriors hold a 3-2-1 edge, while the Pats are 3-3-0. They will finish the series by going home-and-home on March 10 and 11, starting in Regina and finishing in Moose Jaw.
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Here’s a note from Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post:
“Pats head coach/GM John Paddock is a total pro. Too many hockey coaches — not to mention football coaches — are paranoiacs. Paddock, by contrast, gets it. He doesn’t play any games or robotically dispense eye-glazing cliches. Instead, he tells it like it is and treats the media (a conduit to the fans) with respect.”

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