Battle tested versus rested.
One team coming off a hard fought seven game series, the other with a week to rest up after disposing their opponent in five games.
It’s an old sports playoff trope, who will have the advantage the Red Deer Rebels, who last played on Tuesday in Game 7 against the Regina Pats, or the Brandon Wheat Kings, who have been off since April 15 when they beat the Moose Jaw Warriors in five games.
“Sometimes after a week off you can feel a bit off as a team. They’re going to be well-rested, they’re a good team and they knocked Moose Jaw out pretty quick. With us going seven games it’s a bit of a different story,” said Rebels forward Jake DeBrusk.
“Personally, I’m looking at it as we just got off a game and we’re in game shape and game ready and we’re looking forward to getting back on the ice and playing some competitive hockey.”
DeBrusk has had a lot of success against the Wheat Kings this season. In the 10-0 blowout, he led the Rebels with three goals and two assists. DeBrusk split his season between Swift Current and Red Deer, he played five games against the Wheat Kings this year scoring five goals and adding two assists.
“Playing in Swift Current we played them eight times a year and you get used to how they play,” said DeBrusk. “They’re a good, skilled team. I know I’ll have to bring my A game every night, that helps me get that edge.
“It’s going to be tight checking and a good series.”
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said the Wheat Kings are part Calgary Hitmen and part Regina Pats combining skill with an uptempo game.
“They’re a talented team, so we have to be on our toes,” said Sutter. “I don’t even talk about the 10-0 game, that happens once in a million years. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about we were 2-2 with them this season, good games, tight games played.”
Debrusk, the Boston Bruins first round pick, is tied for first on the Rebels in playoff scoring with five goals and seven assists. Adam Helewka also has 12 points with eight goals and four assists. Luke Philp and Michael Spacek both have 10 points, Philp with three goals and seven assists and Spacek with two goals and eight assists.
For DeBrusk familiarity has bred both contempt, but also some important knowledge of the Wheat Kings strengths.
“They have good depth and lots of players who can get the puck to the net,” said DeBrusk.
“The biggest thing I can remember from playing against them is their rushes, they’re really good off the rush. It’s going to be a battle and we have to be on our toes.”
John Quenneville and Reid Duke lead the Wheat Kings with 16 points each, seven goals and nine assists for Quenneville and six goals and 10 assists for Duck. Tim McGauley and Nolan Patrick have 13 points each, six goals and seven assists for McGauley and five goals and eight assists for Patrick.
The Wheat Kings wrapped up their Eastern Conference semifinal early, taking it in five games. Having a week off they will be rested as the Rebels had just two days between the end of their semifinal and the start of the final.
“You don’t know until you get into the series what the advantage is, it’s the way it is,” said Sutter. “The Pats took us to seven games, seven tough games. All teams would like to have more time off than not. Sometimes it doesn’t happen like that and we went through a series with a lot of adversity and we had to deal with it the right way and we came through it. And it was a heck of a series. They’ve been sitting and waiting.”
The Wheat Kings are on a tear this post-season. After losing the first two games to the Edmonton Oil Kings, the Wheat Kings have won eight of their last nine playoff games.
Notes: Conner Bleackley (wrist surgery) and Reese Johnson (shoulder surgery) will miss the rest of the post-season with injury while Ivan Nikolishin (lower body) won’t be ready for the start of the Eastern Conference Championship … The Rebels and Wheat Kings split their four regular season matchups. Both teams won two and lost two games, both teams also lost and won one game on the road each. The Rebels won 4-0 on Nov. 11 and 10-0 on Jan. 2. The Wheat Kings won 4-0 on Jan. 15 and 2-1 on Jan. 30.