For the first since 2013 and ninth time in franchise history, the Calgary Hitmen find themselves in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals. This year, another chapter in the fierce and storied playoff rivalry with the Brandon Wheat King will be written.
This will mark the seventh time these two teams will meet in the postseason, and the fourth time in the Eastern Conference Final. In 2015, the Wheat Kings are favoured after going 53-11-4-4 in the regular season, putting up 114 points en route to winning the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the league’s top regular season team.
Many people believe Calgary, who finished the regular season with a 45-22-1-4 record good for 95 points, would have been in the race for top spot overall if it wasn’t for their slow start to the season. The fact these two teams had even records in the second half of the season will make this an interesting series. Despite being nine points ahead of the Hitmen during the regular season, the Wheat Kings won’t have an easy time getting through Calgary and it is far from automatic they’ll be moving on to the WHL Championship Final.
The Wheat Kings held the advantage in the season series winning three of four games.
How they got here
The Calgary Hitmen were forced to game seven in round one and got all they could handle from the Kootenay Ice before coming away with a 6-2 in the series clincher. In round two the Hitmen knocked off the Tigers in five games. Don’t let the amount of games fool you, though, as four of the games were decided by one goal. Three of the games went to overtime, including the final game of the series which saw double overtime.
The Wheat Kings knocked off the Edmonton Oil Kings in 5 games to open up the playoffs and then much as the Hitmen did had a close 5 game set in round two, as the Regina Pats gave them a great battle.
These two teams have a rich playoff history meeting six times since the Hitmen joined the league in 1995. Here is a look back at those postseason battles.
Calgary Hitmen – Jake Virtanen found his stride in round two after being held off the score sheet in round one. He scored four times against the Tigers, including two in the series finale. Virtanen now has 12 points in 12 games this postseason, and with his emergence, the Hitmen have yet another weapon for the Wheat Kings to look out for. With Virtanen rolling and playoff leading scorer Adam Tambellini, among others, putting up points, the Wheat Kings will have their hands full with the Calgary offense.
Brandon Wheat Kings – Calgary Flames prospect Morgan Klimchuk has only played four games so far in the playoffs after battling through injury. If he is healthy and contributing at the pace he can, it will mean yet another weapon the Hitmen have to contend with. Klimchuck had 80 points in the regular season, including 50 as a member of the Wheat Kings after being dealt from the Regina Pats before the WHL trade deadline. For the first time these playoffs, the Hitmen will meet a team that can match them with offensive weapons. Don’t be shocked to see the amount of goals in this series go up rapidly.