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Seattle Thunderbirds, Brandon Wheat Kings meet for WHL championship

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Seattle makes its second all-time appearance in the Western Hockey League championship series.

Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Bow is 12-1 heading into the WHL Chynoweth Cup Final.
Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Bow is 12-1 heading into the WHL Chynoweth Cup Final.
Lorenzo Z. Villalobos Jr.

The Chynoweth Cup Final has finally arrived.

Tonight, the Seattle Thunderbirds meet the Brandon Wheat Kings in the opening game of the 50th WHL championship series at Brandon’s Keystone Centre. This will be the T-Birds first trip to Brandon since their regular season meeting back on November 14th, 2014, when Seattle beat the Wheat Kings 6-4. The last previous meeting was back at ShoWare Center in Kent on October 27th, 2015 when the T-Birds routed the Wheat Kings 7-2.

WHL CHAMPIONSHIP APPEARANCE COMPARISONS

The Wheat Kings have appeared in the WHL championship series eight times, while winning the President's Cup (the original name before being re-named to the current one in 2007) twice. Their first one was back in 1979 after taking out the Portland Winterhawks in six games. Their second and last President's Cup-winning season took place in 1996, claiming the Cup in five games over the Spokane Chiefs.

The Thunderbirds have made only one appearance, getting swept in 1997 by the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

BOW KNOWS BRANDON

While a member of the Swift Current Broncos between 2012-2016, goaltender Landon Bow had plenty of experience going up against the Wheat Kings. A common opponent for Brandon in the Eastern Conference’s Eastern Division, the Broncos did not fare well against the Wheat Kings during games when Bow was in net. In 16 career regular season games versus Brandon, Bow has a 5-8-0-0 record, a 4.09 goals-against average, and a .904 save percentage. Against the Wheat Kings this season before the trade deadline, Bow’s record/GAA/save % stat line is 2-3-0-0 / 3.01 / .934.

This is also Bow’s first and only postseason of his major junior career as he will turn 21 this summer. If National Hockey League scouts are hungry for extra homework after completing their final rankings a couple of months ago, they might as well start watching this series. Bow has been stellar this postseason going 12-1-0-0 / 1.54 GAA / .936. How can you argue about his past performances versus Brandon than his current playoff domination? The Wheat Kings will need to figure out how to shut down the 20-year-old from St. Albert, Alberta during these next few days of action.

MANITOBA HOMECOMING

The Wheat Kings have 13 players from Manitoba…six of them playing for their hometown team.

The Thunderbirds only have two players on the playoff roster that hails from Winnipeg. One of them is Ian Briscoe, and the other happens to be the face of the franchise.

Who knows what would have happened had Keegan Kolesar not tied up game four of their Western Conference Final clinching-series against the Kelowna Rockets with 2.7 seconds remaining in regulation after being down 4-2 about 90 seconds earlier? The native out of Winnipeg, located about 2 ½ hours east of Brandon, has picked up 11 points in 10 playoff games as he has been one of the primary reasons the T-Birds has been gutting it out in close tight games. Kolesar has not only fought off a two-game suspension during Seattle’s first round series against the Prince George Cougars, but also avoided a scary injury from the Everett Silvertips’ Dawson Leedahl that would have put him out of the playoffs.

Kolesar has appeared in three games against Brandon in his major junior career.

When the T-Birds played the Wheat Kings in Brandon back in November 2014, Kolesar notched up a goal and two assists and earned a +3 rating. In Brandon’s last meeting at Kent, Kolesar had a hat trick and earned a +4 rating. It was his second consecutive three-point game against the Wheat Kings.

FOUR WHEAT KINGS AMONGST TOP FIVE PLAYOFF SCORING

Two players are tied atop the WHL playoff scoring and they happen to be teammates in the Wheat Kings’ John Quenneville and Nolan Patrick. Both players have 24 points going into the WHL Final, with Tim McGauley (4th, 21 points) and Reid Duke (5th, 20 points). The second cousin to Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, John was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. In 16 playoff games this postseason he has amassed 13 goals (3 via power play, 2 game-winners) and 11 assists with a +15 rating. Patrick has 10 goals and 14 assists (2 via power play, 3 game-winners) with a +16 rating.

McGauley and Duke has goals and +/- ratings of under ten.

T-BIRDS ON TV & RADIO

Good news and bad news for T-Birds fans throughout the Puget Sound and beyond.

First off the good news. Every single game of the WHL championship series will be streaming live on WHL.ca’s WHL TV subscription. Each game costs $7.99 to view live and/or archived. Rogers Sportsnet will produce Game 1 only to its national Canadian audience with NHL Network simulcasting Friday night’s game, while Shaw TV will produce the rest of the series for its Western Canada audience with ROOT Sports Northwest, which is owned-and-operated by AT&T Sports Networks, simulcasting all of Shaw’s telecasts of the Chynoweth Cup Final series.

Now comes the bad news.

As of press time, NHL Network will only have a condensed version of Game 1 of the WHL Final. As for ROOT Sports Northwest, they will only air the games on a tape-delay basis with a majority of the games being run on a first-time basis in the middle of the night. ROOT Sports, which gives the Mariners priority is the reason for the delays. DIRECTV subscribers may not have any luck watching it live either as ROOT Sports Northwest’s alternate channel (used as an overflow in case two live events are happening simultaneously) is not scheduled to carry the series live either.

For those that can’t watch the games, long-time play-by-play man Thom Beuning will call all games live for CBS-owned KFNQ-AM 1090 The Fan, which is also available on KJAQ 96.5 HD3, and on Radio.com and its mobile app.

Game 1: Friday May 6th, 6 pm - NHL Network – Saturday May 7th, 10 am (90-minute condensed version)

Game 2: Saturday May 7th, 5:30 pm - ROOT Sports Northwest – Sunday May 8th, 5:30 pm

Game 3: Tuesday May 10th, 7 pm - ROOT Sports Northwest – Wednesday May 11th, 1:30 am

Game 4: Wednesday May 11th, 7 pm - ROOT Sports Northwest – Thursday May 12th, Midnight

Game 5 (if necessary): Friday May 13th, 7:35 pm

Game 6 (if necessary): Sunday May 15th, 5 pm

Game 7 (if necessary): Monday May 16th, 5 pm