By Carter Brooks
Photo courtesy of the Brandon Wheat Kings
The Brandon Wheat Kings will not be participants in the 2019 Western Hockey League postseason.
After failing to find must needed victories on Wednesday and Friday against the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades, the Wheaties returned home Saturday evening for their final test of the 2018-19 regular season, and the game did not disappoint.
The season finale against East Division rival Regina ended much like Friday’s matchup, with the home team taking a 5-4 victory, before saluting one final time to its supporters, and leaving the ice of its home barn until training camp begins in five months.
Considering the game remained tied through 65 minutes of back and forth play and required a shootout to determine a winner, the nearly 5,000 fans jam packed inside Westman Place certainly got their money’s worth Saturday evening.
Veteran overage players Braydyn Chizen and Linden McCorrister got things going for the Wheat Kings early in the first with two quick strikes that found their way past Manitoba-born Max Paddock.
Connor Gutenberg and Ben McCartney added second and third period goals for the home squad, who also gave up four goals to Carter Massier, Ty Kolle (2) and Austin Pratt. Overtime solved nothing, and the shootout determined a winner, as both Stelio Mattheos and Luka Burzan beat Paddock to seal the deal for the Wheaties.
Also on Saturday, the Wheat Kings hosted their annual season-end awards night. Mattheos was the star of the show, taking home four individual awards, including the Three Stars award, the Point Leader recognition, the Top Manitoban honour and most notably the MVP award.
Ben McCartney earned the Hardest Working and the Most Improved awards, while Conor Gutenberg collected both the Community Service award and the Most Inspirational Player recognition.
Six other players each picked up awards Saturday, including Jiri Patera (Fan’s Choice), Luka Burzan (Most Sportsmanlike), Ridly Greig (Rookie of the Year), Braden Schneider (Top Defenceman), Zach Wytinck (Unsung Hero), Linden McCorrister (Top Graduating Player) and Jonny Lambos (Scholastic Player of the Year).
Wheat Kings’ captain Stelio Mattheos ended the season with 44 goals and 96 points – both career highs and good for sixth-place in league scoring. Goaltender Jiri Patera finished the year with a 22-20-5 record with a .906 save percentage and a 3.31 goals against average. Brandon ended its 68-game season with a record of 31-29-8, just two points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.