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It will go down as one of the best seasons in the history of AAA hockey in Manitoba. It may go down as one of the best seasons ever across the country.

The team knew they had a special group heading into the season, but not even they could predict what would happen. The Brandon U18 Wheat Kings were in a class of their own in the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League this year.

Led by a powerhouse first line of Jaxon Jacobson of Brandon, Brady Turko of McCreary, and Easton Odut of Dauphin, the Wheat Kings did not lose a single game in regulation during the regular season. Their only defeat was an overtime loss against Southwest and even then, that came way back on Friday, November 10.

The Wheat Kings ended the regular season on an incredible 31-game winning streak and won the league's regular season crown by 29 points. They ended up winning 43 of 44 regular season games. The next closest lost 13 games in regulation.

Brandon then hit double-digits in their first playoff game against Eastman and completed a sweep by outscoring the Selects, 26-4. They then scored another 14 goals in a three-game sweep of Pembina Valley and capped off their championship run by downing the Winnipeg Wild in three games. Through the playoffs, the Wheat Kings were 52-0-1. 

Travis Mealy is the team's head coach and he says this year's group is extremely motivated and they come to the rink with their work boots on every day. Mealy then led the club to the Telus Cup West Regionals in Winnipeg earlier this month at the Hockey For All Centre.

Brandon opened up the four-team tournament with a 4-1 win against Saskatoon before downing the Wild, 3-1. Brandon then lost their first game in regulation in a 5-3 defeat against Thunder Bay; however, the game did not mean much as Brandon had already clinched their berth in the final as a rematch with Saskatoon was on deck.

In the finals, Turko of McCreary was the overtime hero going coast-to-coast, swiftly moving past the Blazers defenders, only to beat the netminder on a nice deke as the Wheat Kings were crowed West Region champions.

"I think everyone was sort of holding their breaths, it's one thing to have success in the regular season, but it's another to do it in the playoffs," said Mealy. "It was very special that after the incredible season the boys put together, they were able to win a provincial title and the West Regionals, pretty special stuff."

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Jaxon Jacobson led the Wheat Kings all season and was recently named the CEHL Player of the Year. He had five more points in the regionals which if you combine the regular season playoffs and his performance at the Hockey for All Centre, the young phenom, who also had six points in the Western Hockey League this year, had 134 AAA points to his name. 

For Brady Turko; meanwhile, it has been a breakout campaign for the young man. He finished second in regular season scoring with 90 points before adding another 20 points in just nine playoff games. Then moving forward to the West Regionals, not only was he the hero in the final against Saskatoon, but the McCreary star also led the tournament in scoring with six points.

"He has probably taken the biggest steps from any player that I have coached in terms from being a 15-year-old to a 16-year-old," said Turko. "He has incredible IQ. He was a step behind guys last year, but when he came to camp this year, he took his game to the next level. He's a pretty special player that works tirelessly and he's reaping the benefits of his hard work."

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Telus Cup Journey:

The team will now get in vehicles on Saturday morning and head to Regina. From there, the team will board a plane and make their way to Membertou, Nova Scotia for the Telus Cup, Canada's U18 National Championship.

It's the final stop in what the Wheat Kings are hoping turns out to be a national title. It has been 13 years since a team from Manitoba won the event as the Winnipeg Thrashers accomplished the feat in 2011.

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20 years ago, the title went back to the Wheat City as the Wheat Kings beat Riverains du Collège Charles-Lemoyne in the national final. Heading into this year's tournament, the last time a Manitoba team took home a medal was that 2011 national-winning Thrashers team.

Brandon plays their first game on Monday evening against Cantonniers de Magog of Quebec. They have won three national silver medals since 2018 and two Telus Cup tournaments were cancelled because of the pandemic. Brandon then plays the host Sydney Rush on Tuesday evening before going up against the Kensington Wild on Wednesday evening.

They then play the Calgary Buffaloes on Thursday afternoon before wrapping up their round-robin portion of the event on Friday night against the Markham Waxers.

The semi-final round is Saturday while the medal games take place on Sunday. 

It's a national test and these will be the toughest tests the Wheat Kings have had to face all year, but they're ready for it after a record-breaking year in Manitoba.

"We have watched a lot of video over the week to prepare ourselves," said Mealy. "We know the top teams will be Magog alongside Markham and Calgary."

While winning a national title is the team's biggest and most important goal over the next 10 days, Travis also wants the players to understand what they have accomplished and soak it all in.

"I truly hope they are taking it in, it's a huge accolade for their accomplishments this year," ended Mealy. "Our message is to go in with confidence. We made this tournament for the first time in 20 years and we're going in with a purpose."

To stay up to date with how the Wheat Kings are doing next week, stay tuned to 730CKDM and you can also visit 2024 Telus Cup