It’s only a snapshot of the season, but the past two games have offered Brandon Wheat Kings fans a tantalizing glimpse of the future.
Forget for a moment that the Wheat Kings (20-31-2-2) are nine points out of a playoff position, sport the WHL’s worst combined specialty teams (21st on the power play, 22nd in penalty killing) and have been a disaster defensively (surrendering the most shots against in the league at 36.38 per game). And let’s overlook the fact that Brandon’s 19- and 20-year-old players have been a bit of a disappointment overall, while the jury is still out on Dwayne Gylywoychuk’s first stint as a head coach.
For today, let’s focus on the young guns and how they have helped the Wheat Kings open a seven-game homestand with back-to-back victories — 5-2 over the Regina Pats Saturday and 4-1 over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday.
Starting between the pipes, Curtis Honey, 18, has been outstanding, posting a 1.50 goals-against average and an impressive .957 save percentage by stopping 67 of 70 shots to beat the Pats and Hurricanes. With Corbin Boes, 19, out with a knee injury, young Jordan Papirny, 16, is also getting some valuable experience as a call-up from the Alberta Midget AAA ranks and was solid in his first career WHL start last week.
On defence, 18-year-old captain Ryan Pulock’s five-point performance Saturday was a career-high. Rookie Colton Waltz, 17, has been steady, posting a +2 plus/minus rating on Wednesday, while Kord Pankewicz, 16, was +1 as he assumed regular duty on the blue-line while Tyler Yaworski serves a six-game suspension.
And up front, four Wheat King rookies have really skated into the spotlight lately, led by two goals and two assists from centre Jayce Hawryluk, 16, and four assists from centre Tim McGauley, 17. Left-winger John Quenneville, 16, has scored in back-to-back games, while left-winger Taylor Cooper, 17, stepped up with a goal and two assists on Wednesday.
Quenneville (8-9-17) and Cooper (7-13-20) have had solid rookie seasons, while Hawryluk (15-20-35) and McGauley (15-16-31) have been outstanding, with both in the top 10 in WHL rookie scoring and are the top two scoring forwards on Brandon’s roster. Hawryluk’s 15 goals, in fact, are the most scored by any 16-year-old in the league.
The playoffs may be a long shot this year, but there are certainly some building blocks for the future.
Brandon’s Amanda Thornborough, 22, will suit up for the national women’s sevens rugby team this weekend at the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens Tournament. The graduate of the Brandon Barbarians and Vincent Massey Vikings hopes to represent Canada in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil … Virden-based pairs skaters Paige Lawrence, 22, and Rudi Swiegers, 25, are in Osaka, Japan, where they will represent Canada at the International Skating Union’s Four Continents event this weekend. Coached by Virden’s Patty Hole and Hamiota-born Olympian Lyndon Johnson, Lawrence and Swiegers were third at nationals last month and hope to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics ... Brandon’s Cassie Hawrysh, 28, and Russell’s Jon Montgomery, 33, are in Sochi, Russia — site of the 2014 Olympics — training at the brand new track in preparation for the ninth stop on the World Cup skeleton tour on Feb. 15-16. Hawrysh and Montgomery are trying to crack Canada’s 2014 Olympic team … Minnedosa natives and Barbarians players Thomas Roche, 19, and Jason Galbraith, 19, have made the cutdown to 30 players for Canada’s under-20 men’s rugby team that will compete in the IRB Junior World Trophy championship from May 28 to June 9 in Antofagasta, Chile. Canada’s final 26-player roster will be determined in a spring camp in Shawnigan Lake, B.C.
NEWS AND NOTES:
Featuring Brandon WHL prospects Tyler Coulter (33 goals, 60 points) and Brett Kitt (25 goals, 50 points), the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings (30-10-2) can clinch first in the West Division when they face the Pembina Valley Hawks (28-10-4) Saturday at the Sportsplex at 7:30 p.m. … Coming off a superb 30-point, 11-rebound performance, Jordan Reaves and the Brandon University Bobcats battle the Calgary Dinos tonight (8 o’clock) and Saturday (7 p.m.) in Canada West men’s basketball action at the Healthy Living Centre. BU’s women’s team looks to snap its three-year winless skid tonight (6 o’clock) and Saturday (5 p.m.), while the Bobcat volleyball teams visit UBC-Okanagan … Former Wheat Kings captain Mark Stone, who has eight goals and 19 points in 35 games in his rookie AHL season, is out of the Binghamton Senators lineup with a broken finger … If you can’t watch the Safeway Championship in person in Neepawa, Westman Cable is televising draws on Channel 115 today, while Sportsnet West and Citytv Winnipeg will show the 1-vs-1 Page playoff game on Saturday evening at 6:30, as well as Sunday’s semifinal matchup at 9 a.m., and final at 1:30 p.m.