How critical of a weekend is this for head coach Cory Clouston and the Brandon Wheat Kings?
By Saturday night, the struggling Wheat Kings (24-23-1-2) could find themselves tied with the Red Deer Rebels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, with Red Deer holding all the cards with three games in hand.
Of course, with 22 games still remaining in the regular season, there is still plenty of time for Clouston to find a solution before the playoffs begin. The question is, when will GM Kelly McCrimmon’s patience run out?
Tuesday’s 1-0 road victory over the defending WHL champion Kootenay Ice looked like a step in the right direction for the Wheat Kings, with trade deadline acquisition Kevin Sundher finally scoring his first goal in six games. But that win — one of only three in the past 12 games — was quickly followed by Wednesday’s 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Hitmen and preceeded by last Saturday’s 7-3 thumping at home at the hands of the Ice.
Walking around the concourse at Westman Place on Saturday night, there was plenty of grumbling from the Wheat King faithful, who have watched their team lose all five games on home ice in January to fall from first overall on Nov. 18 to clinging to a playoff spot.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Wheat Kings on the road tonight when they face the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings, who battered Brandon 7-1 in their last meeting back on Dec. 30. The Wheat Kings haven’t won on home ice since.
Brandon University’s search committee did more than just interview the final three candidates for the Bobcats women’s basketball head coaching position. They also put them to work this week.
In an interesting move, BU let the trio help run practices this week, with the search committee in attendance.
“That was just part of the interview process for the selection,” said acting BU athletic director Russ Paddock.
Officially, BU won’t reveal the names of the three shortlisted candidates. However, former Brandon Sun sports writer David Larkins — now with the Winnipeg Sun — reported that the candidates are University of Alberta assistant women’s coach Erin McAleenan, Ryerson University men’s assistant Fatih Akser and former Canadian national men’s team member Novell Thomas.
Paddock said BU hopes to name a new head coach shortly.
“Hopefully by the end of the next week or two,” he said.
ODDS AND ENDS: My list last week of some of the Wheat Kings’ prime prospects for next year was missing one notable candidate in Brandon’s own Tyler Coulter. The 15-year-old forward was passed over in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, but was later added to Brandon’s 50-player protected list after getting off to a hot start with the Midget AAA Wheat Kings. All Coulter has done in his rookie season is lead the team in scoring with 22 goals and 38 points in 37 games. It will be interesting to see the 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward in training camp in the fall ... Brandon’s Kurt Jory made a little history last weekend. The former Wheat King netminder and the Brock Badgers took part in the first OUA Outdoor Classic at Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadium last Sunday, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Waterloo Warriors. Jory was named Brock’s 2010-11 team MVP and a finalist for male athlete of the year after his truly remarkable comeback from suffering a severed vein in his neck in 2008 ... Brandon pro mixed martial artist Curtis DeMarce will not be fighting in MFC 32 tonight in Edmonton after being bumped off the card by the Alberta athletic commission, which wouldn’t allow DeMarce (12-10-0) to fight James Haddad (4-1-0) because Haddad didn’t have enough pro fights to his credit. DeMarce hopes to fight next March 16 in Hamilton ... While Tim Thomas skipped the trip in a controversial decision, now-retired Neepawa native Shane Hnidy was thrilled to go to the White House with his former Boston Bruins teammates this week to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship with President Barack Obama. “He’s a great guy,” Hnidy told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It was a pleasure standing there with the most powerful man in the world. It was a life experience I won’t get again.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 27, 2012