Ty Lewis has led the Brandon Bantam AAA Wheat Kings to a strong second half since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him until Christmas. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
A knee injury may have cut Ty Lewis’s season in half, but the Brandon Bantam AAA Wheat Kings sniper is on top of his game for the most important part.
Lewis and the Wheat Kings go for a provincial title this weekend in Stonewall and Warren, with the winner of the all-rural event to go up against the champion of Winnipeg’s Bantam AAA league. For Lewis, the event is the highlight of the season.
"This is the big tournament that we have been working toward this whole year and it would sure be nice if we could win," said Lewis, whose team opens against the Parkland Rangers this morning in Warren. "… We’ve been going really hard this past couple weeks to put ourselves in the best possible shape we can to win this weekend and hopefully move on to the series versus Winnipeg."
The bulk of Lewis’s work up until Christmas involved simply trying to get back on the ice again after a partially torn patellar tendon struck him down in Brandon’s final pre-season tournament. He made his return after the Christmas break and his arrival sparked the team. Lewis scored five goals and 15 points in Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League Division 1 play to finish third in team scoring despite playing in only eight of the squad’s 30 games this season, while the Wheat Kings went 6-2 down the stretch to finish the season with an 11-17 record.
Head coach Dennis McNish believes that injuries to Lewis and others during the first two-thirds of the season have made the Wheat Kings a better team.
"With the way the first part of the season went for us, the coaching staff we all believe that it was best for us in the long run," McNish said. "Guys had to play out of their comfort zone pretty much every night and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. So I think it just made us a much more flexible team in the way we can come at you in a lot of different ways now."
Lewis is thankful the injury didn’t require surgery and he was able to get back in the action and have a strong stretch run, partly because as a second-year bantam he’s a potential pick in this year’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, but mostly because he’s got team goals for this weekend.
"It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the WHL, but I haven’t really put too much thought into that right now," Lewis said. "… I’m just trying to focus on provincials and this upcoming weekend."
Both Lewis and McNish believe the Wheat Kings have as good a chance as anyone this weekend. Of course, they figure most of the teams in the field have as good a chance as anyone.
"It’s going to be a really exciting tournament because I think every team coming feels like they have a chance to win it," McNish said.
"The play amongst us all has been very, very tight so it should make for some good hockey."
ONE-TIMERS: The rural teams don’t take part in the Winnipeg league playoffs … After opening against Parkland, the Wheat Kings will face the Central Plains Capitals in their second game today … The Westman South Cougars open against the Eastman Selects before facing the NorMan Wolves this afternoon, while the Yellowhead Chiefs play only one game today — against the Pembina Valley Hawks in the afternoon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2013