The hottest scorer in the Western Hockey League meets the hottest team in the league tonight in Brandon.
Fresh off being named the WHL’s player of the week, right-winger Jayce Hawryluk will lead the Brandon Wheat Kings into a clash with the surging Calgary Hitmen at Westman Place (7 p.m.) in a potential playoff preview.
The Wheat Kings (31-26-6-3), who have earned seven out of a possible eight points in their last four games (3-0-0-1), will have their hands full with the Hitmen (43-15-3-4), who have earned points in 12 straight games (11-0-0-1). The Hitmen handed the Wheat Kings their eighth straight loss in their last meeting back on Feb. 21, but that 5-4 setback helped set the stage for Brandon’s recent run. And Hawryluk said they are looking forward to taking another crack at the Hitmen.
"It’s a good measuring stick for our team," said Hawryluk, whose club will also host the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday night at Westman Place. "These are going to be teams that are going to be in the playoffs and that we are going to face off against and we are going to give it our all this week. It’s a good matchup and we’re going to be prepared ...
"Playing against Calgary, it’s always an easy game to get motivated for. It’s a team we always want to beat and we’re excited."
Hawryluk enters tonight’s game on a roll, with six goals and 10 points and a +6 plus/minus rating in three games last week to earn his second WHL player of the week award of the season. The 18-year-old Roblin native, who leads the Wheat Kings in scoring with 64 points — including 24 goals — in 57 games, is currently riding a five-game point streak with seven goals and a whopping 14 points over that span, dating back to that last meeting with the Hitmen. A rising prospect for this year’s NHL draft, Hawryluk is quick to credit his linemates, centre John Quenneville and left-winger Jesse Gabrielle, for his scoring success.
"I’ve been getting the bounces that I want and my linemates have been great. They have been opening up a lot of space for me and giving me chances to make plays and to put the puck in the net, which has been awesome," said Hawryluk, who also leads the team in plus/minus at +18.
"... We’ve bounced back and we have been heating up and all of these games that are left are huge and we’ve got to get as many points as we can in the last few games that we have."
ICINGS: Wheat Kings RW Peter Quenneville has missed the past six games with a suspected foot/ankle injury. Officially, the Wheat Kings list him as being out week-to-week with a lower-body injury ... Brandon RW Jens Meilleur’s consecutive game streak ended at 107 games when he was scratched from the lineup on Sunday with a lower-body injury prior to Brandon’s 4-3 shootout loss in Swift Current. His status for tonight’s game is unclear.