TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Veteran forward Jens Meilleur said games against the Western Hockey League-leading Kelowna Rockets and the Moose Jaw Warriors will give the Brandon Wheat Kings plenty of motivation for their final weekend before the Christmas break.
The Kelowna Rockets should be enough to prevent the Brandon Wheat Kings from any early daydreaming about the Western Hockey League’s Christmas break.
The WHL’s top team will take the ice at Westman Place tonight for its only meeting with the Wheat Kings this season. The Rockets bring an impressive 24-3-0-2 record and an eight-game winning streak into the game, and Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon said the credentials of their opponents should provide plenty of motivation for the Brandon players.
"This is a great challenge for our team," he said. "Kelowna is one of the top teams in the league. I always look at those type of games as measuring-stick opportunities and I think that’s what it’ll be for our team, and guys will be excited to play."
After hosting the Rockets tonight, the Wheat Kings have a home game against the Moose Jaw Warriors tomorrow, then get a 12-day holiday break.
Veteran forward Jens Meilleur agrees with his coach that the Rockets will be a good test for the Wheat Kings, who have a 17-14-2-0 record, and he said the tight standings in the Eastern Conference should keep the players honest for Saturday’s game against the Warriors.
"The first game coming up here against Kelowna, that’s going to be a good measuring stick for us," said Meilleur, who filled in on defence during Thursday’s practice, with blue-liner Ryan Pilon sick. "We’re looking to see how we do against a top team in the other conference and we’re really amped up for that one. And then Moose Jaw is a really important two points for us. It’s a team in our division, and we’ve got to get some more points here before the break."
Having reached three games above the .500 mark for the first time this season with a 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers on Tuesday, the Wheat Kings have been rolling lately with an 8-3-2-0 mark in their last 13 contests, and Meilleur believes the team still has a little bit left in the tank.
"I know right now we’re (winners of) three out of the last four games and we’re not even playing as well as we can," said Meilleur, who has a goal, eight assists and a plus/minus of +11 in 17 games since the beginning of November. "So I’m really excited to see once we get going and playing our way, what the outcome will be."
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings will play without LW Richard Nejezchleb, who is overseas trying out for the Czech national junior team, while G Curtis Honey and D Eric Roy, who both missed Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers, had yet to return to practice by Thursday … Tonight’s game is the annual Teddy Bear Toss, with fans urged to bring a new stuffed animal or a toque to throw on the ice after Brandon’s first goal, with the proceeds going to the Brandon-Westman Christmas Cheer Registry.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2013