Nick Buonassisi’s first reunion with his old Lethbridge Hurricanes didn’t go the way he planned.
He’ll get another chance tonight, on his own terms.
Buonassisi and the Wheat Kings host the Hurricanes tonight at Westman Place in the second meeting between the Western Hockey League teams. The first came last month during Brandon’s West Coast road trip, ending with Lethbridge celebrating a one-sided victory over the visitors.
"It’s pretty neat to play against all my buddies on my old team," said Buonassisi, 20, who was acquired by the Wheat Kings just before the start of training camp for a fifth-round pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. "Last time we played them, we got canned 6-1, so I’m hoping for a better outcome this time. It would be nice to get a win against them."
Buonassisi spent one season in Lethbridge after beginning his WHL career with the Prince George Cougars, trudging through a 29-42-0-1 campaign that left the Hurricanes second-last in the Eastern Conference. This season Lethbridge got off to a slow start but is now one of the hottest teams in the WHL, with an 8-1-1-1 record going back to the win over Brandon.
The Hurricanes brought in former Wheat King Ty Rimmer as their starting goalie this season and Buonassisi is not surprised the new addition has Lethbridge clicking.
"I played with (Rimmer) in P.G. and I know what he’s capable of," Buonassisi said. "He’s a hell of a goalie and we’ve got to find a way to get some goals on him. If we can do that, we’ll be fine. We’re kind of inconsistent with the amount of goals we’re scoring, and if we can get four or five on them, we should be OK."
Now in his fifth season, Buonassisi, 20, is on pace for a career year, with seven goals and 18 points in 19 games. Since struggling through a five-game pointless skid last month, he has bounced back with three goals and three assists in his last seven games.
He said the veterans need to lead the way for the Wheat Kings to produce offensively, but even more importantly he said they need to clamp down defensively and snap a streak of five straight games of at least 40 shots against.
"We’ve been trying to focus on (defence) a lot lately," he said. "Forty shots against isn’t ideal. We don’t want to give up that many shots, and, I mean, Lethbridge has been scoring quite a few goals lately. So if we’re going to give up 40 shots against them, the chances of us winning are pretty slim. It’s pretty obvious what we’ve got to do is just play better defensively and the goals will come."
ONE-TIMERS: Wheat Kings’ head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk tore into the team in a lengthy speech at the end of Thursday’s practice … RW Jayce Hawryluk practised after leaving Tuesday’s game early due to a hit by Seattle D Jared Hauf … Brandon LW Richard Nejezchleb (shoulder 1-2 weeks) remains limited to no contact in practice.