Scoring goals seems to be highly contagious in the Brandon Wheat Kings lineup these days.
After striking three times in their Western Hockey League opener against the Regina Pats last Friday, the Wheat Kings followed that up with seven more the following night and nine in their wild win over the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday night at Westman Place to run their record to 3-0-0-0.
Led by Alessio Bertaggia and Ryan Pulock, who were tied for second in WHL scoring going into Thursday night, the Wheat Kings have had 16 different players hit the scoresheet this season, including a dozen with two points or more.
“It’s momentum,” said Wheat Kings left-winger Jason Swyripa, who is off to a hot start with two goals, three assists and a plus/minus of +5. “Whenever you’re getting goals it gives your team a little bit of life, and that’s always a good thing.”
The Wheat Kings will try to keep up their surprising start this weekend as they visit the Swift Current Broncos tonight (7:30, CKLQ) and the Moose Jaw Warriors tomorrow.
Until now, the Wheat Kings’ road trips going back to the pre-season have all been quick in-and-outers, with the team venturing out for a single game and coming home immediately afterward. While this weekend’s trip could hardly be considered gruelling, it adds a new wrinkle and is another step on the team’s growth.
“It’s going to be a learning process,” Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said. “It’s going to be a process of us coming together as a team. When you go on the road, one thing about it, it’s just you and the team. The guys on the road, they’re in the rooms, they’re on the bus together, and all you do is go and play hockey. … It will be the first time for a lot of the young guys getting on the road and seeing what that’s like, so it should be a good test for us and we’ll see what we’re made of.”
Now in his third year as a Wheat King, Swyripa, 19, remembers how exciting that first overnight road trip was.
“It’s always something new when you first go on the road for back-to-back nights,” he said. “We’re playing three games in four nights (including Wednesday’s 9-6 home win over the Blades), which a lot of the guys have never played before. It’s obviously a really good thing for the young guys and hopefully our vets will show ’em what it takes to win.”
Gylywoychuk also plans to use the road trip to stress some of the areas the Wheat Kings need to clean up in their game. While the goals have been plentiful, the goals against have been creeping up each game as well, from two to four to six.
He said some of the little flaws teams can get away with at home are more likely to be exposed on the road.
“On the road the team game really needs to be stressed,” he said. “We’re really stressing things like we need to limit our chances against, we’ve got to do better on our puck management, we’ve got to do better on the little things and we’ve got to make sure the older guys lead and the younger learn as quick as they can, and then we can grow as a team.”
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon had all 25 players practice fully Thursday … The Broncos are 1-0-2-0, while the Warriors are 1-1-0-0.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2012