In the big picture, it was only one win in a 72-game schedule.
But after struggling through a seven-game WHL losing skid, Saturday night’s 5-4 overtime victory over the red-hot Red Deer Rebels provided the Brandon Wheat Kings with a significant boost as they prepare for their final four games before the Christmas break.
"For sure, I think the guys had a little bit more jump in their step today," said Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk after practice Monday at Westman Place. "They got rewarded with a solid effort on Saturday night and we found a way to win and those things haven’t been happening around here lately. So I think guys had a little bit more energy and for sure I think things are headed in the right direction. It’s a baby step, it’s one game and I think we all realize that, but it’s nice to get a win."
Brandon (11-17-2-2) will try to make it back-to-back wins tonight when it hosts the Saskatoon Blades (15-14-0-1) at Westman Place (7 o’clock), a team that just pounded the Regina Pats a combined 16-0 in a two-game weekend sweep.
"They are a hot team right now, they are an older team and an experienced team and it’s going to be a good test for us and we’ve got to make sure that we play a strong, defensive style of game and limit our mistakes," Gylywoychuk said. "They thrive on opportunity and I think it will be a good test for us. I think we have to worry about how the Brandon Wheat Kings are playing and create opportunities for ourselves and go from there."
Both teams will be missing major pieces of the puzzle tonight, with Wheat Kings scoring leader Alessio Bertaggia now overseas with the Swiss world junior hockey team, while Blades starting netminder Andrey Makarov has joined the Russia junior squad.
"I think Alessio is a big part of our team for sure, but in junior hockey, you lose players at this time of the year and we all realize it," Gylywoychuk said. "Hopefully we’ve grown a little bit as a team when we’ve had some guys here injured in the past and we know how it’s going to affect us. I think that everybody’s got to add a little bit more and with opportunity comes responsibility and I think that different guys are going to be put into different spots and they’ve got to seize the opportunity and do something for the Brandon Wheat Kings."
The Wheat Kings will also be without centre Tyrel Seaman (suspected concussion) and defenceman Rene Hunter (away from the team on personal leave), while centre Tim McGauley (suspected concussion) and left-winger Jack Palmer (upper-body injury) both skated in non-contact drills Monday and will be game-time decisions tonight, according to Gylywoychuk.
ICINGS: The Blades are expected to be without LW Nick Zajac (shoulder injury), RW Brett Stovin (upper body), D Kyle Schmidt (upper body) and LW Jessey Astles (wrist) tonight. Saskatoon has called up C Drake Bodie from the MJHL’s Waywayseecappo Wolverines, while G Patrick Johnson was called up from the SJHL after G Andrey Makarov left for Russia ...Tonight’s game is the first of two rain-check nights this season, as any unused tickets can be exchanged tonight. Fans are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or non-perishable food item tonight to be donated to the Westman and Area Traditional Christmas Dinner ... Brandon closes out its four-game home stand Friday versus Moose Jaw.