Alessio Bertaggia has the perfect idea for a sendoff before he joins the Swiss national junior team — a couple of Brandon Wheat Kings wins.
Bertaggia has two more games with his Western Hockey League club — tonight against the Spokane Chiefs and tomorrow versus the Red Deer Rebels — before heading overseas for what in all likelihood will be the better part of a month.
"I’m really excited," said Bertaggia, who played for Switzerland at last year’s world junior championship, picking up a goal and three assists in six games. "I’m happy to see all my buddies from back home, see my family and obviously go to Switzerland again, but I want to finish strong here in Brandon and finish with two wins."
While in the Swiss camp Bertaggia will miss at least the Wheat Kings’ last four games before the Christmas break. He’s virtually a lock to make the team and compete at the world juniors in Russia, which would cost him at least six and likely seven more games.
Brandon’s leading scorer, with 15 goals and 31 points in 27 games, Bertaggia and his offensive flair will be sorely missed here, but the opportunity to play for his country against the world’s best juniors is too good to pass up.
"I think one of the best things in hockey is representing your country," he said.
Even with captain Ryan Pulock back in the lineup after missing six games with facial injuries, Bertaggia’s wish of back-to-back victories this weekend will be a challenge with two of the hottest teams in the WHL making their way here.
The Chiefs have won five straight games and are 10-1-1-0 in their last 12 contests, while the Rebels have won eight games in a row since Brent Sutter took over as head coach.
For now, Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk wants his team focused on the Chiefs and the challenges they present.
"First and foremost I think Spokane’s a very good hockey team," he said. "They’re going to be hard-working, well-coached (and) they’ve been on the road for a while, so you know they’re going to be playing a very structured game and I think that’s what we’ve got to do.
"We’ve got to make sure that we bring our work ethic, our commitment to compete. I think we’ve got to make sure we bring our structured game and we’ve got to play a very simple, hard-working game."
ONE-TIMERS: RW Jens Meilleur practised on Thursday and appears poised to return to the Brandon lineup after missing eight games with a lower-body injury … Still on the Wheat Kings’ injury list are C Tyrel Seaman (suspected concussion), C Tim McGauley (suspected concussion) and LW Jack Palmer (upper body). Palmer skated following practice once again on Thursday … Tonight is the Wheat Kings Teddy Bear Toss game.