Brandon Wheat Kings head coach David Anning likes what he sees when he watches the Tri-City Americans.
"They have good balance, they have quality goaltending regardless of who starts," Anning said. "I think they’re an honest team. They play a 200-foot game. You have to do a good job with the puck and make sure that your structure is as good as theirs."
The Americans, who have Strathclair’s Morgan Geekie on their roster, visit Westman Place this evening in the sole meeting of the year between the teams. Game time is 7 o’clock.
Anning said they will provide a solid test for his team.
In the last 10 meetings between the teams, Brandon is 4-5-1-0, with Tri-City winning the last three games at Westman Place. In the most recent contest in Brandon, Jason Gutierrez scored 3:30 into overtime to give the Americans a victory on Oct. 3, 2014.
Brandon does enter tonight’s action as winners of five of seven games since the Christmas break. The Wheat Kings hold the top wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference by four points over the Edmonton Oil Kings, and trail the Swift Current Broncos by nine points for the race for third place in the East Division.
After hosting the Americans tonight, Brandon entertains the Kootenay Ice on Friday and Saturday.
"It’s an important week for us," Anning said. "We have three games in four days on home ice, which is a rarity in the Western (Hockey) League that you see a schedule like that. It’s important for our group that we continue to play well on home ice. For the most part I think we’ve done a good job on home ice. We’ve tried to score first and play with the lead."
Brandon is 13-5-2-0 on home ice — exactly the same home record that the Americans sport — while Tri-City is 12-12-1-0 on the road this season. Overall, Brandon is 20-16-4-0, with Tri-City ninepoints ahead at 25-17-3-0.
An hour before being dealt to the Vancouver Giants, defenceman Jordan Wharrie, who spent the first two seasons of his WHL career in the Western Conference with the Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals, said the Americans aren’t an easy opponent.
"They’re a hard-working team and they’re never going to give up," Wharrie said of Tri-City. "All those American teams seem to have that fast, gritty physical style of play that teams don’t like playing against."
During their swing through the East Division, the Americans beat the Prince Albert Raiders 2-1, Saskatoon Blades 2-0 and the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 on Tuesday.
They finish up their eastern swing against the Regina Pats on Friday and Swift Current Broncos on Saturday.
Since they only see each other once a season, Anning said the Wheat Kings will rely on video to prepare. But he added that Brandon has to play its own game too.
"We’re going to do a lot of video and make sure that the guys understand the style of game we’re going to be facing, who their top guys are, who we have to key in on," Anning said. "We’ll try to see some areas that we can look to exploit but at the end of the day it’s about our group. We have to make sure that we continue to improve and make sure that we worry about ourselves."
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