The Brandon Wheat Kings are facing what may be their toughest weekend for the rest of the Western Hockey League season.
The Wheat Kings kick off three games in three nights tomorrow by visiting the Red Deer Rebels (8:05 p.m., CKLQ), who sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 25-20-3-2. It only gets tougher after that as their Alberta road trip continues against the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen, who happen to have the top two records in the conference.
The Wheat Kings (17-27-2-2) have won three of their five games since the WHL trade deadline, but Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Saskatoon Blades was arguably the worst of the bunch for Brandon.
Wheat Kings centre Chad Robinson said his team needs a strong weekend to regain their momentum.
"This is a huge weekend to get back on track after (Tuesday) night," said the former Rebel, who was traded from Red Deer to Brandon earlier this season. "I think we took a step in the wrong direction (Tuesday) night and we have an opportunity ahead this weekend to get back on track and get our work ethic up and our compete level up."
With an 11-point gap to make up to get into the playoffs, the Wheat Kings should be able to keep pace and maybe even gain some ground if they can pick up an upset or two on the trip. That will be a challenge, though, given not only the quality of the opposition but also the gruelling schedule.
"The games are going to happen quick," Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said following Wednesday’s practice. "We talked to the guys about getting as much rest as they can (Wednesday) and (Thursday), getting good meals in them, taking care of themselves (and) taking care of the bumps and bruises now so that when the weekend comes we won’t have to worry about any of that. It’s all about preparation — preparation physically and also mentally — how we prepare for each game."
While the challenge presented by the weekend as a whole makes for an interesting storyline, it’s not something the players are focusing on. As cliché as the ‘one-game-at-a-time’ mantra is in sports, that outlook is virtually a necessity for the Wheat Kings to keep the task manageable.
"We’re focused on Friday night in Red Deer right now," Robinson said. "That’s our main focus."
ONE-TIMERS: Brandon is 3-0 against Red Deer this season but a combined 0-4 against Edmonton and Calgary … The Oil Kings (sixth) and Hitmen (10th) are both in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top-10 rankings this week … Cutting down the shots against will be a priority for the Wheat Kings, who have given up 91 shots in their last two games in earning a split with the Blades … Prince George has hired former Kootenay Ice bench boss Mark Holick as its new head coach, signing him to a three-year contract. On Tuesday the Cougars fired ex-Wheat Kings coach Dean Clark.