The Brandon Wheat Kings will be looking to work their way out of a recent funk tonight at Westman Place against the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.
The Western Hockey League-leading Regina Pats, roll into Brandon as winners of nine of their last 10 and 14 of 17 since the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
Brandon, meanwhile, has lost its last three games on the road and is 7-6-2-2 since the deadline.
Wheat Kings head coach David Anning said his team will have to be much better against the Pats.
"Regina is a skilled team, a fast team and they’ve had a lot of success this year," he said. "We have to understand that we have to play a structured, honest, hard-working game to be successful. I think that was lacking earlier this week and I expect it to be a lot better."
After losing 3-2 in overtime last Saturday against the Saskatoon Blades, Brandon fell 3-1 to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday and 5-3 to the Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday.
In the season series, Regina has won a pair of 5-2 games and also a 7-4 decision, all in Regina. In the Pats’ lone visit to Brandon this year, the Wheat Kings emerged with a 2-1 shootout victory on
Connor Gutenberg, who has a pair of assists against the Pats this season, said it’s a good matchup.
"We have confidence that we can play with them," he said. "We showed that in a couple of the games that we’ve played them. I’m looking forward to it."
Brandon (27-22-6-2) trails third-place Swift Current (29-18-3-6) by five points in the WHL’s East Division, but holds the first of two Eastern Conference wildcard spots by nine points over the Saskatoon Blades (23-26-5-2). The Blades are nursing a three-point lead over the Calgary Hitmen for the final playoff spot.
The Pats, who have the best record in the league at 41-7-6-1, have already clinched their berth in the post-season.
"We’ve played well in our building, and I think we’ve had good starts in our building," Anning said. "I don’t think it’s an easy building to play in.
"For me, I think we’ve simplified the game at home and done the simple details that allow you to play faster. I think it allows you to control the game because you’re doing a better job of managing the puck, and playing with the lead has been a big thing."
Brandon’s offensive attack has sputtered lately, with eight goals in its last four games. In Tuesday’s loss to the Warriors, the Wheat Kings matched a season low with just 16 shots on goal.
Overall, they are managing 30.49 shots per game, and allowing 33.65.
"We just have to buy in and play better as a team," Gutenberg said of the offence. "I think we have to work together with each other and build off of each other."
It’s a message his coach echoes. Anning said they need to work hard and within the system to succeed, something that was talked about at a team meeting on Thursday.
"We had a good discussion with our guys, and I think that it was an honest and open discussion about our expectations as a group," he said. "What we saw earlier this week we shouldn’t be satisfied with by any means. We need to understand that we have a lot more to offer and we’re a better club than we showed.
"We need to respond."
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