After coming back from the Western Hockey League’s Christmas break with five games in five different cities, the Brandon Wheat Kings are looking forward to the chance to put down some roots for a while.
The Wheat Kings played five games in only seven days following the break, including a four-game road trip through Saskatchewan and Alberta. Tonight they start a five-game homestand by hosting the Regina Pats at Westman Place.
"It was a pretty long road trip for us and it’s obviously nice to get back here and I look forward to (playing the Pats)," said Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock, who has points in the last five games (three goals, two assists) after being limited to only one assist in the six games going into the break.
"It’s another huge game for us, obviously, playing Regina. It’s pretty tight in the standings and for us we need to start putting some wins together."
The Wheat Kings went 1-2-1-0 on their road trip to sit in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 20-16-4-0 for the season. Tonight’s game will be the third meeting in nine days between Brandon and Regina, as they came out of the break by playing a home-and-home, with the Wheat Kings taking the first game 8-0 and the Pats bouncing back to win 8-4 the next day.
Clearly both clubs have enough firepower to make their opponents pay for their mistakes, so Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon hopes his team will be able to keep those miscues to a minimum.
"We’ll need to play well for sure," said McCrimmon, who moved into 15th place on the all-time list for WHL coaching wins by earning his 350th career victory when the Wheat Kings beat the Red Deer Rebels 4-3 on Monday for their lone win of the road trip. "…Regina have some dangerous offensive players. I think when we play the right way we’re able to generate scoring chances and that’s what we’ll look to do is try to neutralize their top guys and at the same time be able to generate offence."
The Wheat Kings are tied in the East Division and Eastern Conference standings with the Pats and the Prince Albert Raiders, who will play two games at Westman Place next weekend. Brandon is only four points back of the division-leading Swift Current Broncos, another team that will come here during the homestand, and Pulock said this stretch of games is a prime opportunity for the Wheat Kings to make a move in the standings.
"I think every single game of the year is very important, but as you start getting in the second half you kind of start watching the standings a little more and every single game matters, every single point matters," he said. "For us, our whole division is so tight if you start winning you can be right up at the top, and that’s our goal right now."
ONE-TIMERS: RW Peter Quenneville is also on a five-game point-scoring streak (three goals, five assists) and was named the Wheat Kings’ IMPACT player of the month for December. Quenneville had six goals and eight assists in 10 December games, with a plus/minus of +4 … After tonight’s game, the Wheat Kings will have two days between games for the first time since the break, returning to action against the Rebels on Tuesday …The Moose Jaw Warriors acquired 6-foot-4, 192-pound D Spenser Jensen from the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday for third- and sixth-round picks in this year’s WHL bantam draft and a conditional pick in 2016. Jensen had three assists and 31 penalty minutes in 28 games with the Tigers, but left the team on Dec. 15.