Nick Buonassisi turns up ice in Brandon Wheat Kings practice on Tuesday afternoon at Westman Place. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Nick Buonassisi can’t erase a disappointing season, but he hopes to earn a little bit of redemption before the end his Western Hockey League career.
The 20-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings forward has just five games and less than two weeks remaining as a junior.
Acquired by the Wheat Kings from the Lethbridge Hurricanes prior to the season to add scoring punch to a young group of forwards, Buonassisi hoped for much more from a team that is last in the Eastern Conference with a 22-38-4-3 record.
"A couple weeks left here and it’s obviously disappointing we’re not going to be in the playoffs for my last season," he said. "It’s not the way that I would have liked the year to go. I think we’re better than what the standings say but it’s unfortunate. I’m just going to enjoy my last couple weeks here, just kind of have fun. Just take it all in, I guess, and have a smile on my face."
Buonassisi’s reasons to smile have been sporadic. He got off to a hot start, with nine points in his first four games, but his production has been streaky. After averaging more than 50 points in each of his previous two seasons, he’s totalled only 13 goals and 33 points in 64 games this year and said his production was "not even close" to his expectations.
While it’s too late to make any difference in the playoff race, he hopes both he and the Wheat Kings can show their true form in the final days of the season.
"All I can do now is look ahead and try and finish strong," said Buonassisi, who scored two goals in the Wheat Kings’ 4-2 win over the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday and had an assist in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Regina Pats on Sunday.
"We’re playing for pride right now as well," he continued. "If we can win a bunch of games in a row, starting with (Friday’s game against) Edmonton — if we can beat a top team like Edmonton — that’ll feel pretty good and (the team can) just kinda go out on a high note."
Buonassisi would like to play professionally next season, but barring the right offer he plans to go to university. For now, he hopes to provide some guidance for the younger players in the locker-room.
"I wish I would have listened a little more when I was younger to the older guys, to be honest, because they were right, (time) does fly by," he said. "It feels like yesterday I was 15, coming into the league, but it passed so fast. I’m gonna miss it. It’s been fun. I didn’t really get the opportunity to play on a contending team — I’ve never won a playoff game in my career in the Western league — which is pretty frustrating, but I’ve told the young guys before and I’ll tell them again to just enjoy it because it does go by quick."
AROUND THE WHL: Edmonton C Michael St. Croix has been named the CHL player of the week after totalling two goals and seven assists in three games … Tri-City C Justin Feser, who broke the WHL record for consecutive games played last week, has been named the league’s player of the month after posting 12 goals and 12 assists in 11 February games. Kootenay G Mackenzie Skapski was named goalie of the month after posting a 1.27 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage … Saskatoon RW Josh Nicholls has been signed as a free agent by the NHL’s New York Rangers. He was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010 but was not signed … Former Wheat Kings captain Mark Stone, 20, has been called up from the AHL by the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 6, 2013