The Brandon Wheat Kings are going to find themselves in some mighty unfamiliar terrain tonight as they prepare for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Western Hockey League club will face off against its longtime East Division rivals tonight in Saskatchewan, their first game away from Westoba Place since a 6-1 loss to the Pats in Regina on Nov. 6.
The trip then continues with road games against the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday, the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday. Coincidentally, Brandon beat all four clubs during their six-game home stand.
Brandon head coach Don MacGillivray said his players will have to be prepared to work hard.
"We haven’t been on the road for a while," MacGillivray said. "We played six games at home and I think it was a pretty good home stand. We’re going into buildings where we just beat the team and they’ll be ready for us … We need to be sure we’re ready."
Brandon is currently in a tie for sixth in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference, two points behind the Warriors (9-10-1-1).
Veteran forward Riley Ginnell said his team has improved a lot as players returned to the lineup, and they will be ready for the new challenge. That comes after the Wheat Kings (9-11-0-0) went 4-2-0-0 during their home stand, falling one win short of evening their record for the first time since Oct. 23.
"We’ve just been building as a group," Ginnell said. "Sadly we didn’t meet our goal but we head to Alberta and meet Swift and Moose Jaw along the way. Hopefully we can just keep rolling in the right direction and get towards that .500 goal."
Brandon has 10 games remaining until the Christmas break begins on Dec. 18 after a trip to the meet the Ice at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
Six are on the road, with four at home.
One player who is looking forward to hitting the Trans-Canada Highway is Landon Roberts.
The 19-year-old forward spent the 2019-20 season with the Tri-City Americans, who travelled to the Central Division that year. The pandemic season was played entirely within the U.S. Division, so the only building Roberts has played in so far is the Brandt Centre in Regina, just after he was acquired.
"It will be good," Roberts said with a chuckle. "It will be different. I’ve only had one away game so far and these are a few rinks I haven’t been in yet because of last season. It will be interesting to play in them and get a feel for them. I think it will be fun to get on the road with the guys."
The next of their four major road trips this season will once again carry them through the Central Division when they play four games in five nights between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16. They have a similar trip from Feb. 15 to 19.
The first time they headed to Alberta, the short-staffed club went 0-3-0-0 from Oct. 22 to 24.
"It’s an important road trip," veteran forward Brett Hyland said. "We have goals. It’s going to be nice because we don’t have to travel back and forth so we can be focused on the game ahead and no further than that. We’ll just continue with that mindset."
Brandon is just 3-5-0-0 on the road this season — and has been outscored 42-21 in those games — while posting a 6-6-0-0 record at home.
Winger Tyson Zimmer of Russell is hopeful Brandon can find its winning ways again.
"I think just have to be ready to play," Zimmer said. "Every team we play against is a good team so we have to go out there and play fast, and if we play our game, we should have a good trip."
ICINGS: Brandon rookie Quinn Mantei has been held without a point in his first three games at the Capital City Challenge as his Team Red has compiled a 2-1-0 record. They return to action when the semifinals are held today in Ottawa … The WHL named its weekly award winners on Monday, with 18-year-old Calgary Hitmen forward Sean Tschigerl of Whitecourt, Alta., named top player after scoring four goals and adding four assists in a pair of wins. In net, 18-year-old Spokane Chiefs goaltender Mason Beaupit of Surrey, B.C., was named top netminder after stopping 59 of 61 shots and posting a 1-0-0-1 record, with a 0.96 goals-against average and .967 save percentage.
» Twitter: @PerryBergson