Friday, 4 March 2011

Wheat Kings Close In on .500

There's an old adage that says you have to hit rock bottom before you can start the climb back up.

For the Brandon Wheat Kings, rock bottom was January 15th, when the club dropping a 9-0 decision on home ice to the Edmonton Oil Kings to fall to 14-25-1-7, a season-high 11 games under .500.

The Wheat Kings have certainly dusted themselves off since then, winning 14 of their last 18 games to put themselves on the verage of reaching the .500 mark for the season for the first time since November 16th.

A 11th straight home-ice win tonight over the visiting Regina Pats (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place) would even Brandon's record at 29-29-1-7.

"It's a great thing that we're at this stage now and we can get to .500," says Brandon right-winger Brenden Walker, "I think our team is going to take advantage of that and it'll be a huge confidence boost for us."

For a team that endured nine and 11 games losing streaks during the first half of the season, being on the cusp of .500 is a significant milestone.

"It's just think that we've come together as a team and I think a lot of the guys have realized that it was playoff hockey time, and that every game we have to start winning," said Brandon centre Paul Ciarelli (above right) after Thursday's practice, "I think the excitement of playoff hockey coming, there's a lot of new guys coming up and they're excited about playing in the playoffs so it should be fun."

With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Wheat Kings sit in seventh-place in the WHL's Eastern Conference, one point back of sixth-place Edmonton and seven ahead of eighth-place Prince Albert.

Brandon's magic # to clinch a playoff spot for the 11th consecutive season is sitting at four entering Friday's action.

Chaff...Brandon's current streak of making the playoffs for ten straight seasons is the third-longest in the WHL behind Calgary (13) and Kootenay (12)...the Wheat Kings are one of three teams in the WHL that has six players with 20 or more goals. Portland and Tri-City are the others...Former Wheat Kings' captain Keith Aulie had his first NHL fight on Thursday night. You can watch it at http://bit.ly/hh9jDX

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