Friday, 14 December 2012

Critical Weekend for Wheat Kings

Jason Swyripa (left) shares a chuckle with teammate Geordie Maguire during Thursday's practice
  The Brandon Wheat Kings will try to end their first half on a positive note this weekend and inch closer to a playoff spot in the process.

  The Wheat Kings host Moose Jaw Friday night (7:35 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place) before visiting the Warriors Saturday and Prince Albert on Sunday to close out their pre-Christmas schedule.

  Moose Jaw is currently five points ahead of the 11-18-2-2 Wheat Kings for eighth-place and the final playoff spot in the WHL's Eastern Conference.

  "It's a huge weekend.  You always want to beat a division rival, especially when they're ahead of you in the standings," said Brandon forward Jason Swyripa after Thursday's practice, "If we could take two games this weekend, it would be a huge boost for our club.  We're going to try and work as hard as we can and give us the best opportunity to win."

  December games usually don't take on the same importance as those in March, but there could be a lot more on the line this weekend than just six points.

  With the WHL's trade deadline just 27 days away, how close the Wheat Kings are to a playoff spot at the Christmas break may determine the what direction the team needs to go.

  "Our first half wasn't as good as we expected it to be but we're finally coming around as a team, the chemistry is getting better and hopefully good things will start to come," said Swyripa, "Good things come with hard work."

  Brandon should get centre Tim McGauley back from the injury list after missing six games with a suspected concussion.

  McGauley has practiced fully the last two days.

  Meanwhile, goaltender Corbin Boes didn't practice the last two days but did take some shots at the end of Thursday's session.

  Boes suffered what appeared to be a knee injury late in Tuesday's loss to Saskatoon.

  Ayrton Nikkel (illness) was absent from practice Thursday while Jack Palmer (upper body) skated in a no-contact jersey again Thursday.

  Tyrel Seaman (suspected concussion) and Alessio Bertaggia (Swiss Jr. Team) were the other Wheat Kings not practicing Thursday.

Chaff...two of the top 1996-born (16-year old) players in the WHL will be on display tonight.  Moose Jaw's Brayden Point (25 points) and Brandon's Jayce Hawryluk (23 points) are among the rookie scoring leaders in the WHL...Hawryluk takes a three-game goal scoring streak into Friday's game...the Wheat Kings have lost seven of their last eight home games going into Friday's contest, and have lost seven straight games against East Division opponents...Brandon is averaging 3,876 fans per game through 16 home games this season, down more than 250 fans per game from their 2011-2012 average (4,141)...five WHL players were named to the Canadian Junior Team Thursday in J.C. Lipon (Kamloops), Ty Rattie (Portland), Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton), Morgan Reilly (Moose Jaw) and Tyler Wotherspoon (Portland).

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