Friday, 27 December 2013

Wheat Kings Set to Open Second Half

Prospects Tanner Kaspick (left) and Duncan Campbell practiced with the
Wheat Kings on Boxing Day.
  The Brandon Wheat Kings open the unofficial second half of the Western Hockey League season tonight when they entertain the Regina Pats (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Brandon hasn't played since a 4-1 home-ice victory over Moose Jaw on December 14th, taking a league-high 12-day break for Christmas.

  "We played a lot of games going into the break and bodies were really tired," said Brandon centre John Quenneville after Brandon's Boxing Day practice, "The physical aspect, it was nice to get that kind of rest, and just the chance to see your family and friends and get a chance to hang out with them for basically longer than the ten minutes after a game so it was break."

  The Wheat Kings will have the added benefit of having all hands of deck as they open a stretch of five games in seven days.

  Goaltender Curtis Honey, defenceman Eric Roy and centre Tim McGauley all practiced when the Wheat Kings reconvened yesterday.

  All three were on the sidelined with injuries when the club wrapped up the first half of their schedule.

  The Wheat Kings have an 18-14-3-0 record and sit in a tie for sixth-place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the fifth-place Pats.

  "We learned a lot (in the first half).  I think we made huge steps from last year, and we're looking to make even bigger steps in the second half,"  "You've seen some games that we gave away, and you've seen some games that we came back in and saved for ourself.  I think it's all about learning how to win hockey games and I think if we can do that, we're really going to help ourselves in the second half."

  One of the unexpected players at practice Boxing Day was import forward Richard Nejezchleb.

  Nejezchleb was thought to be a shoe-in to play for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championship but failed to crack the Czech's roster.

  Nejezchleb said he felt he had a strong camp with the Czech team but the coaching staff felt differently.

  He also feels his style of play didn't necessarily mesh with that of the Czech team.

  "Here, it's quicker and tougher and that's what I like," said Nejezchleb, who leads the Wheat Kings with 19 goals this season, "The European kind of hockey and the system we had on the National team, I didn't really like it."

  Additionally, Wheat Kings' fans won't get as much of a glimpse into the future this week as initially thought.

  15-year old Nolan Patrick, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft, suffered a shoulder injury during the final weekend of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League schedule before Christmas and did not join the team as expected on Thursday.

  However, fellow prospects Tanner Kaspick and Duncan Campbell did practice with the team on Thursday, basically filling the spots vacated by Jesse Gabrielle and Braylon Shmyr, who are playing with Team West and Team Pacific respectively at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge that begins on Saturday.

Chaff...whether Kaspick or Campbell will be in Brandon's lineup against Regina is uncertain although a tweet from the Wheat Kings' Thursday indicated both would be making their WHL debuts on Friday...Wheat Kings' prospect Kale Clague scored a natural hat-trick in a 1:49 span of the third period Thursday, helping the Lloydminster Bobcats to a 3-3 tie against the Calgary Buffaloes at the Mac's AAA Midget World Invitational Tournament in Calgary.  Wheat Kings' prospect Logan Thompson plays for the Buffaloes but was not in net Thursday.  Dakota Boutin (Prince Albert Mintos) and T.J. Brown (Red Deer Optimist Chiefs) are the only other two Brandon prospects playing at the tournament.

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