Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Wheat Kings Rally for Point

Tanner Kaspick scored in his WHL debut
on Tuesday in Edmonton
  It’s not a phrase to throw around lightly but Edmonton’s 5-4 overtime victory over Brandon on New Year’s Eve may have been a moral victory over the Wheat Kings.
 
  Edgars Kulda got the winner 1:47 into overtime for the Oil Kings while Henrik Samuelsson scored a pair of goals for Edmonton.

  Brandon trailed 3-1 after a particularly poor opening period and were down 4-1 midway through the second period before rallying to tie the contest and send the game to overtime.

  “I thought, to a man, we were very poor in the first period for sure.  I thought we got going a little more in the second just in terms of work ethic and that type of thing,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “I think it was a case of showing too much respect to our opponent in here, to be honest in the first stages of the game.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you stand around and watch them they are going to look like a pretty impressive team and that’s what we did.”

  15-year old Tanner Kaspick, Brandon’s second round pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft, made his WHL debut Tuesday and netted his first career goal, which was the game-tying marker at 9:56 of the third period.

  Ryan Pulock, Richards Bukarts and Peter Quenneville also scored for the Wheat Kings while Curtis Honey made 33 saves in the Brandon net.

  “I give our guys a lot of credit for digging in and pushing back.  There was a stage earlier in this game where you thought the final might have been 8-1,” added McCrimmon, “It would have been a great night to steal that extra point and really feel good about the comeback and everything else but it just didn’t work out.”

  The results leaves Brandon with a 20-15-4-0 record for 44 points, still in sole possession of fifth-place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind fourth-place Medicine Hat and two points ahead of both Prince Albert and Regina.

  The Wheat Kings finish their four-game road trip Thursday in Calgary (7:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

Chaff...the loss was Brandon’s fourth in a row in games that have gone to extra time...Eric Roy’s assist on Bukarts’ second period power-play goal was the 100th of his WHL career...Pulock’s goal was the 54th of his WHL career, seven shy of the Wheat Kings’ franchise record for goals by a defenceman...Henrik Samualsson now has eight goals and 15 points in seven career games against the Wheat Kings...Team West lost 5-2 to the Czech Republic Tuesday at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, falling to 0-and-2. Wheat Kings’ prospect Colt Conrad had two assists while Brandon forward Jesse Gabrielle was held off the scoresheet...Braylon Shmyr and Team Pacific had the day off Tuesday at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.  They have a 1-and-1 record...Brandon’s product Carson Perreaux notched his 11th goal of the season in Prince Albert’s 4-3 loss in Moose Jaw Tuesday.

Game #39 - Brandon at Edmonton (December 31, 2013)

Tanner Kaspick makes his WHL debut in Edmonton
on New Year's Eve
Goaltenders
35. Curtis Honey
33. Jordan Papirny

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
7. Eric Roy - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 10. Kord Pankewicz

Forwards
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 17. John Quenneville - 26. Ryley Lindgren
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 29. Tanner Kaspick

Notes
- Tanner Kaspick, the Wheat Kings' second round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, will make his WHL debut tonight.  Kaspick is currently third in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League in scoring with 19 goals and 43 points in 26 games with his hometown Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings.

- F Jayce Hawryluk will sit the third and final game of is suspension tonight while D Colton Waltz (upper body), F Jesse Gabrielle (Team West, U17), F Braylon Shmyr (Team Pacific, U17) and F Duncan Campbell (healthy) are the other Brandon scratches.

- This is the fifth time in the last seven years the Wheat Kings are visiting the Oil Kings on New Year's Eve.  Brandon has lost the last two, including a 6-2 setback last year in a game that saw Henrik Samuelsson have three goals and an assist.

- A big day for some former Wheat Kings.  Mark Stone was recalled by the NHL's Ottawa Senators from Binghamton (AHL), Columbus recalled Ryan Craig from Springfield (AHL) for the second time in three days and Juraj Simek helped Servette (Geneva) win the Spengler Cup in Davos.

Wheat Kings Record 20th Win

Tyler Coulter
  The Brandon Wheat Kings jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and went on to a 4-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels on Monday night.

  Tyler Coulter scored 30 seconds into Monday’s game and Ryan Pulock and Tim McGauley padded Brandon’s lead before the game was eight minutes old.

  Red Deer pushed back in the second period to twice pull within a goal but the Wheat Kings made a 4-3 lead hold up by shutting down the Rebels in the final 20 minutes, allowed just six shots against.

  “It was a good effort by our guys,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “The second period was a little loose so with the our play in the third period, holding them to six shots, I thought that was a pretty good job of our guys refocusing for the third.”

  Included in Brandon’s stingy third period effort was a key penalty-kill when Richard Nejezchleb was sent to the penalty box with 2:10 remaining, his third minor penalty of the contest.

  “I don’t think we gave up a shot, we got a couple of blocks by defenceman,” said McCrimmon, “ I thought the guys on the kill really stepped up there for us at a critical time in the game.”

  Nejezchleb also had his team-leading 21st goal of the season for Brandon while Peter Quenneville contributed a pair of assists and Jordan Papirny stopped 18 shots in the Wheat Kings’ net.

  Brandon improved to 20-15-3-0 overall and moved into sole possession of fifth-place in the Eastern Conference for the second time in less than a week.

  The Wheat Kings are also now 18-1-0-0 when allowing three of fewer goals this season.

  “That’s where our focus has to be,” said McCrimmon, “I think the more guys understand that better defence is going to lead to more offensive opportunities, that’s how you get a little more buy-in for guys to do that.”

  Brandon continues their road trip Tuesday night when they visit the Edmonton Oil Kings (6:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

Chaff...Team Pacific defeated Team West 6-3 Monday at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  Wheat Kings’ F Braylon Shmyr (Team Pacific) and Jesse Gabrielle (Team West) were both held off the scoresheet.  Brandon prospect Colt Conrad scored twice for Team West...Brandon product Carson Perreaux had his 10th goal of the season in helping Prince Albert to a 4-0 win over Regina on Monday night...Saskatoon announced Monday that defenceman Nelson Nogier will undergo season-ending should surgery in mid-January...Portland F Nic Petan signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets on Monday...15-year old D Kale Clague joined the Wheat Kings in Red Deer on Monday and is expected to remain with the team for the remainder of their Alberta road trip this week.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Game #38 - Brandon at Red Deer (December 30, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
35. Curtis Honey

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
7. Eric Roy - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 10. Kord Pankewicz

Forwards
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 17. John Quenneville - 26. Ryley Lindgren
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 25. Duncan Campbell/29. Tanner Kaspick

Notes
- F Jayce Hawryluk's suspension was finalized at three games earlier today.  He'll sit out his second game tonight and complete the suspension tomorrow night in Edmonton.  He'll be eligible to return to the Brandon lineup Thursday in Calgary.

- In addition to Hawryluk, the Wheat Kings will also be without D Colton Waltz tonight, as he sees his consecutive game streak end at a team-high 84 games. Waltz suffered an upper body injury Saturdya in Regina.  Jesse Gabrielle (Team West, U17) and Braylon Shmyr (Team Pacific, U17) are also out again tonight.

- F Duncan Campbell and F Tanner Kaspick will both take warmup with one or the other being Brandon's final scratch for tonight.

Nejezchleb In, Hawryluk Out for Wheat Kings Monday

Richard Nejezchleb will be in Brandon's
lineup for Monday's game in Red Deer
  It’s a case of good news and bad news for the Brandon Wheat Kings as they prepare to visit the Red Deer Rebels on Monday night (7:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

  The good news is that forward Richard Nejezchleb will not be suspended for the charging major he took in Saturday’s loss in Regina and will be in Brandon’s lineup for their matchup against the Rebels.

  The bad news is forward Jayce Hawryluk will sit out his second straight game as part of a suspension for the checking-from-behind major he received in Friday’s home-ice victory over the Pats.

  The length of Hawryluk’s suspension hasn’t been finalized yet but the fact it continues Monday night doesn’t come as much of a shock.

 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Campbell Hoping to Follow Calvert's Footsteps

Duncan Campbell
  Duncan Campbell finally got a chance to make his Western Hockey League debut on Saturday night.

  The 17-year old Brandon product has been with three WHL teams, going to training camp with the Prince George Cougars in 2011 and 2012 while on their protected list and also attending the Red Deer Rebels camp this year before eventually finding his way to the Wheat Kings’ camp in early September.
 
  The 6-foot-3, 187 pound Campbell says all of those experiences made him a better player, particularly the Brandon camp and subsequently being able to stick with the team through the pre-season.
 
  “Staying a little longer with Brandon really helped, I thought,” said Campbell after practicing with the Wheat Kings Sunday in Red Deer, “It took me to the next level, I knew what I had to do and I knew I had to play a better game so I just kind of took that and put it into my midget game.  It’s really helped, it’s showed on the scoreboard and I’m feeling a lot more dominant out there.”
 
  Campbell is leading the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League in scoring with 25 goals and 59 points in 29 games while helping Brandon to a 27-2-0-0 record and first-place in the league standings.
 
  2013-2014 is Campbell’s third year playing in the MMHL, something that doesn’t happen very often.
 
  However, former Wheat Kings’ co-captain Matt Calvert followed a similar route before becoming a dominant WHL player and moving on to the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
 
  Campbell says Calvert’s story is one that inspires him.
 
  “He decided to go back for a third year in midget.  People said he couldn’t make the WHL, but he knew he could, he kept working for it and that’s what I want to do,” said Campbell, “Obviously, he’s a smaller guy and I’m a bigger guy so it’s a little different that way.  I’ll do my third year of midget and, hopefully, I think I can do it next year, I think I can crack the squad.  Just working hard every day and definitely look up to him.”
 
  Campbell and his Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings’ teammate Tanner Kaspick will remain with the Wheat Kings for their Alberta road trip this week.
 
  Brandon returns to action Monday night when they visit the Red Deer Rebels (7:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ).
 
Chaff...the WHL is expected to rule on the length of Brandon forward Jayce Hawryluk’s suspension and if Wheat Kings’ F Richard Nejezchleb will be suspended on Monday morning.  Hawryluk has already sat out one game for a checking-from-behind major he received Friday while Nejezchleb was assessed a charging major in Saturday’s loss in Regina...Brandon F Jesse Gabrielle and Team West didn’t play Sunday at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia.  They’ll play Team Pacific in their first round-robin game on Monday...Wheat Kings’ F Braylon Shmyr and Team Pacific began their round-robin with a 4-3 loss to Quebec on Sunday.  Shmyr had an assist in the contest.
 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Pats Tag Wheat Kings' Back

Brandon product Duncan Campbell made his WHL and
Wheat Kings' debut on Saturday.

  The Brandon Wheat Kings surrendered five goals in the second period and dropped an 8-4 decision to the Regina Pats on Saturday night.

  Chandler Stephenson had two goals and an assist to pace the Regina offence while former Wheat King Geordie Maguire had a goal and an helper for the Pats.

  Maguire’s goal with 9:14 left in the second period came just 31 seconds after Tim McGauley second goal of the game had pulled the Wheat Kings into a 2-2 tie.

  The Pats would add three more goals before the end of the middle frame to take a 6-2 lead into the intermission break.

  “I thought when we got the second goal with under ten minutes to play, we had a half game left, we were tied up, hadn’t been our best but were certainly in position to win the game or at least be in the game,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “That next shift, we gave up the go-ahead goal to them and I really felt that was the turning point of the game, even though it only made it a 3-2 game, I thought that that goal really hurt us.”

  Brandon was also hurt by penalties in the second period, being assessed four straight minor penalties that killed any chance the club had of generating momentum.

  John Quenneville’s power-play goal early in the third period got Brandon back to within three but their fate was sealed when Richard Nejezchleb took a boarding major at the nine minute mark that sent the Pats to a five-minute power-play.

  Ryley Lindgren scored Brandon’s fourth goal while the club was shorthanded but it was sandwiched between power-play goals from Boston Leier and Stephenson that made the final score 8-4.

  Curtis Honey went the distance in the Brandon net and faced 51 shots including 25 in the second period alone.

  The Wheat Kings fell to 19-15-3-0 with the loss while also allowing Regina to leapfrog past them and back into fifth-place in the Eastern Conference standings.

  Brandon will continue their road trip Monday night when they visit the Red Deer Rebels (7:30 p.m., 880 CKLQ).

Chaff...Nejezchleb’s major will automatically be reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension...Brandon played without F Jayce Hawryluk Saturday after he was suspended for his checking-from-behind major he received in Friday’s win over Regina. The length of that suspension has yet to be determined...Wheat Kings’ F Jesse Gabrielle had two goals and an assist to help Team West to a 7-1 victory over Germany in exhibition action at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge on Saturday...Wheat Kings’ F Braylon Shmyr was held off the scoresheet in Team Pacific 4-3 shootout loss to Russia in another exhibition game Saturday.

Game #37 - Brandon at Regina (December 28, 2013)

Goaltenders
35. Curtis Honey
33. Jordan Papirny

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
7. Eric Roy - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 5. Colton Waltz

Forwards
21. Tyler Coulter - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
27. Brett Kitt - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
13. Rihards Bukarts - 17. John Quenneville - 18. Richard Nejezchleb
 25. Duncan Campbell - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 26. Ryley Lindgren

Notes
- As expected, Jayce Hawryluk was suspended by the Western Hockey League today for the checking-from-behind major he received in the third period of Friday's victory over Regina.  The length of the suspension has yet to be determined but given the factors of the hit and Hawryluk having been suspended for two games earlier this season, it's not unreasonable to predict a 5-7 game suspension for the Wheat Kings' forward.

- It's not often you cheer for an opposing player to be in the lineup but that's the case for Brandon in reference to Pats' defenceman Jesse Zgraggen, who will play tonight for Regina.  Zgraggen was the recipient of the Hawryluk hit Friday and left the game afterward.  The fact he's playing tonight could lessen the punishment for Hawryluk from the WHL office.

- In addition to Hawryluk, the Wheat Kings will also sit D Kord Pankewicz (healthy), F Jesse Gabrielle (Team West, U17) and Braylon Shmyr (Team Pacific, U17).

- Filling out the Wheat Kings' forward core tonight will either be Duncan Campbell or Tanner Kaspick.  That determination will be made following warmup but whomever plays tonight will be making their WHL debut.  Campbell currently leads the MMHL in scoring with 25 goals and 59 points in 29 games while Kaspick was Brandon's second round pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft and is third in the league with 19 goals and 43 points in 26 contests.  Both are playing 2013-2014 with the Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings.
UPDATE: Campbell is making his WHL debut!!

- The Wheat Kings can even their road record for the season with a regulation victory tonight.  Brandon is 8-9-1-0 on the road so far this season.  They won 11 road games the entire season in 2012-2013.

Brandon Whitewashes Pats to Open Second Half

Rihards Bukarts had two goals and an assist
in Friday's win over Regina
  Rihards Bukarts scared up a pair of first period breakaway goals to help pace the Brandon Wheat Kings to an 8-0 victory over the Regina Pats on Friday night.

  Bukarts also had an assist in a contest that saw 14 different Wheat Kings collect at least a single point.

  Brandon jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead, scoring the four goals in a six minute and one second span starting with Bukarts first goal 9:53 into the game.

  "We feel the game really good, we get fired up and everyone was in the game so every guy was a plus player tonight," said Bukarts on CKLQ's post-game show, "I feel really good after the break.  Just went from holidays home and I feel really good."

  Richard Nejezchleb added a goal and two assists for the Wheat Kings while Peter and John Quenneville each added a goal for Brandon, marking the first time the brothers had scored in the same game in their Brandon careers.

  Ryan Pulock, Ryley Lindgren and Tim McGauley scored the other Brandon goals while Eric Roy had three assists in the contest.

  Jordan Papirny stop 30 shots for his first career Western Hockey League shutout.

  "He was square to the puck, there was a lot of pucks that hit him based on him reading the play and being in position," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "We talked about the (Christmas) break, we wouldn't have had a player on our team that needed the break more than he did so good for him to come back and grab early confidence heading into the second half of the season."

  The victory improved Brandon to 19-14-3-0 for the season and moved the Wheat Kings into sole possession of fifth-place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Regina.

  Brandon will visit the Pats Saturday to complete the home-and-home series.

Chaff...Brandon F Jayce Hawryluk was assessed a checking-from-behind major 3:35 into the third period after taking Regina defenceman Jesse Zgraggen into the board.  The hit is automatically reviewed by the WHL office and with Hawryluk already having been suspended for two games earlier this season, it's possible he could be facing a lengthy suspension...led by Bukarts and Taylor Green, who were +3 each, every Brandon player was a plus on Friday night...the Wheat Kings announced Friday that Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier will be their headline speaker for the CKLQ Wheat Kings' Sportsmans Dinner on February 6th.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Game #36 - Regina at Wheat Kings (December 27, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
35. Curtis Honey

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
7. Eric Roy - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 5. Colton Waltz

Forwards
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 17. John Quenneville - 8. Jayce Hawryluk
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 26. Ryley Lindgren

Notes
- F Jesse Gabrielle (Team West, U17), F Braylon Shmyr (Team Pacific, U17), D Kord Pankewicz (healthy) and callups Duncan Campbell (healthy) and Tanner Kaspick (healthy) are the Wheat Kings' scratches tonight.

- The Wheat Kings had a number of players performing well heading into the Christmas break, but Colton Waltz and Rene Hunter were more than pulling their weight, especially in the absence of Eric Roy for the final three games of the first half.  Waltz has four points (1 G, 3 A) and is +6 in the last five games while Hunter has seven points (1 G, 6 A) and is +8 in the last eight contests.

- On the other side of the coin, Ryan Pulock has struggled to produce offensively as of late, registering just one assist in the last six games while Eric Roy had one goal and a -10 rating in his final four games before being injured.

- The Wheat Kings' key to success this season appears to be allowing three or fewer goals. Brandon is 16-1-0-0 when they allow three goals or less this season, 2-13-3-0 when allowing four or more goals.

- Morgan Klinchuk (lower body) misses his 11th straight game for the Pats while Regina does welcome D Kyle Burroughs (concussion, missed last seven games) and former Wheat King F Geordie Maguire (upper body, missed last five games) back into their lineup tonight.

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.

Monday, 16 December 2013

First Half Review

John Quenneville is one of seven Wheat Kings with 20
or more points so far this season.
  The Brandon Wheat Kings began their 12-day Christmas break on the weekend.

  The club ended the unofficial first half of the Western Hockey League regular season with an 18-14-3-0 record, nine points better than they were through 35 games a year ago.

  Brandon was two games under .500 (9-11-0-0) entering their Remembrance Day game but have gone 9-3-3-0 in their last 15 contest.

  The Wheat Kings have scored 129 goals and surrendered 129 goals in their first 35 games of the season.

  Offensively, they're the second-highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference (on a goals-per-game basis) but they're also allowed that same 3.69 goals per game against this season, fourth-worst in the East.

  "We stressed from day one that we need to better week-by-week, month-by-month and you need to be better in the second half than you are in the first half," says Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "We've moved the puck much better out of our end and that's helped us a lot in terms of spending less time in our D Zone.  I think we've grown to be quite a bit more confident with the puck in the offensive zone.  I think we're doing a much better job of having the puck and protecting the puck."

  Defensively, Brandon allowed 77 goals in their first 20 games (3.85 per game) and have cut that number down to 52 in their last 15 contests (3.47 per game), so there's been some improvement in that area.

  It's probably a little more impressive when you also consider that Curtis Honey started just one of those last 15 games with rookie Jordan Papirny having to carry the load in the Brandon net during his two absences.

  Offensively, the goals per game in the last 15 is 4.27 (64 goals) as opposed to 65 in their first 20 games (3.25 per game).

  "We try to stress every night that we begin with work ethic, then structure, then skill.  When we do it that way, then we do have good skill," added McCrimmon, "I think we have guys that are improving and playing well."

  Brandon doesn't have anyone in the top 25 in the WHL scoring race, with top-scorer Jayce Hawryluk tied for 28th with 36 points.

  However, the Wheat Kings are one of only three Eastern Conference teams with at least seven players that have 20 or more points, and Peter Quenneville, who has 15 points in 17 contests, would likely also above that mark if we had joined the Wheat Kings earlier in the season.

  The Wheat Kings are idle until December 27, when they'll entertain the Regina Pats.

  That game will begin a busy post-Christmas schedule for Brandon, during which they'll play five games in seven days and six contests in nine days.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Bounce Back Win for Wheat Kings

Jordan Papirny had a solid game Saturday for the Wheat Kings
  The Brandon Wheat Kings closed out the first half of their Western Hockey League schedule with a 4-1 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday night.

  Chad Robinson, Tyler Coulter, Quintin Lisoway and Jens Meilleur did the goal scoring for Brandon while Jordan Papirny stopped 36 shots including 17 in the third period.

  After the Wheat Kings let a two-goal lead slip away in the final minute of Friday's overtime loss to Kelowna, Papriny said on CKLQ's post-game show that Saturday's victory was a good way to rebound.

  "Anytime you have a loss like we did (Friday) night, it's not fun.  It sticks with you for a while, and I'd by lying if I said I got a lot of sleep last night," said Papirny, "I think the mission should never change before a game.  I'm always doing the same thing, just relaxing and having fun playing hockey."

  Thanks to a pair of concussions to Curtis Honey, Papirny ended up starting 18 of Brandon last 19 games including all three the team played this week.

  "I came here to play and, obviously, I got put in a pretty good situation here with Curtis being out.  That being said, I have a pretty big responsibility here in carrying the load for the team and I think I'm just going to try the same approach during the second half of the season."

  Ironically, the Wheat Kings ended up in the same situation on Saturday night as they did on Friday -- holding a two-goal lead in the final minute with the opponents net empty for an extra attacker.


  In fact, it got a little hairer for Brandon thanks to a delay of game penalty to Lisoway with 51 seconds left.

Tyler Coulter lays a check on Moose
Jaw's Dallas Valentine Saturday
  "It was ironic that we were in the exact same situation and added to it with the penalty.  It's an experience and, ya'know, this team hasn't had a lot of experience in those situations last season," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "You have to learn how to the win and even the losses help harden us up and hopefully that's something in the second half where we've got those lessons learned and we're a better team because of it."

  Brandon finish their pre-Christmas schedule with an 18-14-3-0 record, nine points better than they were after 35 games a year ago.

  The Wheat Kings get a 12-day Christmas break, returning to action December 27th when they entertain the Regina Pats.


Game #35 - Moose Jaw at Wheat Kings (December 14, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
1. Ren Tagolee

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
5. Colton Waltz - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 10. Kord Pankewicz

Forwards
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - Ryley Lindgren - 15. Peter Quenneville
12. Jesse Gabrielle - 17. John Quenneville - 8. Jayce  Hawryluk
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 22. Braylon Shmyr

Notes
- D Eric Roy (lower body) and G Curtis Honey (undisclosed) both miss their third straight game tonight while F Tim McGauley (upper body), who was injured in the second period of Friday's loss to Kelowna, is also out.  Richard Nejezchleb misses his second straight game while he competes for the Czech Republic at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship.

- The Wheat Kings are looking to rebound from last night's disappointing 6-5 overtime loss to the Kelowna Rockets, a game that saw Brandon give up two goals in the final 38 seconds of regulation.  It'll be interesting whether the impact of such a stunning loss still lingers tonight, or if the team can be mentally tough enough to put it behind them.

- Brandon was 9-11-0-0 following a 6-3 home-ice loss to Swift Current on November 8th but are 8-3-3-0 in 14 games since that contest.  The Wheat Kings are sixth in the Eastern Conference and nine points ahead of where they were after 34 games last year (12-18-2-2).

- This is Brandon's final game before a 12-day Christmas break.  The Wheat Kings' next contest after tonight will be December 27th against Regina.  The WHL schedule has Brandon playing five games in seven nights and six in nine days coming back from the Christmas break.

- Tonight is the seventh meeting of eight for the 2013-14 season between the Warriors and Brandon.  Yes, these East Division rivals will play just one time in the second half of the season and that'll be on February 22 in Brandon.

Rockets Snatch Win from Wheat Kings

Rene Hunter scored the 'Teddy Bear' goal for Brandon
on Friday night
  The Brandon Wheat Kings let a two-goal lead slip away in the final 38 seconds in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Kelowna Rockets on Friday night.

  Ryan Olsen and Myles Bell scored wth 37.6 and 8.4 seconds left in the third period respectively, with Bell then netting the winning goal 2:52 into overtime.

  "We didn't get the job done, that's what shook down," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ's post-game show, "We didn't get the job done when we needed to."

  Tyler Coulter's goal 20 seconds into the third period gave Brandon a 4-3 lead and Peter Quenneville's power-play marker with just 2:20 remaining in regulation, his second goal of the night, seemed to be the insurance goal Brandon needed.

  Alas, it was not to be for Brandon with the Rockets' late-game heroics.

  "I thought we played a solid game all night.  We were competing with one of the best teams in the league and it's just too bad we let it slip at the end," said Brandon rookie forward Tyler Coulter, who also had an assist in the contest. "I can't think of many worse than that...that's a tough way to end the game."

  It's the second time in less than a month the Wheat Kings have let a team score the tying goal with under 10 seconds remaining in the third period, with the Prince Albert Raiders doing the same in a 5-4 victory in Brandon on November 30th.

  "A lot of things in a game happen, and how you respond to those things is always critical," added McCrimmon, "I don't think we had the proper response and, as a result, we had the same thing happen identical as happen against Prince Albert."

  Brandon also let a two-goal third period lead slip away in their December 4th game against Regina but rallied for a 5-4 win on a Jayce Hawryluk goal with 29 seconds left in regulation.

  Peter Quenneville paced Brandon with two goals and an assist on Friday while Rene Hunter and Colton Waltz scored the other Wheat Kings' goals.

  Hunter scored the 'Teddy Bear Goal' 29 seconds into the first period while Waltz's first period marker was his first of the season.

  The Wheat Kings (17-14-3-0) still earned a single point Friday and are in sole possession of sixth-place in the Eastern Conference standings.

  Brandon concludes their pre-Christmas schedule by hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...Friday's announced attendance of 4,218 was Brandon's second-largest crowd of the season...Brandon F's Tim McGauley and Rihards Bukarts both left the game Friday, presumably due to injury...no total was available Friday on the number of stuffed toys collected during Friday's Teddy Bear Toss...fans attending Saturday's home game against Moose Jaw are asked to donate a new unwrapped toy or non-perishable food item for the Westman & Area Christmas Dinner.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Game #34 - Kelowna at Wheat Kings (December 13, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
1. Ren Tagolee

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
5. Colton Waltz - 9. Rene Hunter
11. Taylor Green - 10. Kord Pankewicz

Forwards
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
12. Jesse Gabrielle - 17. John Quenneville - 8. Jayce  Hawryluk
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 26. Ryley Lindgren

Notes
- goaltender Curtis Honey sits for the second straight game and the 16th time in the last 18 contests.  Honey was listed as being out with 'illness' Tuesday but missing Wednesday and Thursday's practices and tonight's game makes my 'Spider Sense' tingle (meaning, it may be some type of injury).

- the Wheat Kings are dressing 21 players for warmup, making a decision after on their defence core.  Eric Roy missed Tuesday's win over Kamloops and practice Wednesday and Thursday with a 'lower-body injury.'
**UPDATE: Eric Roy (lower body) was scratched for the second straight game.

- F Richard Nejezchleb (Czech Republic Jr. Team) and F Braylon Shmyr (healthy) are Brandon's other scratches for tonight's contest.

- the Rockets enter tonight's game on an eight-game winning streak, a nine-game road winning streak and an overall record of 24-3-0-2, leading the WHL standings with 50 points.  Kelowna starts goaltender Jackson Whistle, son of former Brandon University Bobcat Dave Whistle and nephew to Brandon-West MLA Reg Helwer.

- Kelowna defenceman Damon Severson is out tonight for the Rockets as he and the rest of the hopefuls are at the Canadian Junior Team Selection Camp.  Other Kelowna players to watch tonight including Winnipeg Jets' draft pick Ryan Olsen, who has 13 goals and 27 points in 28 games this season.  Winnipeg products Madison Bowey (11 G, 14 A in 29 GP) and Zach Franko (7 G, 15 A in 29 GP) are also key contributors for the Rockets.

Brandon Net All Papirny's Again?

Photo by Stephen Simon
  It looks like it'll be back to the Jordan Papirny show in net for the Brandon Wheat Kings as they close out the first half of their Western Hockey League regular season this weekend.

  Papirny's goaltender partner Curtis Honey missed Tuesday's victory over Kamloops and hasn't practiced with the team the past two days.

  Papirny was used almost exclusively by the Wheat Kings when Honey was sidelined in November and early December, and has played in 21 of Brandon's 33 games so far this year.

  "At the start of the year, I never would have imagined playing 21 games," said Papirny after Thursday's practice, "I really cherish the opportunity I've got in the net, and that's what I came here to do, so."

  A start tonight would be Papirny's 17th in the last 18 games, which includes the 15 straight games he started while Honey was sidelined.

  The product of Edmonton, Alberta seemed to wear down under the strain of those consecutive starts and Papirny admits that it is taxing to start that many games in a row.

  "I think, for the most part, it's more mentally tough than it is physically.  Getting prepared for games night after night after night really takes a toll on you," said Papirny, who was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft, "Trying to keep to a routine and certain things and priorities, that's just something I've been trying to do and I've learned to manage it a little better, so."

  The Wheat Kings will have their hands full Friday night when they entertain the league-leading Kelowna Rockets (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  The Rockets lead the Western Hockey League standings with a 24-3-0-2 record and bring an eight-game winning streak into Brandon.

  "It's a big measuring stick game, obviously, playing Kelowna.  I think for me, personally, I'm just going to treat it like any other game," said Papirny, "We played Everett there in the states and they're a top-ranked team right now so I think I'll just treat it like that type of game."

  Defenceman Eric Roy also didn't practice the last two days after missing Tuesday's game while top goal scorer Richard Nejezchleb will miss the first of several games for Brandon Friday while he represents the Czech Republic for the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Chaff....Friday's game is the annual Teddy Bear Toss.  Fans are urged to bring a new stuffed toy or a toque to throw on the ice after Brandon's first goal, with the items donated to the Brandon-Westman Christmas Cheer Registry...fans attending Saturday's home game against Moose Jaw are asked to donate a new unwrapped toy or non-perishable food item for the Westman & Area Christmas Dinner...former Wheat King Geordie Maguire (shoulder) is expected to be out of the Regina Pats' lineup until after their Christmas break...even though the WHL electronic scoresheet says otherwise, former Wheat King and Victoria captain Jordan Fransoo (upper body) remained out of the Royals' lineup for their 4-3 overtime win in Swift Current on Thursday.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Bukarts Adjusting Nicely to Brandon, WHL

Rihards Bukarts has had a good first half while
adjusting to Brandon on and off the ice
  A new country, a new language and a new style of hockey.

  Those are just some of the things Wheat Kings' import Rihards Bukarts has had to get used to since arriving in Brandon in mid-August.

  There's been a lot of changes for the Latvian over the last four months, including his adjustment to the North American style of play.

  "Hockey is a little bit faster than in Europe.  You need to put pucks on the net and go for rebounds," said Bukarts, "Stops in the defensive zone, be better in the defensive zone and on offence to to change my game.  I'm getting better, I think."

  The more physical style also hasn't been a big issue for Bukarts, although he admits he could initiate contact a little more.

  Bukarts has goals in four of the last five games for Brandon and is tied for sixth in rookie scoring in the Western Hockey League with 11 goals and 24 points in 33 games.

  Off the ice, Bukarts command of English has improved dramatically -- something he credits his teammates and billets for helping him with.

  "I'm just listen to guys that are fixing me, like some words I'm saying wrong," said Bukarts, "They help me speak better and just dressing room talks and with billets, these things kist make he better."

  Bukarts, who turns 18 on New Year's Eve, says that all the adjustments and changes he's made and will continue to make during his tenure with the Wheat Kings will be worth it if he obtains his long-term goal.

  "The reason I come here is like every young hockey player, I have a dream of playing the NHL and I come to Canada to get my dreams come true," said Bukarts, "If I have a KHL contract, they are fighting between KHL and NHL, and they will never draft me from KHL so that's the reason I come to the CHL."

  The 5-foot-9, 190 pound Bukarts was Brandon's first round pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, seventh overall.

  The product of Jurmala, Latvia was given a late invitation early this week to play for his country at the Division I, Gruop A World Junior Hockey Championship that begins in Poland on Sunday but will not be participating in that event.

  Here's my full conversation with Bukarts prior to Tuesday's home game against Kamloops...



Chaff...D Eric Roy and G Curtis Honey, who both missed Tuesday's game with Kamloops with a lower body injury and illness respectively, did not practice with the Wheat Kings Wednesday while F John Quenneville (lower body) has also given the day off Wednesday...Brandon hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss Friday when they entertain the Kelowna Rockets (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wheat Kings Add to Blazers Misery

Jesse Gabrielle had a goal and an assist in Tuesday's win
  Rihards Bukarts scored a pair of goals to pace the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 5-2 victory over the Kamloops Blazers on Tuesday night.

  Jayce Hawryluk had a goal and an assist for Brandon in his first game back after a two-game suspension while rookie Jesse Gabrielle also had a goal and an assist for the Wheat Kings.

  The Wheat Kings weren't at the top of their game, but did pick up their eighth win in their last 13 contests to improve to 17-14-2-0 on the season.

  "I didn't think we used our speed or moved the puck as well as we can when we play well," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ's post-game show, "Happy with the win, not going to be critical when we win the game, but I know we can play better than we did tonight."

  Hawryluk made his presence back in the lineup felt immediately, scoring on his first shift of the contest 1:37 into the first period to give Brandon a 1-0 lead that held up until the first intermission.

  The teams then exchanged goals in the early stages of the second period, with the Wheat Kings and Blazers combining to score four times in a four minute and 43 second span with Bukarts first of the night at 6:58 giving Brandon a 3-2 advantage at the end of the fire drill.

  Gabrielle scored his goal with 6:06 left in the middle frame and Bukarts second of the night was the lone goal of the third period.

  Gabrielle has four goals and seven points in his last eight games after tallying just one point in his first 11 games of the season.

  "(Coach Kelly) McCrimmon is working us into the lineup instead of just throwing us out there.  He's starting to trust us with the systems, and he's really helping all of us out with everything in practice," said Gabrielle, "30 games into the season, it's definitely a lot easier for me to stay up wtih the game."

  Peter Quenneville also scored for the Wheat Kings while Jordan Papirny stopped 31 shots in the Brandon net.

  Papirny got the call in the net for the 16th time in 17 games as Curtis Honey, who just returned to the lineup on the weekend after a 14-game absence, sat out Tuesday's contest because of illness.

  The victory moved Brandon into a tie for fifth-place in the WHL's Eastern Conference, five points behind the Conference leaders.

Chaff...Brandon defenceman Eric Roy also missed Tuesday's contest and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury...Kamloops captain Matt Needham left the game after being hit in the head by teammate Sam Grist's dump-in attempt in the first period...the loss was the 13th in a row for the Blazers, which sets a franchise record...the Red Deer Rebels dealt the WHL rights to defenceman Matt Dumba Tuesday, sending them to Portland along with a conditional 3rd round pick in the 2014 Bantam Draft pick (if Dumba doesn't report to Portland) in exchange for F Presten Kopeck and three conditional picks, a 2nd round in 2014, 2nd round in 2015 and 2nd or 3rd round in 2016 (if Dumba does report to Portland)...Prince George attracted just 1,410 fans to their home game Tuesday, a 3-1 loss to Kootenay.  The Cougars are averaging a league-low 1,638 fans through 18 home games this season and have had a crowd of over 2,000 just twice.


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Game #33 - Kamloops at Wheat Kings

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
1. Ren Tagolee

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
 5. Colton Waltz - 9. Rene Hunter
10. Kord Pankewicz - 11. Taylor Green

Forwards
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
12. Jesse Gabrielle - 17. John Quenneville - 8. Jayce  Hawryluk
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
22. Braylon Shmyr - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 21. Tyler Coulter

Notes
- Goaltender Curtis Honey is out of the Wheat Kings' lineup tonight, with the unofficial word that he is sidelined because of illness.  Defenceman Eric Roy (lower body, day-to-day) is also out tonight while Brett Kitt and Ryley Lindgren are presumed healthy scratches.

- Jayce Hawryluk returns to the Brandon lineup after serving his two-game suspension.  Hawryluk leads the Wheat Kings with 33 points this season including eight goals and 22 points in his last 14 games.  He'll go right back on the line with John Quenneville and rookie Jesse Gabrielle.

- Tonight is the last game for Richard Nejezchleb before he leaves the Wheat Kings to attend the Czech Republic Selection Camp and, quite likely, the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship.  Nejezchleb will miss Brandon's final two games before Christmas and as many as seven games after the break.

- Brandon's special teams have done well lately, with the penalty-kill going 14-for-17 (82.4%) in the five games since the team switched to a more aggressive philosophy.  The power-play went 0-for-4 last time out in Moose Jaw Saturday, but is still 21-for-66 (31.8%) in 16 games since November 1st.

- the Blazers are having a tough season, sporting a 6-20-2-2 record this season and recording just one victory in 11 road games to date.  Kamloops brings a 12-game losing streak (0-10-0-2) into tonight's contest, having been outscored 59-21 in that 12-game stretch.

Hawryluk Set to Return

Jayce Hawryluk returns to the Brandon lineup Tuesday
after serving a two-game suspension
  The Brandon Wheat Kings will have their leading scorer back in the lineup when they host the Kamloops Blazers on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Jayce Hawryluk returns after missing the last two games with a league-imposed suspension for a hit on Regina defenceman Kyle Burroughs last Wednesday.

  There was no penalty called at the time, but Hawryluk was suspended after the Pats asked for supplemental discipline from the WHL office.

  "Some time off that I didn't want, but that's how it went and I'm excited to get back in the lineup," said Hawryluk after Monday's practice, "We have three huge games coming up, all on home ice.  We want to get all three wins and be five games over .500 going into the Christmas break.  That would be huge for us."

  In addition to hosting Kamloops on Tuesday, the Wheat Kings also entertain the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Moose Jaw on Saturday before having a 12-day break for Christmas.

  "We know these three games will come in handy at the end of the season so we have to make sure we give 100 per cent here," said centre Tim McGauley, "These six points here over the next three games are big for our club."

  Brandon carries at 16-14-2-0 record into the week, good for a tie for seventh-place in the Eastern Conference.

  However, the Wheat Kings have been spotty on home ice, going 8-5-1-0 including losses in four of their last seven games (3-3-1-0) at WCGP.

  Brandon is 7-3-2-0 in their last 12 games, with the club's power-play part of the reason why.

  The Wheat Kings have scored 16 power-play goals in that span, with a 31.4 per cent success rate.

  "We have some really good offensive guys on our team.  As long as we get down there and set up, we're really dangerous," said McGauley, "It's just a matter of positioning.  We're in the right spots and it's just a matter of finding our players, so."

  Brandon is not reporting any injuries heading into Tuesday's contest though defenceman Eric Roy did sit out practice on Monday.

  Kamloops carries a 12-game losing streak into Tuesday's game and are still without Wawanesa product Jordan Thomson, who left the team in mid-November to 'clear this head' and has yet to return.

Chaff...Tuesday's game will be the final one for Wheat Kings' F Richard Nejezchleb before he heads overseas to compete at the Czech Republic Junior Team Selection Camp and, probably, the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship...the Blazers haven't visited Brandon since December 16, 2011, a 3-2 Kamloops victory...Tuesday night is Rain Check Night at Westman Communications Group Place as well as the first "2 for Tuesday" of the 2013-14 Western Hockey League season.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Honey Returns to Starting Role, Wins

Quintin Lisoway scored the winning goal for
Brandon on Saturday night
  Curtis Honey stopped 29 shots to lead the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday night.

  Quintin Lisoway’s first goal of the season 5:27 into the third period snapped a 1-1 tie on a night that the Wheat Kings weren’t at their best.

  Brandon had a season-low three shots on goal in the first period and were outshot 24-11 in the first 40 minutes but still found themselves in a 1-1 tie going into the final frame.

  “What kind of turned us around in the third a little bit is that as bad as we’d been, if we could look forwards and not backwards, we were 20 minutes away from a win if we could win the third period,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ’s post-game show, “The points are huge, all the things that we talk about all the time.”

  After a scoreless first period, Reid Zalitch opened the scoring for Moose Jaw, scoring the first goal of his WHL career 8:10 into the second period.

  Eric Roy tied it for Brandon, re-directing a centreing pass from Brett Kitt home at the 12:53 mark of the middle frame.

  Kitt also had an assist on Lisoway’s game-winning goal while Tyler Coulter completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left in regulation.

  Honey was rightfully named the game’s first star for his efforts in his first start since October 30th.

  “We game up way more scoring chances than we have been, and very high quality chances.  That was the concern for me was how poor we were in our end of the rink.  He was at the top of the game tonight, showed no signs of rust whatsoever and was the difference in the game, for sure.”

  Brandon is now 6-0-0-0 against the Warriors this season and 16-14-2-0 overall.

  The Wheat Kings return to action Tuesday when they host the Kamloops Blazers (7:00 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Game #32 - Brandon at Moose Jaw (December 7, 2013)

Goaltenders
35. Curtis Honey
33. Jordan Papirny

Defencemen
6. Ryan Pilon - 2. Ryan Pulock
7. Eric Roy - 9. Rene Hunter
10. Kord Pankewicz - 5. Colton Waltz

Forwards
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
21. Tyler Coulter - 17. John Quenneville - 12. Jesse Gabrielle
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
27. Brett Kitt - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 26. Ryley Lindgren

Notes
- Jayce Hawryluk serves the second and final game of his two-game suspension tonight while Braylon Shmyr (healthy) and Taylor Green (healthy) are the other two scratches for Brandon.

- The Wheat Kings will change up their defence pairing tonight, with Ryan Pilon and Eric Roy switching spots.  The Eric Roy - Ryan Pulock pairing came about after Brandon acquired Pilon rom Lethbridge but never seemed to click.  In fact, the duo were a combined -19 in the eight games they played together as a pairing.

- Curtis Honey makes a start in goal for the Wheat Kings for the first time since October 30th.  Honey missed 14 games with an upper body injury and dressed Friday night, playing the third period in Brandon's 4-3 loss to Swift Current and stopped all seven shots he faced.

- John Quenneville carries a six-game point streak into Saturday's contest, having scored six goals and 12 points in the last six games.  Peter Quenneville and Tim McGauley both have three-game point streak while Rihards Bukarts has goals in three straight games.

- The Wheat Kings have dominated the Warriors, record-wise, in their head-to-head meetings this season.  Brandon has won all five games between the two teams this year including the three previous matchups at Mosaic Place.  Hard to believe, but it's December 7th and Saturday's game marks the fourth and final visit for Brandon to Moose Jaw for the 2013-2014 regular season.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Laurikainen Shines in Broncos Win

John Quenneville
  Eetu Laurikainen stopped 38 shots to lead the Swift Current Broncos to a 4-3 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night.

  The Broncos scored three of their goals in a seven minute and 16 second span of the second period, with Cavin Leth, Colby Cave and Andrew Johnson netting the goals.

  "I think we had some really bad defensive breakdowns.  Bad net play, he didn't collapse down to the net and we weren't strong around the net and it cost us," said Brandon centre John Quenneville on CKLQ's post-game show, "This one definitely stings.  I think we dominated the play for a good portion of the game.  These are the ones that you have to win."

  Dakota Odgers, son of former Wheat King Jeff Odgers, opened the scoring for the Broncos by scoring his first career WHL goal just 13 seconds into the first period.

  John Quenneville tied the game before the five minute mark, extending his point streak to six games, with Richard Nejezchleb's power-play goal midway through the first gave Brandon a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

  Richards Bukarts scored the other goal for the Wheat Kings, with his marker coming late in the second period after the Broncos had scored their three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead.

  The Wheat Kings outshot Swift Current 41-26 but still suffered their fourth loss in their last seven home games (3-3-1-0).

  Wheat Kings' GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon said it was the type of game that you shouldn't read too much into the end result.

  "We need to win on home ice.  We're in the results business and we didn't get points tonight," said McCrimmon, "But, to overlook how well we're playing would be counter productive as well.  I think we did all kinds of good things tonight."

  Jordan Papirny started his 15th straight game and stopped 15 of 19 shots through 40 minutes before being replaced to start the third by Curtis Honey.

  Honey stopped all seven shots he faces in the third period in his first action since October 30th.

  Brandon returns to action Saturday when they visit the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Tai Sent to Medicine Hat

Christopher Tai
(courtesy www.wheatkings.com)

The Brandon Wheat Kings have announced that netminder Christopher Tai has been dealt to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2015 Western Hockey League bantam draft.

The 18-year old Delta B.C. native was acquired from Lethbridge two weeks ago to serve as a backup to rookie Jordan Papirny while veteran Curtis Honey was out of action with an upper body injury.


Honey, who has missed the past fourteen games, has rejoined the WHL club and will be dressed for this weekend's games against Swift Current and Moose Jaw on Friday and Saturday nights.

The move to bring Tai onto the roster is a result of Czech-born goalie Marek Langhamer leaving for the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships next week. Tai is expected to report to the Tigers on Monday.

Tai has appeared in nine games this season - eight with the Hurricanes and one with Brandon.

Game #31 - Swift Current at Wheat Kings (December 6, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
35. Curtis Honey

Defencemen
7. Eric Roy - 2. Ryan Pulock
6. Ryan Pilon - 9. Rene Hunter
10. Kord Pankewicz - 5. Colton Waltz

Forwards
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
12. Jesse Gabrielle - 17. John Quenneville - 22. Braylon Shmyr
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
21. Tyler Coulter - 28. Quintin Lisoway - 26. Ryley Lindgren

Notes
- Brandon will be without F Jayce Hawryluk (suspension) while F Brett Kitt (healthy) and D Taylor Green (healthy) are also out tonight.

- Curtis Honey returns from a 14-game absence but will be the backup tonight behind Jordan Papirny, who makes his 15th straight start in goal for Brandon.

- Brandon is 5-0-1-0 in their last six games against East Division opponents, including a 3-2 shootout win in Swift Current on November 20th.

- Quirky stat - forward Jens Meilleur has been a plus or even for 17 consecutive games, the longest currently streak on the Wheat Kings.  Meilleur has seven points (2 G, 5 A) and is +9 in that stretch.

- The Wheat Kings were 3-for-5 on the power-play in Wednesday's win over Regina and are 20-for-57 (35.1%) in the last 14 games.  Overall, Brandon has the 2nd-ranked power-play in the WHL this season at 26.3%.

Honey Set for Return

Curtis Honey
  Curtis Honey will return to the Brandon Wheat Kings' lineup Friday night when the club hosts the Swift Current Broncos (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Honey has missed 14 games with an upper body injury, which was originally suffered on October 30th.

  "We didn't think it was going to take this long but just taking it day-by-day and took longer than expected," said Honey after Thursday's practice, "Here I am now so I'm just happy to be back and happy to get back at it."

  Honey has been practicing fully with the Wheat Kings for the past week but whether he plays or is on the bench Friday night is still up in the air.

  "Obviously, getting in the first game after missing all that time will be real exciting and real fun," said Honey, "That's the next step and I'm just looking forward to it.

  Rookie Jordan Papirny has started 14 straight games in Honey's absence, going 8-4-2 with a 3.68 goals against average and .885 save percentage.

  With Honey's return, the Wheat Kings released goaltender Christopher Tai on Thursday.

  Tai was acquired from Lethbridge two weeks ago for a conditional eighth round pick in the 2015 bantam draft.

  His release reduces Brandon's roster to 23 players (two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 14 forwards).

Hawryluk Given Two-Game Ban

Jayce Hawryluk has been suspended for
two games by the WHL
  The Brandon Wheat Kings will be without their leading scorer when they host the Swift Current Broncos Friday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place)

  Jayce Hawryluk has been suspended for two games by the Western Hockey League under supplemental discipline.

  The suspension stems from an unpenalized first period hit on Regina Pats' captain Kyle Burroughs in Wednesday's 5-4 victory.

  Burroughs suffered a concussion on the play and is out of Regina's lineup indefinitely.

  Hawryluk will miss Friday's game against the Broncos and Saturday's contest in Moose Jaw.

  He'll be eligible to return to the lineup for Tuesday's home game against the Kamloops Blazers.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Late Hawryluk Heroics Lift Brandon to Win

Rihards Bukarts scored a goal in Brandon's
win over Regina on Wednesday
  Jayce Hawryluk's goal with 28.9 seconds left lifted the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 5-4 win over the Regina Pats on Wednesday night.

  Hawryluk's goal came after the Wheat Kings had let a 4-2, third period lead slip away for the second straight game but unlike Saturday's overtime loss to Prince Albert, Brandon showed more resilency in battling back and picked up two points.

  One benefit this time around for Brandon was the Pats tied the game prior to the mid-period marketing timeout, which allowed the Wheat Kings to refocus and regroup.

  "I think just kind of stick to what we do best, which is getting pucks out and getting pucks in and just trying to force their D-men to work and wear them down," said Brandon forward Peter Quenneville on CKLQ's post-game show, "We struggled at times to do that tonight but, fortunately, we came away with the win."

  The winning goal came after the Wheat Kings came up with a key penalty-kill, keeping the Pats at bay for a total of three minutes and 40 seconds including 42 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage.

  "The penalty-kills late in the third period were really important for us and got us to the position where we had the late power-play and didn't capitalize on that," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "We had some shifts in the third period where we had long, sustained shifts in the offensive zone and that final shift was one of those."

  Richard Nejezchleb snapped a seven-game goalless drought with his 18th goal of the season for the Wheat Kings while Peter Quenneville, Rihards Bukarts and Jesse Gabrielle also scored for Brandon.

  John Quennville extended his point streak to five games by contributing three assists to Brandon's cause.

  The victory allowed the Wheat Kings to leapfrog the Pats and move into a tie for sixth-place in the Eastern Conference.

  Brandon's next game is Friday when they host the Conference-leading Swift Current Broncos.

Chaff...Regina defenceman Kyle Burroughs left the game in the first period after he absorbed a fhit from Hawryluk.  Burroughs was wobbly and needed help to get off the ice.  Hawrulyk wasn't penalized on the play...former Wheat King Geordie Maguire picked up an assist for the Pats in his first regular-season game back in Brandon...Taylor Cooper was back in Lethbridge's lineup Wednesday for their 4-1 loss in Swift Current.  Cooper suffered a concussion in his first game with the Hurricanes on November 20...former Wheat King Nolan Yonkman is back in the American Hockey League, being returned to Norfolk by the NHL's Anaheim Ducks Wednesday.  Yonkman skated 14-plus minutes in each of his first two games with the Ducks since his November 23rd recall and notched one assist...Nesbitt product Aaron Rome has been placed on the Dallas Stars' injured reserve list with a muscle ailment.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Nejezchleb Given Chance for 2014 WJHC

Richard Nejezchleb
  Late Wednesday afternoon, it was revealed that Brandon Wheat Kings' forward Richard Nejezchleb would have a chance to play for the Czech Republic at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship.

  While a release from the team stated he would be playing, Nejezchleb told me prior to Wednesday's game that he'll attend the selection camp in the Czech Republic with an eye toward earning a spot on the WJHC roster.

  According to a roster I found online, the Czech's Selection Camp includes 15 forwards, meaning two would have to be released prior to the start of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

  Goaltender Marek Langhamer of the Medicine Hat Tigers, defencemen David Nemecek of the Saskatoon Blades and Michal Plutnar of the Tri-City Americans and forward Dominek Volek of the Red Deer Rebels were also invited to the camp.

  Here's an interview I did with Nejezchleb about the opportunity that aired during our pre-game show on CKLQ...


Game #30 - Regina at Wheat Kings (December 4, 2013)

Goaltenders
33. Jordan Papirny
1. Christopher Tai

Defencemen
7. Eric Roy - 2. Ryan Pulock
6. Ryan Pilon - 9. Rene Hunter
10. Kord Pankewicz - 5. Colton Waltz

Forwards
18. Richard Nejezchleb - 23. Tim McGauley - 15. Peter Quenneville
12. Jesse Gabrielle - 17. John Quenneville - 8. Jayce Hawryluk
13. Rihards Bukarts - 20. Chad Robinson - 24. Jens Meilleur
 27. Brett Kitt - 26. Ryley Lindgren - 21. Tyler Coulter

Notes
- Brandon goaltender Curtis Honey (upper body) misses his 14th straight game for the Brandon Wheat Kings tonight.  D Taylor Green (healthy), F Braylon Shmyr (healthy) and F Quintin Lisoway (healthy) are also out tonight.

- Brandon is could leapfrog Regina and move into seventh-place in the Eastern Conference with a regulation victory tonight.  The Wheat Kings are one point behind the Pats, though Regina does have a game in hand.

- John Quennville enters Wednesday's game on a four-game point streak (5 G, 2 A) while Ryan Pulock (2 G, 2 A) and rookie Tyler Coulter (1 G, 2 A) are both on three-game point streaks.

- The Wheat Kings' power-play was one of the WHL's most lethal during November.  Brandon went 17-for-52 with the man advantage in 13 games last month, a 32.0% success rate.  The Pats enter the game ranked 21st in the WHL in penalty-killing (71.1%) so that could be an interesting special teams matchup.

- Wednesday's game is the first regular season contest for former Wheat King Geordie Maguire back in Brandon since being dealt to the Pats during the May 2nd WHL Bantam Draft.  Maguire has battled injuries but has six goals and ten points in 17 games this season including four goals and seven points in the last nine games he's played.

PK Change Eyes Improvement

Jens Meilleur
  One area of concern during the first half of the Western Hockey League season for the Brandon Wheat Kings has been their penalty-kill.

  The club is killing at a 68.3 per cent success rate over the last 22 games and have allowed 13 power-play goals against in their last 11 contest.

  The Wheat Kings have made a move to a more aggressive system on their penalty-kill the last couple of games and forward Jens Meilleur is hoping it'll be more effective for them.

  "I feel it made a difference, and I think a lot of guys penalty-killing do like the change," said Meilleur on Tuesday, "I know we let in a couple of goals in Moose Jaw but I think that was due to guys just kind of learning how to do it on the first couple of PK's.  I think as we went along, we were pretty effective in both games."

  "The biggest area where our team could improve is on our penalty-kill.  We made some changes to that on our week off and I felt on the weekend we did a better job and we didn't have the results in Moose Jaw we would have liked but liked some of the things that we did and then, of course, Saturday we only had one penalty-kill and successfully killed it," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon this week, "We've made some changes, we're looking to dp some things differently and be more aggressive in certain situations and, hopefully, we'll have improved results because of it."

  For the season, Brandon is ranked 19th in the WHL with a 72.6 per cent success rate and it would appear that opposing teams employ the umbrella power-play setup are most effective against the Wheat Kings.

  That system means forwards have to be very aware of where the shooting lanes are, and it also means there has to be effective communications among the players on the penalty-kill unit.

  "Those types of power-plays, that's when work ethic gets involved," said Meilleur, "You have to do a lot of starts and stops, getting from one lane to the other and making sure all lanes are covered."

  The Wheat Kings look to turn their home fortunes around Wednesday night when they entertain the Regina Pats (7:00 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Brandon has lost three of their last five games at home including Saturday's overtime loss to Prince Albert.

Chaff...rookie forward Ryley Lindgren should return to the Brandon lineup Tuesday after missing two games with an upper body injury...goaltender Curtis Honey is practicing fully with the Wheat Kings but remains day-to-day...Jayce Hawryluk was named the Wheat Kings' Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries IMPACT Player of the Month for November on Tuesday.  Hawryluk had eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points in 13 games last month while recording a +11 rating.