Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Wheat Kings Eyeing First-Place

Ryan Pulock
  The Brandon Wheat Kings are in the midst of the playoff hunt in the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference but are also looking at the big picture.

  Brandon (21-16-4-0) are in fifth-place in the Eastern Conference heading into Tuesday's home game against Red Deer, one point ahead of Regina and Kootenay, two ahead of Prince Albert and four ahead of the ninth-place Rebels.

  However, the Wheat Kings are also three points behind fourth-place Medicine Hat and just four points behind the East Division-leading Swift Current Broncos with two games in hand.

  "I think the biggest goal for us is making the playoffs, and it's pretty tight," said Brandon captain Ryan Pulock after practice on Monday, "We have talked that if we start getting on a streak here and we're right in first-place so that's definitely a goal from us, and a very reachable goal as well."

  Brandon has suffered just one regulation loss in their last ten home games, going 7-1-2-0 in that stretch while outscoring their opponents 49-30.

  A victory Tuesday would be the Wheat Kings' 13th on home-ice this season, matching their home win total from all of the 2012-2013

  "I think we're just starting to play a more fully rounded game.  In the past, this has been a tough building to play in for teams and that's how we have to make it," said Pulock, who has points in all six games Brandon has played since their Christmas break, "It's our home rink, we play half our games here, so we have to expect to win every single night we're at home.  Guys are starting to get more confidence at home and I think that's helped."

  Tuesday's game continues what has been a busy second half for the Wheat Kings so far, as it will be the club's seventh game in 12 days since returning from the Christmas break.

  After a 4-3 overtime win over Regina on Saturday, Brandon took a day off Sunday and practiced Monday -- the first time they've had back-to-back days without a game since the second half started.

  "We've had a few days off but it's cut into our practice time.  I think it's important for us to get some practice here in the second half," said Pulock, "It was nice to be able to get that day off, that full day of rest and have a full day of practice before a game and I think that should help our team."

  Rookies Braylon Shmyr and Jesse Gabrielle have both returned to the Wheat Kings after playing at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last week.

  The two 16-year olds practiced with the team Monday and will be available to join the Brandon lineup for Tuesday's contest.

Chaff...former Brandon Wheat King Milan Bartovic was named to the Slovakian roster and ex Wheat King Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to the Norwegian roster for the Sochi Olympic Games.  Bartovic played two seasons with the Wheat Kings from 1999 to 2001 while Tollefsen played with Brandon from 2002 to 2004...Brandon G Jordan Papirny is 4-0 with a 1.71 goals against average and .943 save percentage in his last four starts...Moose Jaw dealt D Travis Brown, 19, to the Victoria Royals Monday for prospect Noah Gregor, 15, third round picks in the 2014 and 2016 Bantam Drafts and a conditional pick in either 2016 or 2017...the WHL trade deadline is Friday at 2:00 p.m. (CST).

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