Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wheat Kings Gun for Top Spot

Colton Waltz
  The 2014-2015 edition of the Brandon Wheat Kings has a reputation of an offensive powerhouse, and that is true.

  However, the club is also buying into the notion that defence wins championships.

  The Wheat Kings have scored 325 goals in 70 games so far this season, already the fifth-most for a team in a single season in the last ten years.

  Adding to their offensive attack is a much-improved attention to the defensive zone that has seen Brandon produce a 2.39 goals against average in their last 20 games.

  That's a figure that would be the best in the WHL if it were sustained over the course of the entire season.

  "Coming into the second half, it was something that we really looked at that we wanted to improve on," said Brandon blueliner Colton Waltz after Thursday's practice, "Our first half, there might have been nights where not everyone was working as hard as they could and I think we've taken better strides at that in the second half and the result is that we've cut down on our goals against and we're spending less time in the defensive zone."

  Less time in the defensive zone, more attention to being in proper position, and making the smart plays would all be primary reasons for the improvement for the Wheat Kings but another small but major part would be the club's overall increased willingness to block shots.

  Waltz and injured forward Quintin Lisoway were already leaders in that department but even he might have been overtaken by 20-year old Killarney product Reid Gow, who routinely sacrifices his body in blocking shots.

  That eagerness is something that has become contagious for other members of the club.

  "Shot-blocking is just something that needs to happen.  It shows that you're willing to sacrifice your body to get a win for the team, and that's the kind of stuff it's going to come down to in the playoffs," said Waltz, who is +31 in 35 games since the Christmas break, "Sacrificing the body, fighting for every inch out there and we have a team that's willing to do whatever it takes to win and that's what we're doing right now."

  Brandon enters a season-closing home-and-home series with the Moose Jaw Warriors this weekend needing two points to secure top spot in the WHL's overall standings and earn the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

  The Warriors, meanwhile, are two points behind the Swift Current Broncos for third-place in the East Division and a possible playoff spot.

  "Obviously, we're really excited but we're focusing on playing a really good Moose Jaw team that are battling for their playoff lives right now," said Waltz, "We're looking to not only get two points but to get the four-point weekend."

  Brandon (52-11-4-3) will visit Moose Jaw Friday (8:08 p.m., 880 CKLQ) before hosting the Warriors in the regular season finale on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...the Wheat Kings victory Friday would establish a new club record for most road wins in a single season with 27...D Eric Roy enters the weekend needing two points to become the sixth defenceman in Wheat Kings' history to record 200 or more career points...F Nolan Patrick enters the weekend needing two goals to become just the third 16-year old player in the last 20 years to score 30 or more goals in their rookie season...F Tanner Kaspick, who left Tuesday's win in Regina early with an upper body injury, did not practice on Thursday...the Warriors have added Roblin product Josh Brook, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, to their roster after his season with the AAA Midget Notre Dame Hounds ended earlier this week...the Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings open the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League Final Friday night by hosting the Pembina Valley Hawks (7:30 p.m., Sportsplex).

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