The Wheat Kings have won seven of their last eight games, including three straight on a 3-in-3 Saskatchewan road trip last weekend, and have allowed just ten goals against in that eight-game span.
Reigning WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week Jordan Papirny has been on a hot streak as of late, going 6-1 with a 1.15 goals against average, a .961 save percentage in three shutouts in his last seven starts.
However, it’s a team commitment to strong defensive play that has been a big key.
“We kind of changed some things in the D-Zone recently, and it’s nice to see that they’ve been paying off,” said Brandon forward Reid Duke, who turned 20 on Thursday, “In comparison to last year, maybe we had more of an offensive team and the defensive side of it wasn’t quite there. This year, it’s nice to still have that offensive threat and be even better on the defensive side.”
Duke is hoping to keep his recent hot streak going, having scored goals in three straight games including his second career hat-trick last Saturday.
Duke has been a bit of a streaky scorer this season but still leads the Wheat Kings (and is tied for 13th in the WHL) with 26 goals, leads Brandon with five game-winning goals and is tied for the team-lead with six power-play goals.
“The one thing I’m focused on this time around is to try and stay as consistent as possible,” said Duke, “You love these streaks and some good weekends like that, but I want to keep it going as long as I can.”
The Wheat Kings will welcome rookie forward Stelio Mattheos back to their lineup Friday after he missed six games with an upper body injury.
“It’s always a bit difficult to come back but when the team is doing as well as they right now, it’s a lot easier,” said Mattheos, who’s missed 15 of the club’s last 19 games because of injury, “If the room is being positive, the room is being positive, everybody is being positive and practices have been good so it’s a good environment to come back into.”
While Mattheos returns, the Wheat Kings still have two players on their injury list.
Tanner Kaspick is expected to miss another week with an upper body injury while Connor Gutenberg will be out until at least March with a lower body injury.
The Wheat Kings go into the weekend with a seven-point lead over second-place Prince Albert in the East Division standings, and are one point behind second-place Red Deer in the Eastern Conference standings.
Chaff...Team Orr defeated Wheat Kings' D Kale Clague and Team Cherry 3-2 in the CHL Top Prospects game on Thursday. Clague was pointless and -2 in the contest...Papirny has recorded back-to-back shutouts but is still well shy of the Wheat Kings’ club record. Andrew Hayes recorded three straight shutouts, and went 192 minutes and 16 seconds without allowing a goal early in the 2009-2010 season...Brandon re-entered the CHL Top-10 rankings this week, checking in at #9...Brandon is 12-3-1-0 in their 16 games. In their 12 victories in that span, twelve different players have scored the game-winning goal for Brandon...the Wheat Kings are 13-for-38 (34.2%) on the power-play in their last seven games and are 26-for-29 (89.7%) on the penalty-kill in the last eight games.