First-place in the Eastern Conference is on the line Friday night as the Brandon Wheat Kings visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes (7:35 p.m. (CST), 880 CKLQ).
Brandon (38-18-3-2) goes into the game trailing the first-place ‘Canes (40-19-1-1) by a single point in the standings, with both teams having 11 games left in the regular season.
“We’ve been chasing this time for a while. I know we haven’t been healthy to a full extend every time we’ve played them,” said Brandon forward Tyler Coulter on Thursday, “It’s nice to be coming in with a full lineup that’s ready to play, and I’m excited for the game (Friday).”
Brandon has lost two of three meetings with the ‘Canes this season, but the clubs haven’t met since December 11th.
The game features the WHL most potent offensive attacks, with the Brandon and Lethbridge 1-2 in goals per game this season at 4.10 and 4.08 respectively.
Ironically, neither team has been playing at the top of their game in recent weeks.
The Hurricanes have lost four in a row (0-3-0-1) and are 4-7-1-1 in their last 13 games while Brandon is 8-5-1-0 in their last 14 contests.
The Wheat Kings re-committed to playing a strong defensive game in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Kootenay, allowing just 15 shots against including six in the final 40 minutes.
That strong defensive play is something the club knows will be a key in the matchup with the offensively potent Hurricanes squad.
“They can score a lot of goals so we’re really going to have to worry about own zone first and go from there,” said Brandon defenceman Mitch Wheaton, “We’re not looking for a 9-8 game, we’re going to be looking for a 2-1 or 3-2 game (Friday), that’s for sure.”
“They’re a very fast team, so we have to really channel our back-check and have good gap with our defencemen and make them chip pucks,” added Coulter, “We have to win a lot of race, stay on top of their ‘D’ and play our game like we do every night.”
Friday’s game is not only for top spot, but is also a battle of the Western Hockey League’s best road and home teams.
The Wheat Kings have a league-leading 19 road wins this season (19-10-2-0) while the Hurricanes have lost just six of 31 home games this season (25-5-0-1).
Brandon’s Nolan Patrick takes an 11-game goal-scoring streak into Friday’s contest, having amassed 17 goals during a streak that is the fourth-longest in the WHL in the last 20 years.
Chaff...Ron Chipperfield, the Wheat Kings’ all-time leading goal-scorer with 261, was named #35 Thursday in the WHL’s countdown of the Top-50 players of all-time. He’s the first former Wheat King named to the list...Brandon F Tyler Coulter takes a nine-game point streak into Friday’s game. He had an 11-game point streak earlier this season...the Wheat Kings’ power-play is 25-for-84 (29.8%) in the last 18 games and now sit 6th in the WHL with a 22.2% success rate for the season...former Wheat King Ryan Reaves (St. Louis) was suspended for three games in the NHL on Wednesday...Ivan Provorov (+44), Jayce Hawryluk (+42), Nolan Patrick (+34) and Tyler Coulter (+34) represent four of the top six players in the WHL in plus/minus this season.