Thursday, 17 March 2016

Weekend Means Plenty to Wheat Kings

Jordan Papirny
  The Brandon Wheat Kings will close out their Western Hockey League regular season with a pair of home games this weekend, hosting Moose Jaw Friday night and the Regina Pats Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  The club goes into Friday's contest against the Warriors needing two points to reach the 100-point plateau for the second straight year -- the third time in franchise history that will have occurred.

  Beyond that, Wheat Kings' GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon says there are other reasons to play well this weekend.

  "Playing Regina and Moose Jaw, which are teams we could easily meet in the playoffs if we're able to advance," said McCrimmon on Thursday, "On top of that, just wanting to play well going into playoffs.  We've played 70 games to get to the closing weekend and now want to get our game where it needs to be to play playoff hockey."

  Individually, players are also getting ready for the start of the post-season next week, including rookie forward Connor Gutenberg.

  Gutenberg returned to the linup Tuesday after missing two months with a lower body injury.

  "I thought Tuesday was really good.  Everything felt good, I felt pretty good shape-wise," said Gutenberg on Thursday, "These last two games is still getting back my timing and to sharpen up before playoffs."

  The 16-year old rookie has six goals and ten points in 42 this season, and is one of a handful of Wheat Kings' players that haven't experienced the WHL playoffs before.

  There are some other individual performances to look for on the final weekend of the season.

  Defenceman Ivan Provorov enters the weekend with a +63 rating, one behind Brandon's unofficial club record of +64, set by Darren Ritchie in 1994-1995.

  Provorov and Macoy Erkamps are also trying to become the first teammates to finish 1-2 in defenceman scoring in the WHL since Regina's Derek Morris and Perry Johnson in 1996-97.

  Provorov, but the way, is just the third defenceman in the last 20 years to have 70 or more points and a plus-minus above +60.

Chaff...F Jayce Hawryluk takes a seven-game goal-scoring streak into Friday's contest...Hawryluk also enters Friday's game two points behind Eric Fehr for 20th-place on the Wheat Kings' all-time scoring list...injured Brandon forwards Ty Lewis (upper body) and Tyler Coulter (lower body) are unlikely to play this weekend but both could be back for the start of the playoffs next week...F Linden McCorrister, who's missed the last 21 games, practiced without restrictions Thursday...first 2,500 fans in attendance on Friday will receive a complete set of 2015-16 Wheat King player cards.

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