Red Deer, AB. – With only two weekends remaining in the 2018-19 Western Hockey League season, the Brandon Wheat Kings will need to get back on the winning track this weekend if they entertain hopes of clinching a Western Hockey League playoff berth.
With five games to play in the regular season, the Wheat Kings – who play in Red Deer tonight and Medicine Hat tomorrow – sit tied with the Rebels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Tigers meanwhile currently hold the first wild card spot in the East and lead both Red Deer and Brandon by two points with a week to play.
Friday night is the fifth game of a 6-game road trip for the Wheat Kings, who return home this coming week to play two of their final three games at Westoba Place following the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier.
The Wheat Kings, who are coming off Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Lethbridge, enter the weekend with a record of 30-25-4-4 while the Rebels are 31-25-4-2. Red Deer is 16-12-1-1 on home ice while Brandon is 11-15-3-2 away from home. In their last ten games – the Wheat Kings are 6-3-1-0 while the Rebels have compiled a 3-6-0-1 record.
Saturday’s opponent – the Tigers – enter Friday night’s game in Lethbridge with a 32-25-4-2 mark and have compiled a 17-10-3-1 record on home ice this season.
Needless to say what happens this way could go a long way in determining the Wheat Kings playoff hopes.
Friday night is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two clubs, with Brandon having won two of the first three, including a 4-0 victory over the Rebels back on January 30th.
Captain Stelio Mattheos and Luka Burzan remain 1-2 in team scoring entering the final week of regular season play, Brandon coach David Anning says the second line of Connor Gutenberg, Ben McCartney and rookie Ridly Greig have been key components to the team’s recent success and will need to be at their best again this weekend.
“He’s (Connor) is a reliable guy who plays a 200 foot game and is always in the right spot,” Anning told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun this week. “You can put different guys with Guty and he makes them better. He covers up for some mistakes and early on there were definitely some mistakes with that line. However, those guys have become that much more responsible and it’s allowed his game to continue to take another step.”
While Gutenberg is approaching last season’s career high of 53 points in 72 games, McCartney has scored 19 this season after scoring twice in his rookie campaign and Greig is among the league leaders when it comes to 16-year olds. The Lethbridge product has fourteen goals and 32 points.
“We play against good lines every night and we have some tough matchups,” Gutenberg recently told the Brandon Sun. “We try to be a plus line and help our team win every night.”
Following this weekend’s action, the Wheat Kings will return home to host the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors on Wednesday night – Rain Check Night – presented by Red River Mutual.
Any unused Wheat King ticket (dated November 23rd to February 22nd) can be exchanged at the box office for a “free” ticket to this game (regular box office agency fees apply. Brandon will then bring the curtain down on the regular season with a weekend home and home series with the Regina Pats.