NEW LOOK WHEAT KINGS HOST HITMEN FRIDAY
Brandon, MB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings will have some new faces in the lineup this weekend when they close out a 5-game Western Hockey League homestand against Calgary tonight and Medicine Hat on Saturday.
17-year old forward Luka Burzan and 18-year old rookie Chase Hartje arrived in Brandon Thursday and practiced with their club in preparation for a big weekend against two Central Division clubs.
Both were part of Wednesday’s blockbuster deal that saw the Wheat Kings deal all star defenceman Kale Clague to the league leading Moose Jaw Warriors.
In addition to the pair, Brandon received two first round and a second round pick in exchange.
“We have an opportunity for guys to take on more responsibility and step up to the challenge,” head coach David Anning told the Brandon Sun’s Perry Bergson on Thursday. “We still strongly believe in our group and I think that we’ve added two real nice pieces to our team. Both guys work hard, had good practices and showed their skill and their work ethic, which is encouraging. Our group is in a good spot.”
Both newcomers are excited to pull on the Wheat King jersey tonight for the first time.
“I’m excited for sure,” says Burzan, who had six goals and 19 points with the Warriors this season. “Being in a bigger role on this team is going to help me develop a lot. Being on this team will definitely help me a lot and I’ll learn a lot this year.”
A native of Bemidji, Minnesota, Hartje says “I know this team sold away some big pieces…I hope to fill in some pieces and help this team now and the future.”
The Wheat Kings, who have managed at least a point (2-0-1-0) in the first three games of this week’s homestand, enter the weekend with a record of 27-12-1-1 and third place in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Division. Brandon is currently five points back of second place Swift Current.
In addition to moving Clague, the Wheat Kings dealt their captain Tanner Kaspick to Victoria for two prospects and two first round picks. A local product, Kaspick’s leadership and commitment will be missed says veteran Connor Gutenberg.
“I think it’s pretty tough right now to lose those guys,” Gutenberg told the Brandon Sun. “They were a big part of our team. They were leaders on this team who were both respected in the room but trade deadline day is always a tough day. We just have to move forward with the group that we have.”
Like Brandon, the Hitmen were “sellers” this week as they sent all star defenceman Jake Bean to the Tri-City Americans. Calgary enters the game with a record of 13-23-5-1. Medicine Hat meanwhile is 23-16-3-0 and battling for top spot in the Central.
Following this weekend, the Wheat Kings will head out on their annual west coast road trip, which begins Wednesday night in Spokane against the Chiefs.
Tonight’s game is a presentation of GIANT TIGER, with the first 4,000 fans in attendance having a chance to take home a limited edition bobblehead, featuring the likeness of former Wheat King great and current Philadelphia Flyer Ivan Provorov.
Saturday’s game meanwhile is presented by The Real Canadian Superstore.
Tickets to both weekend games are on sale now at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling (204) 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com
Photo Courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun