Brandon, MB. -- The Brandon Wheat Kings will have a couple of new faces on the bench Tuesday night when they continue their 7-game western road swing on Vancouver Island.
In addition to having new assistant coach David Anning, the Wheat Kings expect to have newly acquired center Chad Robinson in the lineup when they face off against the Victoria Royals.
A 19-year old Minnedosa product, Robinson was obtained from the Red Deer Rebels on Monday and the former sixth round bantam draft choice is looking forward to pulling on the Wheat Kings jersey tonight.
"I’m absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t be more excited to be a Brandon Wheat King and I’m looking forward to playing for the Wheat Kings moving forward here," Robinson told Brandon Sun Sports Editor James Shewaga on Monday. "Growing up watching the Wheat Kings as a younger guy, it will be pretty special."
Robinson will get a chance to play some significant minutes with the Wheat Kings as Brandon has played the past two games with only four veterans - Jens Meilleur, Alessio Bertaggia, Nick Buonassisi and Tyrel Seaman. In addition to losing center Jason Swyripa with a wrist injury during the opening game of this 13-day excursion, 18-year old Daniel Asham surprised the team by announcing his retirement last Friday.
"I think he will get a good opportunity with us, based on fit," Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon told the Sun. "We have lost Swyripa long-term and Asham’s decision to quit hockey obviously played into this as well. So it’s a chance to add a 19-year-old player with experience playing centre ice who is from our area, I think all of those things made it a good decision to bring him in."
Losers of back to back games, the Wheat Kings enter Tuesday's game with a record of 6-5-1-0. Brandon is 1-2-0 during the first three games of this trip and you don't have to look very far to see what has contributed to the team's recent struggles - special teams and goals against.
In the past week, Brandon has given up sixteen goals in three games while going 1-10 with the man advantage and 8 for 13 when it comes to penalty killing. The Wheat Kings also surrendered two shorthanded goals in losing 4-2 to the Rockets in Kelowna on Saturday.
The Royals meanwhile are currently sitting in second place in the WHL's B.C. Division with an impressive 8-4-0 record. At home, Victoria has won five of seven. Keys to the Royals quick start has been the play of netminder Patrik Polivka and former Calgary Hitmen Alex Gogolev. Gogolev currently leads the team in scoring with five goals and 15 points while Polivka, who was the 14th overall selection in last June's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, is 6-3-0 and has compiled a 2.86 goals against average in nine appearances.
Like the Wheat Kings, Victoria is playing for a new head coach this year. Dave Lowry joined the team this past summer after spending several seasons with the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames. Tuesday's game will also mark the first time that the Wheat Kings have met former Brandon blueliner Jordan Fransoo on the west coast. An Ottawa Senators draft pick, Fransoo was dealt to Victoria last January in the deal that saw the Wheat Kings pick up all star center Kevin Sundher. In seven games this season, the 6'3" 195 lb Fransoo has three assists.
Brandon will spend the night on the island Tuesday, before travelling to Vancouver on Wednesday for a game against Liam Liston and the Giants.
The Wheat Kings will close out their longest road trip of the season with back to back games this weekend against Kamloops and Prince George on Friday and Saturday nights.
Next home game for Brandon is a week from Friday - November 2nd - when the Moose Jaw Warriors pay a visit to Westman Communications Group Place. Tickets are on sale at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com