(Courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun) — The Brandon Wheat Kings returned to practice Monday with lots to work on but also plenty to like after splitting a pair of Western Hockey League pre-season games with the Regina Pats over the weekend.
After winning 4-2 on Friday, Brandon allowed two more power-play goals to Koby Morrisseau and Jeff de Wit, and Brandonite Tristen Robins scored four-on-four as Regina took a 3-1 decision at the Brandt Centre on Saturday.
Brandon head coach David Anning said the this week’s practices before they face the Moose Jaw Warriors in a home-and-home pre-season series on the weekend will be busy.
“We’ll focus on the details in our team game,” Anning said. “We want to keep working on all aspects but we’ll specifically look at working together on breakouts, on D-zone exits and just trying to get the puck moving against five-man units and coming up together. I think right now we’re slowing ourselves down just by being too spread out and not quite on the same page. We want to clean up those details and help our back end get comfortable getting the puck moving up to our forwards and joining the rush.”
They’ll also be concentrating on some defensive zone positioning so that the players don’t find themselves reaching in and taking penalties.
Brandon’s pre-season parade to the penalty box continued on Saturday, with the Wheat Kings (1-1-0-0) surrendering seven man advantages for the second night in a row.
“Through two games we haven’t given up a five-on-five goal against so that’s positive,” Anning said. “On the flip side, unfortunately we’ve given up five goals in special situations, whether it be power play or four-on-four. I thought at times we showed signs of being consistent and then obviously the discipline issue took us out of rhythm and out of sync and slowed our game down. We certainly have to be more disciplined and recognize that at five-on-five, if we do a good job of working together and playing a fast game, we’re going to have success.”
Scoring Brandon’s lone goal Saturday was rookie Marcus Sekundiak.
“Marcus was our most consistent forward tonight and likely player overall,” Anning said. “He’s a great skater and he used his legs tonight. He’s a player who really thinks the game well and is somebody who pays attention and only has to be told once. … We’re impressed by Marcus. We used him on the penalty kill a lot tonight and he found himself in the right spots and obviously capitalized on a very nice goal. He looked very confident heading down the ice and made a great move to capitalize.”
The trip to Regina would have been the first WHL road trip for most of the rookies, and it proved to be an eventful one. On their way to the game, the team was stranded near Virden for nearly two hours when a tire blew on their bus on the Trans-Canada Highway.
“It’s not an ideal situation, but that being said, we arrived early enough where we could still get our physical preparation in and our stretching and warmup,” Anning said. “It was not a typical road trip but it’s one of those things that happens. It was a good challenge and good test to see how we responded and down the road if it happens again, we’ll be that much stronger for it.”
“It was a good opportunity to evaluate guys,” Anning said. “Back-to-back nights, on the road is not an easy situation and it’s one that we see a lot in the regular season.”
The Wheat Kings will host Moose Jaw Friday before playing the Warriors the following night at Mosaic Place. Brandon’s 2017 Home Opener is Friday, September 22nd vs. Regina.