Brandon, MB. -- With a 7-game western road swing set to begin next week, the Brandon Wheat Kings kick off the final weekend of a 4-game Western Hockey League home stand Friday night against the visiting Everett Silvertips.
Winners of three of their first four home games and five of their first 7 games overall, the Wheat Kings will be hoping to close out this home stand on a winning note and at the same time gain some ground in what is a very tight Eastern Conference race.
Brandon hasn't played since last weekend when they split the first two games of this home stand. After losing to Portland 2-1 on Friday, the Wheat Kings bounced back to beat the Red Deer Rebels by that same 2-1 count the following night.
In addition to cutting down their goals against last weekend, the club's special teams play was much better and head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk hopes to see that continue against the 'Tips and Tri-City Americans (Brandon's opponent on Saturday night).
"(Penalty killing is) something that’s going to continue to get better," Brandon’s coach told Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun this week. "I think it’s going to be really big for us here heading into this weekend. I think it’s just the little things. We’ve got to continue watching video and working on it in practice. Same thing with the power play. …We’re going to generate some offence off the power play and the penalty kill’s got to change the momentum for us when they can for sure."
While Everett enters Friday's game with just one win in its first seven games, the Silvertips do have one of the league's premier players in their lineup in defenceman Ryan Murray.
The second overall selection in last June’s National Hockey League Entry Draft, many thought that Murray would be spending this winter patrolling the blueline with the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, thanks to this year’s unpopular NHL Lockout, the White City, Saskatchewan product finds himself back in the WHL – months after representing his country at the World Hockey Championships in Finland.
“He’s a horse. He just never gets tired,” Everett head coach Mark Ferner recently told the Vancouver Province. "What makes him such a special kid is how he treats people. He doesn’t get down. He doesn’t complain about anything. He goes about his business. He’s the hardest worker off the ice, he’s the hardest worker on the ice and he makes people around him better.”
Friday's game will be somewhat special for Brandon rookie Geordie Maguire. A former fifth round bantam draft choice of the Silvertips, the 17-year old Winnipegger was dealt to Brandon this past summer. In five games this season, the former Manitoba AAA Midget League scoring star has three assists and has registered a +3 plus/minus rating.
Fans attending Friday's game are encouraged to bring a food or cash donation to the game, in support of the annual FCC Drive Away Hunger Tour, presented by Heritage Co-op and its five western Manitoba locations in Brandon, Minnedosa, Erickson, Wawanesa and Sandy Lake.
Saturday's game vs Tri-Cities meanwhile is another Brandon Source for Sports - Subway Family Night. The $48 Source for Sports Family Pack, which is available only at its Brandon Avenue location, includes two adult and two youth tickets, 4 6" subs from Subway and four souvenir programs.
Puck drop both nights is 7:30pm.