Brandon, MB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings will be hoping to extend their winning streak to five games Friday night but in order to do it, they will need to beat the number one ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.
The Prince Albert Raiders bring an incredible 26-1-0-1 record into Westoba Place Friday night, hoping to bounce back from Tuesday’s overtime shootout loss to the Broncos in Swift Current.
The loss snapped the Raiders 19-game win streak, which included a 6-0 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon in mid November.
Since losing to the Raiders on November 17th, the Wheat Kings meanwhile have compiled a 4-2-0 record, with all four victories coming in the past ten days.
Thanks to the club’s recent surge, Brandon has improved its record to 14-7-3-3 on the season, good for fourth place in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Division and seventh in the Conference. The Wheat Kings currently trail Moose Jaw, Lethbridge and Edmonton by a single point and lead the Medicine Hat Tigers by three.
Tonight’s game is the first of a weekend home and home series between the Wheat Kings and Raiders, who set a franchise record with that 19-game win streak. During the 1,140 minutes of game action from the nineteen wins, the Raiders only trailed for seventeen minutes. Over that span, Prince Albert averaged 5.1 goals per game and outscored its opponents 97-31 in the process. Ten different Raiders scored game winning goals, led by Brett Leeson’s six. Ian Scott meanwhile won sixteen of the games between the pipes, posting a 1.50 goals against average, a .946 save percentage and four shutouts.
Leeson and Scott, who have both been invited to Hockey Canada’s National Junior Selection Camp in Victoria, lead all scorers and goalkeepers through the first 28 games of the regular season.
Going into the weekend series with Brandon, Leeson is tied with Edmonton’s Trey Fix-Wolansky with 61 points in 28 games, including a league leading 28 goals, Scott is on top of the netminding stats, having posted a 1.62 goals against average and a .942 save percentage in 24 appearances.
While Scott has been outstanding this season, the same can be said for Brandon netminder Jiri Patera.
The Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect has played in 22 of Brandon’s 27 games this season, compiling a 2.84 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. Patera, who will be attending the Czech Republic Junior Selection Camp in Vancouver next week, is coming off Tuesday’s 40-save performance against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
What makes his record even more impressive is the fact that he’s serving as the last line of defence behind a blueline core that features four rookies and four veterans, including Schael Higson and Braden Schneider. While Schneider remains out with a lower body injury, Higson has just returned to the lineup and did not play the last time these two teams met.
Offensively, captain Stelio Mattheos continues to set the pace for the Wheat Kings. Currently sitting tied for seventh with Everett’s Connor Dewar in the league scoring race, the 19-year old Winnipegger has 23 goals and 42 points in 27 games. Luka Burzan is second in team scoring with seventeen goals and 31 points and thanks to his strong November, he was chosen the TELUS Player of the Month.
Burzan enters the weekend series needing two points to reach the 100-point plateau in his WHL career while Higson is 25 games shy of 300.
Veteran Linden McCorrister goes into Friday’s game as the hottest Wheat King of late, having scored five goals and six points in his last three games. Overall, the Peguis, Manitoba product has nine goals and 19 points in 25 games.
This marks the second to last weekend of play for both teams before Christmas. Following Saturday’s game in Prince Albert, the Wheat Kings will return home and prepare for next weekend’s home and home with Saskatoon.
Next Saturday’s game – at Westoba Place – will feature the annual Teddy Bear & Toque Toss, presented by Shoppers Mall.
Tickets to both pre-Christmas home games are on sale now at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling (204) 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com
Friday night’s game is a presentation of Craftsman.