Medicine Hat, AB. – The Brandon Wheat Kings kick off a 7-game Western Hockey League road trip – their longest of the 2012-13 season – Tuesday night in Medicine Hat against the Tigers.
Losers of back to back weekend games against the visiting Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans, the 5-3-1-0 Wheat Kings will be hoping to kick off the thirteen day excursion on a winning note.
The Tigers, who were 3-1-0 against the Wheat Kings in four games against one another last season, enter the game with a record of 4-6-1-0 and coming off a weekend split. After downing the visiting Prince George Cougars 7-2 on Saturday, Medicine Hat was doubled 6-3 by the Saskatoon Blades on Sunday.
Brandon has ten players making this trip for the first time, including 16-year old rookie Jayce Hawryluk.
“I’m just super excited,” the Roblin product told CKLQ’s Bruce Luebke. “It’s nice to get away for a couple of weeks. I have family down there that are going to come and watch so I’m just excited.”
While Hawryluk is one of nine rookies on the trip, veteran Jens Meilleur is making the trip for the first time after missing the last two because of injury.
Two keys Tuesday night might be the play of the Wheat Kings’ powerplay as well as how successful they are in shutting down Tigers’ scoring star Hunter Shinkaruk. The 18-year old Calgary product, who finished among the league leaders last season with 49 goals and 91 points, has continued his point a game pace throughout the first eleven games of the season and enters the game approaching a career milestone. He currently has 145 points, including 69 goals in 140 career WHL games. This year, he has six goals and 12 points.
After getting off to a great start this year, Brandon’s powerplay struggled on its recent home stand. During that time, the Wheat Kings were 2 for 19. Overall, Brandon’s special teams are ranked 14th (powerplay) and 17th (penalty killing) at 19% and 72.5% respectively.
Leading the Wheat Kings in scoring as they begin this extended tour of western Canada are blueliner Ryan Pulock and veteran center Nick Buonassisi. Both have twelve points through the first nine games. Pulock is currently second in scoring among WHL blueliners, trailing Myles Bell of the Kamloops Blazers by five points.
Tonight’s game is an 8pm CST start in Medicine Hat, with the pre-game show on 880 CKLQ scheduled for 7:30pm.
Following tonight’s game, the Wheat Kings will travel to Lethbridge to meet the Hurricanes on Wednesday. Their 5-game tour of the B.C. Division will begin this weekend with games in Kelowna (Saturday night), Victoria (Tuesday, Oct. 23rd), Vancouver (Wednesday, Oct. 24th), Kamloops (Friday, Oct. 26th) and Prince George (Saturday, Oct. 27th).
Brandon doesn’t return home until Friday, November 2nd when they play host to Eastern Division rival Moose Jaw. Tickets to all remaining home games are on sale now at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com