Wheat Kings Host Red Hot Blades Friday
Brandon, MB. - Two red hot teams collide at Westoba Place tonight as the Brandon Wheat Kings play host to the second place Saskatoon Blades.
While the Wheat Kings will be putting a 5-game win streak on the line, the Blades have won seven straight games and have earned 24 points in their last thirteen games.
Saskatoon sits second in the Western Hockey League's Eastern Division with an impressive 37-13-8-0 record while Brandon is playing for its playoff lives.
Wednesday's impressive win over Calgary moved the Wheat Kings into a tie with Red Deer for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It also pulled them to within two points of the Hitmen and with less than a month remaining in the regular season, the Wheat Kings are just four back of the Medicine Hat Tigers, with a game in hand.
With Brandon set to play eight of its final ten regular season games on the road, including a stretch of seven straight, the Wheat Kings know the challenges that lie ahead.
"We've been understanding what it takes to win hockey games this time of year," 19-year old defenceman Zach Wytinck told the Brandon Sun's Thomas Friesen this week. "We're all buying into the way David (Anning) and Don (MacGillivray) want us to play. We're playing desperate hockey and playing with a lot of urgency, which is something we have to do. That's just the reality of the position we're in."
Saskatoon poses a number of challenges for the Wheat Kings, who enter the game with a record of 28-22-3-4.
The Blades have scored the third most goals in the league, while being one of the best teams when it comes to defending their goal. Netminder Nolan Maier remains among the league leaders with a sparkling 2.33 goals against average and a save percentage of .918.
The Blades possess a deep and balanced attack, led by veteran defenceman Dawson Davidson, Max Gerlach and Kirby Dach. Dawson leads the club in scoring with 66 points while Gerlach is among the league leaders with 36 goals.
Brandon captain Stelio Mattheos meanwhile is currently tied with Tristin Langan of Moose Jaw for second place in the WHL scoring race with 39 goals and 88 points. Only Portland's Joachim Blichfeld's 102 points this season is better.
19-year old netminder Jiri Patera, who has recorded all five victories in his club's recent surge, is expected to get the starting assignment again tonight. The Vegas Golden Knights' prospect is 19-7-7-1 this season, with a 3.14 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in 38 appearances.
Tonight is the sixth and final meeting of the season between the two clubs, with Saskatoon winning four of the first five. At Westoba Place however, Brandon is 1-1-0.
With the Tim Hortons Brier moving into the Keystone Centre next week, tonight's game will be the Wheat Kings final home game in nineteen days. Brandon's next home game is Wednesday, March 13th against Moose Jaw.
Speaking of Tim Hortons, they're tonight's Game Night Sponsor and in addition to entrance sampling and giveaways, they're mobile unit will be set up outside the east (ramp) entrance tonight, providing refreshments from 6-7:30pm.
Tickets to Friday night's game are on sale at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling (204) 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com.
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