Ben McCartney played his ‘AAA’ hockey near his hometown of MacDonald, Manitoba, with the Central Plains Capitals program. In the end, he only completed one season with the Capitals.
He then moved to the west coast as he joined the Okanagan Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team where he recorded 38 points (21G) in 27 games in 2015-16. That was impressive; however, McCartney really showed what he was made of the next season.
Playing with the White Prep team now, Ben scored 27 goals in 29 regular-season games and added 24 assists for a 51 point total. The next step for Ben was the Western Hockey League, and it’s a step that took place that year while he was tearing it up with Okanagan.
He made his Western Hockey League debut that season, playing in two regular-season games. He was also given an opportunity to play some playoff hockey and he certainly didn’t disappoint with two points in three games.
Three years later, Ben is starting to become a household name not only around the Wheat Kings dressing room but across the entire league.
McCartney has suited up in 42 games this year with the team and he’s racked up 16 goals and 27 assists, ranking him second in team scoring with the 43 points. Around the league, McCartney is in a tie for 32nd in scoring with Tristen Robins of Saskatoon.
“Things have been going pretty good individually. I’m happy with it,” said McCartney. “I’m happy with my production, but I know I can work on my own game and I have more to give. I won’t complain, but I know I have more.”
McCartney has been a significant reason why the Wheat Kings are doing so well. With a record of 24-17-1-2, Brandon is just four points back of the East Division lead currently held by Winnipeg. You may look at that record and think to yourself that it’s not outstanding; however, what Brandon has been doing of late sure is.
The Wheat Kings haven’t lost in 2020. They have won nine straight games and throughout the streak, they’ve scored 32 goals while they have only given up seven. Brandon has also shut out its opponent in four of the games.
“This is pretty awesome. It’s been pretty cold outside the past few weeks, but this win streak is warming things up,” said McCartney with a chuckle. “Everyone’s doing their job right now. There’s a lot of trust in the room and everyone’s on the same page. We’re doing it for each other.”
McCartney and the rest of the Wheat Kings will look to keep the streak going this weekend. They welcome Victoria to Westoba Place on Friday. On Saturday, they play the Lethbridge Hurricanes, also inside of Westoba Place. The ‘Canes are 27-11-2-5 and they’re second in the Central Division. Victoria, meanwhile, is second in the B.C. Division at 25-15-3.
“Both teams are really strong. We know it’s going to be tough,” continued McCartney. “We just need to continue playing how we know we can and good things will happen.”
“Every team is good in this league. You just have to play a full 60 minutes every night, and hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling,” he added.
So there’s no doubt that Brandon’s offence has come up in a big way lately. It’s averaging about 3.5 goals per game, but it’s the team’s defence and goaltending that is most impressive.
Seven of the wins have been credited to Jiri Patera who has been sensational. During the streak, he’s made 230 saves on 235 shots for a save percentage of .978. Patera is now fourth in the league with a .927 save percentage overall. He also ranks in a tie for second with four shutouts.
The other two wins have been while Ethan Kruger has been in net and he’s also been fantastic, stopping 63 of the 64 shots he’s faced. 40 of those shots came in a big 6-0 win against Moose Jaw in the team’s most recent game. Kruger now has three shutouts, tied for the fifth-most in the league.
“Jiri has been unbelievable lately; when there’s a breakdown, we can trust him to make a save,” said McCartney. “Ethan Kruger is also fantastic and he’s been really good for us.”
After this weekend, Brandon will head on the road to play four games in Alberta. They will play one each against Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, and Medicine Hat.