DUBNetwork Game of the Night: Brandon Wheat Kings (27-19-3-2) @ Saskatoon Blades (27-20-2-3) 7:00 PM
A home and home series begins tonight in Saskatoon, one that will have ramifications for the playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference and East Division. The teams have 59 points apiece, Brandon, by virtue of playing one less game, is currently in third in the East Division. The Saskatoon Blades are relegated to the second wild-card position.
The first wild card spot is occupied by the Calgary Hitmen who are just two points up on both Saskatoon and Brandon.
Saskatoon has fared better so far this season when these two teams clash, with a record of 2-0-0-1. Brandon is just 1-2-0-0.
Neither team has many injuries to worry about, Brandon is without Nolan Ritchie indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Saskatoon is just missing Charlie Wright who has been listed as day-to-day for some time.
Tristen Robins is having a beyond the development curve type of season. His 57 points are more than double he was able to achieve last season as a 17-year-old. This season he has 26 goals and 31 assists. Draft Eligible Kyle Crnkovic has done very well for himself as well showing scouts he is ready for them to take a chance on. He has 14 goals and 36 assists. Backing up his team with some beef is 20-year-old Riley McKay, he has 17 goals and 17 assists to go along with a team-leading 83 penalty minutes. He isn’t afraid to mix it up when needed.
Saskatoon also has some talented blueliners, both Scott Walford and Nolan Kneen are efficient on the power play and effective in their own end. Walford is a former Montreal Canadiens draft pick and has 11 goals and 32 assists. Kneen has done well in his final WHL eligible season with 10 goals and 20 assists.
Brandon also has a trio of good forwards, led by Colorado Avalanche draft pick Luka Burzan. The just turned 20 years old Burzan has 30 goals and 23 assists this season to lead the Wheat Kings. He is closely followed by 18-year-old Ben McCartney, he has 20 goals and 32 assists for the Black and Gold. Another just turned 20 years old player makes the Wheat Kings top-three with 25 goals and 19 assists, that player is Cole Reinhardt.
On defense, the Wheat Kings top duo is Chad Nychuk and Braden Schneider. 18-year-old Nychuk has five goals and 30 assists. Draft eligible Schneider has five goals and 27 assists. He is one of the top prospects available from the WHL for the upcoming NHL Draft.
With it being such an important game, it is likely the Wheat Kings use import goaltender Jiri Patera as their starting goalie this evening. He is 18-9-2-2 this season with a 2.67 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Ethan Kruger does give them another good option though as his numbers are comparable to Patera’s.
Saskatoon is likely to go with Nolan Maier between the pipes. The Blades’ number one netminder is 16-15-1-3 this season. His 3.17 goals-against average is of his pace from last year as is his .897 save percentage.
In other WHL action:
Winnipeg ICE (31-19-1-0) @ Swift Current Broncos (10-36-1-3) 7:00 PM
The ICE look to leap over the Prince Albert Raiders for the East Division lead. They are two points back with two games in hand over the Raiders. Swift Current is last in the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg is 3-0-0-0 against Swift Current this season, needing a shootout on one occasion.
Regina Pats (18-27-3-2) @ Calgary Hitmen (28-18-4-1) 7:00 PM
Following a five-game win streak, the Pats took one on the chin last night losing 7-0 to the Medicine Hat Tigers. They’ll look to turn things around meeting the Hitmen who have lost two straight. Regina is all but eliminated from playoff contention, 18 points behind the final spot. Calgary is 10 points behind Medicine Hat for third in the Central Division and holds onto the first wild card spot by two points.
Red Deer Rebels (18-29-2-3) @ Vancouver Giants (25-20-3-2) 7:00 PM
Red Deer is all but eliminated from playoff contention this season. They are playing the second of five games on the road as they tour the BC Division. Vancouver has put itself into a divisional playoff spot with their play of late, they have points in seven straight. They are now four points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets for third in the BC Division.
Tri-City Americans (15-30-4-1) @ Kelowna Rockets (23-25-1-2) 7:05 PM
Tonight is an intriguing matchup as the Rockets are welcoming back some of their injured players. They currently sit in the first wild card position in the Western Conference, six points behind the Vancouver Giants for third in the BC Division. Tri-City has fallen to last in the conference, four points behind the Prince George Cougars. Kelowna has won all three previous meetings.
Moose Jaw Warriors (12-34-3-0) @ Spokane Chiefs (30-17-4-1) 7:05 PM
The first game of the Warriors US Division road trip, the team will look to end a seven-game winless streak against a tough Spokane Chiefs team. The Chiefs have won five straight and are seven points back of the Everett Silvertips for second in the US Division. They also boast the WHL’s leading scorer, Adam Beckman who has 87 points.