Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wheat Kings' Notebook

Ivan Provorov (left) and Ryan Pilon are headed to the CHL Top Prospects Game
  The 40 players that'll participate in the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects Game were announced on Wednesday, with two members of the Brandon Wheat Kings making the grade.

  Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon will be headed to St. Catherines, Ontario for the January 22nd contest.

  Whether by design or not, the duo will both play for Team Orr, which will give the coaching staff the clear opportunity to play them together as a defence pair, just as they've been throughout the season with the Wheat Kings.

  As I expected, Provorov has been sky-rocketing up a lot of rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft after an impressive first half that sees him be second in defencemen scoring and tops in rookie scoring in the WHL with 10 goals and 37 points.

  The 6-foot-0, 200 pound Provorov is now seen by most as a potential Top-10 pick after being ranked in the 20's initially this season.

  Pilon is seen as a Top-50 pick, something that could change with a strong second half.

  The 6-foot-2, 212 pound Pilon has six goals and 27 points in 31 games this season and seemed to finish the first half strongly after initially taking what looked to be a step back after returning from an injury that caused him to miss four games in late October and early November.

  Provorov is also with the Russian team at their training camp in advance of the World Junior Hockey Championship and is a candidate to play at the 2015 tournament when it opens on Boxing Day.

Jarrod Gourley is one of seven Wheat Kings' prospects
that'll play at the 2015 Canada Winter Games

  The Brandon Wheat Kings will have seven prospects play at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George in February.

  Hockey Manitoba finally finalized their roster on Thursday, with first overall pick Stelio Mattheos, fifth round pick Connor Gutenberg and sixth round pick James McIsaac all making the grade.

  Mattheos is currently sidelined with an apparent hip injury and didn't participate in the Shattuck-St. Mary's Jamboree Tournament with Team Manitoba this past weekend.

  He's currently got 12 goals and 21 points in 22 games with the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League's Winnipeg Wild this season.

  Gutenberg has 14 goals and 26 points in 23 games with his hometown Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings while McIsaac has six goals and 12 points in 22 games with the Winnipeg AAA Midget Thrashers.

  Fifth round pick, goaltender Hunter Arps, will play for Team Saskatchewan at the Games while defencemen Ian Mitchell and Jarrod Gourley and forward Jeremy Klessens will play for Team Alberta.

  Mitchell, Gourley and Klessens were Brandon's second, third and fourth round picks respectively in the 2014 Bantam Draft.

  A fantastic first half for Wheat Kings' centre Tim McGauley, who enters the WHL's Christmas break as one of only six players in the league with 20 or more goals this season.

  McGauley's 22 goals have him tied for 4th in the WHL

  "I think I'm playing the same way I have the last couple of years, just maybe driving the net a little more, shooting the puck a little more here and there," said McGauley in an interview that aired during our Wheat Kings' broadcast on Tuesday, "I've been playing the right way and the bounces have been going my way, really.  I've been playing defence first and focusing on that, and it's been leading to offence for me.  It's been working for me, obviously."

  McGauley is in the Top-10 in several offensive categories including points (44, tied for 7th), game-winning goals (6, 2nd), shorthanded goals (3, tied for 3rd), first goals (4, tied for 8th) and overtime goals (2, tied for 1st).


  The Wheat Kings finished the first half of the season with a 24-7-3-1 record for 52 points, two points ahead of second-place Medicine Hat in the Eastern Conference standings and ten points ahead of second-place Regina in the East Division standings.

  Overall, the club has to be happy with where they sit at the Christmas break but, as I've talked about a few times on our broadcasts, there are still some intangibles the team needs to become better at to become an elite team.

  Tuesday's game against Regina was a perfect example, as the club came off back-to-back great efforts against Swift Current and Red Deer and then threw out an absolute dud against the Pats.

  With Brandon's success, it's easy to forget they are still the third-youngest team in the WHL and a lot of their players are still developing.

  There are some things championship-calibre teams do to become championship-calibre teams, and it's some of those things, the intangibles, the Wheat Kings are still trying to work out.

  The countdown is on to the Western Hockey League trade deadline on January 10th, but I'll be surprised if the Wheat Kings make a major move.

  Something in terms of a smaller move, perhaps to fill their open 20-year old spot, would be something I would expect.

  Scanning the other teams in the WHL, here are three players that I might target at the deadline.

  Saskatoon's Brett Stovin, Prince George's Chance Braid and Seattle's Justin Hickman are all players I believe would add an element or grit and toughness to the squad for the second half and the playoffs.

  Time will tell if there's a match for the Wheat Kings with those three teams, or anyone else for that matter.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Losing Note for First Half Finale

Tim McGauley had a pair of goals for Brando on Tuesday

  The Brandon Wheat Kings closed out their first half schedule with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Regina Pats on Tuesday night.
  Connor Gay scored 3:24 into overtime for the Pats while Tim McGauley scored a pair of goals for Brandon to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games.
  Nolan Patrick, John Quenneville and Ryan Pilon also scored for the Wheat Kings, who led by two goals four times in the contest.
  “We just never got rid of them.  We had the 2-0 lead, they made it 2-1.  We had a 3-1 lead, they made it 3-2,” said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, “We had a 4-2 lead, they made it 4-3.  5-3 lead, and then didn’t have the ability to regain the lead.  That’s where the pattern broke and, at the end of the night, it’s a disappointing loss.”
  It was a surprising effort for the Wheat Kings considering how well the team had played in back-to-back wins over Swift Current and Red Deer this past weekend.
  However, the club failed to gain traction through much of the contest, particularly in the third period and overtime when the Pats outshot Brandon 21-5.
   “I don’t know if this is something that happens the last game before the break, if it’s focus issue or what it is,” added McCrimmon, “I don’t think there’s any excuse that’s acceptable for letting a game like that get away when you’re leading 2-0 after two shifts in the hockey game.  If that can’t lead to playing a solid game on home-ice, I don’t know what will.”
  Morgan Klimchuk and Braden Christoffer had a goal and two assists each for the Pats while Sergey Zborovskiy and Austin Wagner also scored for Regina.
  Daniel Wapple made 27 saves for the Pats while Jordan Papirny stopped 33 shots for Brandon.
  The Wheat Kings finish the first half of their season with a 24-7-3-1 record and sit atop the Eastern Conference with a four-point lead over second-place Medicine Hat.
  Brandon’s next game is December 27th, when they open a home-and-home series by visiting the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Chaff...Brandon scratches were F Jayce Hawryluk (lower body), F Jesse Gabrielle (upper body), D Kale Clague (upper body) and D Mark Taraschuk (healthy)...McGauley was 14 goals goals and 23 poins during this 12-game point-scoring streak...Patrick’s goal was his 14th of the season, tops among all WHL rookies...Reid Duke’s second period assist was the 100th point of his WHL career.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Lewis Relished Wheat Kings' Debut

Ty Lewis made his Wheat Kings' debut Sunday
  Ty Lewis made his long-waited Wheat Kings' debut Sunday in the Brandon Wheat Kings' 4-0 shutout of the Red Deer Rebels.

  The 16-year old Lewis suffered a broken arm in training camp and re-injured the limb during his initial rehabilitation about a month later, sidelining him for the first 33 games of the regular season.

  "Obviously, growing up in Brandon, you always picture and dream of playing for the Wheat Kings some day.  It was nice to get back playing after being out for so long," said Lewis after the Wheat Kings' practice on Monday, "A little nervous to start but as the game moved along, I got used to it a little more and felt a little more comfortable.  I kind of know what to expect now and should be fine from here on out."

  Lewis, Brandon's third round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, didn't find out he would be making his debut Sunday until after Jesse Gabrielle was scratched after taking warmup.

  "There wasn't much time to get nervous.  All you can do is just prepare for the game the best you can.  Obviously, it's nice to get playing again, I was excited to hear that," said the 5-foot-10, 176 pound Lewis, "After the first couple of shifts, I got the jitters out and after that, I think it went all right."

  Lewis, who had 28 goals and 57 points in 38 games with the Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings last season, could play in his second game Tuesday when the Wheat Kings host the Regina Pats (7:00 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Jesse Gabrielle and Rihards Bukarts both sat out Brandon's practice on Monday while Jayce Hawryluk skated in a no-contact jersey after practice was over.

  Brandon (24-7-2-1) has a three-point lead over second-place Medicine Hat in the Eastern Conference standings entering Tuesday's contest, and are 12 points ahead of second-place Regina in the East Division standings.

Chaff...Brandon G Jordan Papirny was named the WHL nominee for the CHL Goaltender of the Week award Monday.  Papirny stopped 52 of 54 shots in two starts last week...the Pats should have Morgan Klimchuk back in their lineup Tuesday after he was released by the Canadian Junior Team on Sunday...Brandon F Tim McGauley takes an 11-game point-scoring streak (12 G, 9 A) into Tuesday's contest...Wheat Kings' D Ivan Provorov leaves Wednesday for the Russian Jr. team training camp ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Mumps Not Concerning Wheat Kings, Yet

Wheat Kings' GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon says there's
no concerns about the mumps for the team at this point
  Western Hockey League teams are monitoring the mumps outbreak in the National Hockey League, but they don't appear to be overly concerned about it crossing over into the junior ranks.

  Brandon Wheat Kings' GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon says they normally take precautions to prevent the spread of other illnesses like the flu, but haven't done anything extra because of the mumps outbreak in the NHL.

  "Just in communication with our training staff and with our team doctors and I think at this point, they don't feel there's anything that needs to be done," said McCrimmon, "That's probably the course of action that we'll take."

  More than a dozen NHL players including Pittsburgh Penguins' star Sidney Crosby have been diagnosed with the mumps over the last few weeks, but it hasn't reach the junior ranks as of yet.

  "The biggest challenge that our team has and has had and deals with pretty much each year is when you get flu going through your team," added McCrimmon, "That's the more common challenge that temas in our league are faced with on an annual basis."

  Members of Canada's world junior team received booster shots to vaccinate against the mumps on Monday.

  "I think we got to be careful,'' head coach Benoit Groulx said, "It's better to be precautionary than having a problem after. It's more precautionary than anything else.''

  Those infected with mumps can have a fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite, followed by the swelling of salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Wheat Kings Blank Rebels

Teammates congratulate Jordan Papirny at the end of
Sunday's contest
  Jordan Papirny stopped 23 shots as the Brandon Wheat Kings blanked the Red Deer Rebels 4-0 on Sunday.

  Tim McGauley scored twice in a span of 42 seconds in the third period for Brandon to extend his point streak to 11 games while John Quenneville scored a first period power-play goal and added an assist for the Wheat Kings.

  "When your team has a shutout, it's a reflection on every single guy that played in the game, they made a contribution to the win," said Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon on CKLQ's post-game show, "I thought it was a funny game. I thought our defence competed hard below the hashmarks, it was a hard-fought game along the boards and I thought (Papirny) made the saves that he needed to."

  Papirny came close to his second shutout of the season and third of his career Friday, when Brandon downed Swift Current 4-2 with the Broncos scoring twice in the final four minutes of that contest.

  He wasn't to be denied on Sunday, getting the benefit of a Connor Bleackley shot off the cross bar in the second period and making his best stop of night about nine minutes into the third period, a sprawling glove save on Red Deer's Grayson Pawlenchuk.

  "We didn't give up too many scoring chances the whole game. As a goalie that's really good and it helps you out in the long run," said Papirny, "The boys were playing really good defence tonight and it really helps me out back there."
John Quenneville had a goal and an assist Sunday

  Reid Duke also scored for Brandon, extending the Wheat Kings' lead to 2-0 with his 10th of the season 1:31 into the middle frame.

  Another key for Brandon was a perfect penalty-kill, going 6-for-6 in an over-officiated game and keeping their opponents from scoring a power-play goal for just the 11th time in 34 games this season.

  The victory improved the Wheat Kings' record to 24-7-2-1 and leaves the team with a three-point lead over second-place Medicine Hat in the Eastern Conference standings.

  "It's important to go into the break on a high note, and also to have the separation between the teams below you.  We always talk about that in the room and it's going well," said Papirny, "We're excited to play our last game here and head into the break on a high note."

  Brandon closes out their first half schedule by hosting the Regina Pats on Tuesday night (7 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...Brandon played Sunday without forwards Jayce Hawryluk and Jesse Gabrielle.  Gabrielle was scratched after warmup with an upper body injury, paving the way for Ty Lewis to make his Wheat Kings' and WHL debut, while Hawryluk missed his second straight game with a lower body injury...D Kale Clague (upper body) and D Mark Matsuba (healthy) were Brandon's other two scratches...Boissevain product Meyer Nell of the Rebels snapped a 17-game goalless streak Saturday when he scored his 7th of the season in Red Deer's 4-1 victory in Moose Jaw...the Rebels acquired D Nelson Nogier, 18, and F Austin Adamson, 18, from Saskatoon just before Sunday's game.  Red Deer sends F Mason McCarty, 17, a second round pick in 2015 and a first round pick in 2016 to the Blades...the Canadian Junior team released five players on Sunday including Elkhorn product Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen and Regina Pats' forward Morgan Klimchuk.