Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Familiarity, Consistency Key Words for Bukarts

Rihards Bukarts
  Rihards Bukarts has one advantage heading into the 2014-2015 Wheat Kings' season that he didn't have a year ago.

  Familiarity!

  The 19-year old Latvian had to adjust to a new country, a new language and a new style of hockey when he arrived in Brandon 12 months ago.

  "Right now, I feel more comfortable here.  I have more confidence," said Bukarts this week, "It's my second year, I know the guys, I know the league and I know how I need to play here."

  Bukarts scored 28 goals and 54 points in 65 games last season but thinks that he can not only improve on those numbers, but can also become a more rounded player by refining his play in the defensive zone.

  The 5-foot-9, 192 pound Bukarts came to Canada with a goal of being drafted by an NHL team, and he says that goal is still foremost in his mind.

  "I was kind of disappointed because I didn't get drafted so this year will be more important for me. " said Bukarts, "I need to work way harder and be a leader on the team.  I want to just get drafted, that's the reason I came to Canada."

   Bukarts also thinks he needs to be more consistent that he was in 2013-2014.

  "Don't be like have a great game and, the next game, you can't even see me from the stands," said Bukarts, "I need to just be at one level, playing great hockey all season."

  Bukarts and the Wheat Kings will open the Western Hockey League's regular season Friday night when they host the Regina Pats (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...the Victoria Royals have pulled out of the bidding for the 2016 Memorial Cup Tournament, leaving the Red Deer Rebels and Vancouver Giants to duke it out for the hosting rights.  The WHL's Board of Governors will hear proposals and select a host site on October 8th...the Victoria Royals and head coach Dave Lowry of agreed on a multi-year contract extension.

Wheat Kings' Pro Camp Update

Peter Quenneville and the Columbus prospects won the
Traverse City tournament on Tuesday
  One down and five to go for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
  Goaltender Jordan Papirny participated in the Montreal Canadiens' Rookie Camp the last few days but was sent back to the Wheat Kings by the Habs on Tuesday.

  While Papirny will be back in time for play in Brandon's home opener Friday, five other members of the Wheat Kings remain on pro camps including Calgary prospect Eric Roy.

  Roy suffered a shoulder injury at the Young Stars' Tournament in Penticton last Friday and, according to Flames' GM Brad Treliving, is expected to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks.

  The defenceman wasn't the only Wheat King injured while at pro camp.

  Richard Nejezchleb suffered a lower body injury in his first game with the Rangers' prospects at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament last Friday and missed their final three games.

  On Tuesday at the Tournament, Wheat Kings' forward Peter Quenneville and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat Dallas 3-2 in overtime to claim the title.

  Quenneville had two goals in four games at the tournament.

  Also on Tuesday, Jayce Hawryluk scored a power-play goal to help the Florida Panthers beat Tampa Bay 6-3 and finish the Nashville Predators' Prospects Tournament with a perfect 3-and-0 record.

  And John Quenneville was on the ice for the first time at the New Jersey Devils' Rookie Camp Tuesday.

  It's quite likely none of the five players still away at pro camp will be back for the opening weekend of the Western Hockey League regular season this weekend.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pilon Sends Wheat Kings to OT Win

Logan Thompson made 35 saves in the Wheat Kings' net Sunday
  The Brandon Wheat Kings closed out their pre-season Sunday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors.

  Ryan Pilon scored 4:41 into extra time for Brandon, allowing the Wheat Kings to finish their pre-season with a 3-1-0-0 record.

  Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon said on CKLQ's post-game show that there's a lot to like about how they progressed through the pre-season.

  "Just our team game coming along in preparation for opening night has definitely gotten better," said McCrimmon, "Just guys understanding systems, structure, seeing when it works, seeing what happen when we don't have it."

  Brandon was outshot 17-5 and killed off three Moose Jaw power-plays in the first period of Sunday's contest but only found themselves down 1-0 through the opening 20 minutes.

  "The fact they we bent and didn't break likely was part of what allowed us to get back into the game," said McCrimmon, "A period like that, when you're outshot 17-5, you might be down 3-0 so I thought that was good for us."

  Logan Thompson made 35 saves in goign the distance in the Wheat Kings' net including 16 in the first period.

  "He was busy, he was relied on and had to make some real big saves," said McCrimmon, "It was a good opportunity for him to be a big part of the win, and I thought he played really well."

  Ryley Lindgren and Nolan Patrick also scored for Brandon in Sunday's contest, with Patrick also notching an assist to finish with a team-high seven points in four pre-season games.

  The Wheat Kings will open the regular season Friday when they host the Regina Pats (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

Chaff...D Eric Roy (shoulder) sat out Calgary's contest Saturday at the Young Stars' Tournament in Penticton, and is also expected to miss Monday's game.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Expectations Not Going to Wheat Kings' Heads

Eric Roy
  The expectations for the Brandon Wheat Kings this season got a lot higher this week.

  The club was ranked third in the Canadian Hockey League and #1 among Western Hockey League teams in the pre-season rankings released by the CHL on Wednesday.

  "Just because it says we're at the top of the league doesn't mean that we are," said Brandon centre Tim McGauley, "The season hasn't started yet so we have to prove outselves every time we're on the ice.  We have to practice has hard as we can, make sure out team is tight together and we need to go out there and prove to everyone that we can be a top competitor in this league."

  "All we can do is go out there and do our job," added defenecman Colton Waltz, "People are touting us very highly this year and all we can do is go out there and get wins."

  The CHL rankings are voted on by a panel of National Hockey League scouts, and are released on a weekly basis by the Canadian Hockey League.

  It's interesting to note that the 2013 pre-season rankings included the Portland Winterhawks (#3), Prince Albert Raiders (#6), Edmonton Oil Kings (#8) and Kootenay Ice (#10).

  The Winterhawks and Oil Kings went on to Conference titles and, in Edmonton's case, a WHL and Memorial Cup championship.

  The Raiders, meanwhile, struggled to an eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference before being swept in the first round of the playoffs and the Ice finished sixth in the East and advanced to the second round of the post-season.

Chaff...Wheat Kings' defenceman and Flames' prospect Eric Roy suffered a shoulder injury in the first period of Friday's game at the Young Stars Prospects Tournament in Penticton and did not return.  The 20-year old did not play in Saturday's contest.  It's tough luck for Roy, who also missed about a week at the Flames' Camp in 2013 due to an abdominal injury...Wheat Kings' F Peter Quenneville scored a power-play goal as Columbus beat Detroit 5-3 at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament on Saturday night.

Dechaine Headed to St. Albert

Josh Dechaine
  The Brandon Wheat Kings reduced their pre-season roster to 30 on Saturday, releasing goaltender Josh Dechaine.

  Dechaine saw action in two pre-season games with the Wheat Kings, recording a 4.00 goals against average and .833 save percentage in 60 minutes of action.

  The 16-year old is expected to spend the 2014-2015 season with the St. Albert Sports Raiders of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League.

  Dechaine's departure leaves second-year man Jordan Papirny and 17-year old rookie Logan Thompson as the two netminders on Brandon's roster.

  The Wheat Kings' conclude their pre-season by visiting the Moose Jaw Warriors on Sunday (5:00 p.m., 880 CKLQ).