The Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg ICE have begun their respective Western Hockey League seasons in two very different ways. For Brandon it was a walloping from the club’s provincial rival, while Winnipeg could not have started the year any better.
Putting up 17 total goals in the two contests against the Wheat Kings, the ICE looked like a dominant team ready to take on the world. Roasting Brandon for 10 goals against on opening night, Winnipeg picked up a 10-2 victory at Westoba Place in the Wheat City.
The teams then travelled to Manitoba’s capital for the second game of the back-to-back on Saturday, where a similar result was found. Although unable to replicate hitting double digits on the scoreboard this time, Winnipeg put seven pucks in the Wheat Kings’ net, en route to another blowout victory, 7-1.
It was an uncharacteristically poor start from Brandon, which only picked up three goals in the 120 minutes of hockey, while conceding 17. Working against the Wheat Kings was the fact that the team was unable to dress a full lineup on Saturday, while forced to go without some of its star players who were still in NHL camps. Nathan Salame, Jake Chiasson and Marcus Kallionkieli also did not suit up due to injury.
“They played four lines and we played two-and-a-half,” MacGillivray said following Saturday’s game. “It’s going to catch up to you at some point. We’re not the team that we’re going to be, however, there are certain things we have to get better at. Fatigue factored into this game for sure, mistakes factored into this game for sure, their team factored into this game for sure… All those things combined makes it a tough night for us.”
Outshooting the Wheat Kings a combined 88-40 over the weekend series (49-22 Friday, 39-18 Saturday), the ICE put a compelling offensive product on display. Brandon goaltender Ethan Kruger did not fare well against Winnipeg, as he was able to turn aside just 59 of 72 shots, while giving up 13 total goals and being removed from action both games.
Daniel Hauser, on the other hand, stopped 37 of 40 shots for the ICE while picking up back-to-back victories for Winnipeg.
Despite scoring in both games for Brandon, Nolan Ritchie finished the two-game series a -8, with two goals. Riley Ginnell had the other Wheat Kings goal this weekend. Owen Pederson currently leads the ICE with three goals and six points, while Mikey Milne isn’t far behind with two goals and five points. Skyler Bruce (3), Connor McClennon (2) and Conor Geekie (2) also have recored multiple goals on the season.
The Wheat Kings have travelled back to Brandon, where they will look to get on track for games three, four and five of the season, which occur on back-to-back-to-back days this weekend. Suiting up against the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades at home on Friday and Saturday, the Wheat Kings will then travel to Regina for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Pats.
Winnipeg will host Regina on Wednesday, before seeing the Raiders on Saturday, also from home. The Wheat Kings and ICE will meet up another eight times before the 2021-22 season comes to a close in early April.