Game Day: Wheaties make final stop in Calgary

Jason Pirie/

The Calgary Hitmen will look to cap a five-game homestand on a winning note this afternoon when the East Division-leading Brandon Wheat Kings pay their final visit of the season to the Scotiabank Saddledome.

With a taxing four-game B.C. road trip on the horizon, the Hitmen fully understand the magnitude of closing out this homestand on a positive note.

“They are flying on all cylinders now that they have everyone back in their lineup,” Hitmen head coach Mark French said. “They are a very skilled team that can be penalizing when you turn over the puck. They like to trade chances up and down the ice, so our goal will be not to get into a track meet with them. It’s an important game for us, especially with a long road trip that follows.”

The Wheat Kings are one of only two teams (Saskatoon being the other) in the Western Hockey League to boast a better winning percentage on the road than on home ice.

In fact, Brandon collected its lone ‘W’ of this season series at the ‘Dome after dropping the previous two meetings at Westman Place. The Hitmen (29-18-1-1) collected 3-2 and 6-4 victories in Brandon (31-14-2-2) while the Wheaties skated away from Calgary earlier this month with a 4-1 win.

“Every time we play Brandon it’s a hard-fought game,” said Hitmen forward Beck Malenstyn, who notched Calgary’s lone goal in his team’s last meeting with the Wheaties. “They have a lot of skill, but we feel we do as well. I think it’s going to be a tough battle but one that we’re really looking forward to.”

Tyler Coulter played hero for the Wheat Kings last night in Red Deer when he scored with only 1:21 remaining to ensure Brandon escaped with a 2-1 come-from-behind win. This afternoon’s tilt will be Brandon’s third game in as many days.

Rookie winger Andrew Fyten is eligible to return to the Hitmen lineup this afternoon after serving a four-game suspension for a check to the head in Swift Current on Jan. 15, while veteran winger Taylor Sanheim will be serving his fourth and final game of a suspension for supplemental discipline during a Jan. 16 game versus Edmonton.

Hitmen Home Record: 16-7-1-0

Wheat Kings Away Record: 17-7-1-0

Game Broadcasts: Sportsnet 960 The Fan, WHL Live

Season Series: Hitmen lead 2-1

Hitmen Leaders:
Goals – Jakob Stukel (26)
Assists – Radel Fazleev (32)
Points – Radel Fazleev (46)
Plus/Minus – Tyler Mrkonjic (+12)
Penalty Minutes – Taylor Sanheim (75)
Power Play Goals – Jakob Stukel (12)
Shorthanded Goals – Radel Fazleev (3)

Wheat Kings Leaders:
Goals – Reid Duke (26)
Assists – Nolan Patrick and Macoy Erkamps (37)
Points – Nolan Patrick (56)
Plus/Minus – Ivan Provorov (+33)
Penalty Minutes – Mitch Wheaton (52)
Power Play Goals – Nolan Patrick, Reid Duke and Jayce Hawryluk (6)
Shorthanded Goals – Tyler Coulter (2)

Hitmen to Watch:

Player Headshot

RW Tyler Mrkonjic – The 6’3” 200-pound two-way forward is coming off a career-high three-point game that led the Hitmen to a 4-1 home win on Friday over the Prince Albert Raiders. Acquired by the Hitmen in a trade with the Prince George Cougars in early November, the 19-year-old St. Albert native leads Calgary with a plus-12 rating. He has also scored a career-high 10 goals this season, with nine of those coming in 29 games as a Hitmen. His four game-winning markers trail only Jakob Stukel’s six for the team lead.

Wheat King to Watch:

Player Headshot

G Jordan Papirny – Edmonton Oil Kings left wing Andrew Koep finally solved the 19-year-old puckstopper on Friday night at 6:39 of the first period to put an end to his 131 minutes, eight seconds of shutout hockey. The reigning CHL Goaltender of the Week has blanked the opposition in three of his last six starts. An Edmonton native, Papirny has gone 20-13-2 overall this season with a 2.65 goals against average and .907 save percentage. His five shutouts this season are only one shy of matching the franchise record set by Tyler Plante in 2004-05, while his 11 career shutouts also put him behind Plante by one for the all-time franchise record.

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