After taking a tough loss to a pretty good Humboldt squad in their first game of 2023 back on January 2nd, the U15 AA West Central Wheat Kings have collected points in each of their past three games as they work towards a playoff spot.
On January 7th they took down the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-1, the next day saw a 2-2 tie against Martensville, and then about a week later the Wheat Kings won 4-1 over the Northeast Wolfpack with all of the action taking place on home ice. Those games took place at the Kerrobert Memorial Arena, West Central Events Centre in Kindersley, and Unity Community Centre respectively as the West Central nature of the team stays strong.
Their next opportunity to jockey up the standings will be tomorrow night in Saskatoon, as we talked with coach Larry Wintoneak about the road ahead.
"I really like the way we have started our second half here. I know we lost to Humboldt there, but they are a good hockey team and the last few games we did get some points," said Wintoneak, who believes the team can turn another corner soon, "I always revert back to what you do after Christmas, than before Christmas, because that's kind of a development period."
Wintoneak compared the team's situation this year to the one prior, where they made a playoff run as a lower seed. The coach wants to see a similar effort during the back-half of this season as he recalled the 12-2 stretch that aided them into a playoff team no-one wanted to face.
"We got in at 7th, knocked off the number two seed, and then lost both games to Martensville in double overtime," said Wintoneak, "We were right there. Anyone can win it, the most important thing is to get into the playoffs and then you go from there."
This year's Wheat Kings team is led up front by Sask First Top 80 tournament selection Tristan Mitchell-McElhone, who has an even 13 goals and 13 assists over 18 games played. Mitchell-McElhone received praise from his coach along with one of the team's goaltenders in Jaden Blanchette, as both players are just some of the Wheat Kings talent that Wintoneak feels could open up some eyes at the next level.
"We have some good kids that will probably be on a watch list for the Western league or something like that," said Wintoneak as he is well aware last year's team didn't have any draft picks, but wanted to share the good stories of kids like the Perlingers in Swift Current who have made waves for themselves despite not going the average route.
As mentioned the team's next action is tomorrow in Saskatoon, the first of a three game road trip as you can see their opponents below: