Thistles Prepare To Host Wheat Kings

Following a tough 6-2 loss to the EastMan Selects Sunday, the U18 ‘AAA’ Kenora Thistles are back home preparing for a weekend series against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The Wheat Kings, who finished the 2022/2023 regular season atop the Manitoba U18 ‘AAA’ Hockey League, come into the weekend series on a roll after winning both games opening weekend. Brandon topped with Winnipeg Wild 4-2 Friday in a revenge game from the playoffs last year, before beating the Yellowhead Chiefs 5-2 on Saturday.

Key for the Wheat Kings in both games were second-year players Brady Turko and Kaeson Fisher. Turko, who finished 2022/2023 with 43 points in 33 games, collected five points (one goal, four assists) over the weekend. Not to be outdone, Fisher followed up on his 25-point rookie campaign with an opening four points (one goal, three assists) in two games.

Both Brandon goaltenders saw action, and both were nearly identical in their perfromances. Matthew Michta stopped 22/24 shots Friday vs Winnipeg, while Burke Hood made 18/20 saves on Saturday against the Chiefs.

This years’ Brandon side is captained by third-year defenceman Owen Wallace, with second-years Ethan Stewart, Dustin Bell and Colten Worthington serving as assitant captains.

Last season, the Wheat Kings took the season series against the Thistles three games to one. They won both games in Brandon (November 19th and November 20th), while the two games in Kenora (February 11th and February 12th) were tightly-contested affairs that saw the two teams split the pair of one-goal-games.

In those games for the Wheat Kings, Turko had four points (three goals, one assist) while both Wallace and Worthington had three points each. Wallace had big impact during the four games in another way, as he collected 23 PIM. The majority of that time was a 5-minute-major and game misconduct near the end of the February 12th game in Kenora. The Thistles would score in overtime on that extended powerplay to claim the extra point.

One big x-factor for Brandon is whether or not they’ll have the services of Jaxon Jacobson this season, who is still currently with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Jacobson, a 2008-born forward, was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 WHL Bantam Draft following an impressive 2022/2023 season where he put up 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) in 44 games. In the four games against Kenora last year, Jacobson collected five points (two goals, three assists).

On the other side of the matchup, the Thistles are looking to rebound after a tough second game of the season in Beausejour against the EastMan Selects. Despite the loss, there were many good things to take from the game include a  strong performance between the pipes from Morgan Blackwood and first goals from both Cohl Elliott and Bo Gartzke.

Of the four returning players for Kenora, only Reidar Paquette recorded a point against Brandon in 2022/2023.

Cayson Lambert, a rookie who spent the 2022/2023 season with the Dryden PaperKings (U15), currently leads the Thistles with two points (two assists) in two games.

The two teams will play Saturday night (7:30pm CST puck drop) and Sunday afternoon (1:30pm CST puck drop) at the Moncrief Construction Sports Centre. Following this weekend, they will not meet again until Kenora makes the trip west for a pair of games in Brandon at the end of January.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors/youth, and will be available at the door for each game.

If you cannot make it out to either, the games will be broadcast live on FloHockey with Stuart Walter providing play-by-play commentary. The live stream will start before warm-ups (30 minutes before puck drop), with pre-game notes starting about ten minutes before puck drop.