The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings return to the ice tonight, after a lengthy Christmas break that started after a 4-2 win at home over the Yorkton Terriers on December 16th. They will be hosting the Estevan Bruins at Crescent Point Place as the Highway 39 rivalry resumes with the fourth meeting of the year between the two squads.
This year, the season series has been dominated by the Red Wings, who have won all three previous matchups. A Red Wings win will also secure the Chief’s Cup, which is the trophy presented by the Chiefs of Police of Weyburn and Estevan to the winner of the annual season series.
The two teams are currently tied for first place in the Viterra Division, although on paper, the Red Wings are first as they have a better win percentage, sitting with a record of 12-12-0-4. The Bruins have a record of 13-14-0-2.
With the Red Wings at the halfway mark of the season, with 28 games remaining between now and March 16th, let’s look at the numbers over the first half of the year.
Heading into the new year, the Red Wings are being led point-wise by Jerome Maharaj. In 28 games played, he has scored 12 goals and amassed 31 points in total. Right behind him is captain Max Monette, who leads the squad with 14 markers, and has 29 points in total.
Coming into the season, the message was the Red Wings would need to score by committee, and that is pretty much how they have been scoring this year. There are just four skaters who have not recorded a goal this year, and all four have played in less than 20 games this season. There have been 20 players overall who have scored for the Red Wings this year as well.
When it comes to the goaltending for the Red Wings, Dazza Mitchell has been leading the way. He has picked up one shutout, and 10 wins in 22 appearances this season, and comes into the back half of the campaign with a 3.58 goals-against average and a save percentage of .907. The Red Wings have also found some stellar play from Angelo Zol, acquired by the team late in the 2023 calendar year. In his two games played, he has a GAA of 3.50 and a save percentage of .932.
The Red Wings will have a lot of time at Crescent Point Place in the second half of the season, with 16 games at home. This is the most of all the teams in the league and will give them an advantage in the push to lock down a playoff spot in what will be a logjam behind third place. Weyburn is 6-4-0-2 at home this season and has scored, on average, four goals a game at CPP.
When it comes to discipline, Weyburn has had some trouble staying out of the box. They lead the league with 869 penalty minutes and are the only team in the league with more than 800 PIMs. They do, however, also draw a lot of penalties, with their opponents picking up in total 784 penalty minutes, or an average of 28 minutes a game.
The man advantage has been important for Weyburn, especially at home. They have had the man advantage 51 times on home ice this season, scoring on 13 of them with a percentage of 25.5 percent. Overall, they are 28-for-131 on the year, with a percentage of 21.4.
When the Red Wings are shorthanded, they have been just as strong, especially at home. Their penalty kill is working at an efficiency of 82.4 percent at home, and 79.3 percent overall. They have also scored eight shorthanded goals this year, the third most in the league.
When the Red Wings score has been instrumental to their success too. When they score the first goal in the game, the Red Wings have a record of 5-3. They are also strong in the third period, with over a third of their goals this year coming in the final period of regulation. They also rarely give up a lead when they have it, with Weyburn posting a record of 5-1-0-0 when leading after the first, and 7-0-0-1 when leading after two. If they are tied heading after the first period, they are 5-2-0-1 after 20 minutes, and 5-1-0-2 after 40. Where there is some room for improvement is coming back from a deficit, with the Red Wings only rallying back from a deficit after 20 minutes twice this season, and they haven’t come back to win if they are trailing after 40 minutes all year.
The remainder of the schedule will also have the Red Wings facing some new opponents. They have yet to play the Melville Millionaires this year and will face them six times over the next three months, with the first game happening on Saturday night. They also have four more games against the Kindersley Klippers, a squad they have already picked up two wins over so far this year. There are also four games against the La Ronge Ice Wolves on deck, with the first happening at Crescent Point Place next Friday.
It should make for an action-packed finish to the season, with 28 games over 71 days. It all starts tonight as the Estevan Bruins come to Crescent Point Place. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m.