The Richardson Pioneer Weyburn Red Wings are set for a busy weekend, with three games in four nights. The three games will also carry a lot of playoff implications, with two of the games against the Notre Dame Hounds, who are seven points back of the Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the SJHL.
“It’s obviously a huge game for both teams,” Red Wings head coach Cody Mapes said of the game Friday night at Crescent Point Place against the Hounds. “A lot like the Nipawin game I expect it to be tight checking, I expect it to be a one-bounce kind of game, so I guess we’ll see how it shakes out but we’re excited – these are why you come to the rink, these kinds of games.”
Coming into the game Friday night, the Red Wings continue to be one of the hottest teams in the SJHL. Since the start of the new year, the Wings have posted a record of 10-3-2-0. The points percentage of .733 in that span is the third highest in the league, behind only the Battlefords North Stars (.800) and the Humboldt Broncos (.785).
A big reason for the success of the Red Wings as of late has been their power play. In that same span, the power play has been clicking along at 15.3 percent, and in the month of February, it has been at 22.7 percent.
“I think it’s just reps, and we’ve paid a little more attention to it lately,” Mapes said of the success of the power play. “It’s obviously a pretty important part of the game.” He pointed to the efforts of players like Ty Mason, Ryley Morgan, Ian Maier and Blake Norris on the power play that have helped to bring those numbers up.
Goal scoring has also been something that has helped the Red Wings. For the first time since the 2018-19 season, someone on the Wings has broken the 20-goal mark, with Jacob Kalin and Jackson Hassman both having 20. At the current pace of scoring, Mason will likely hit 22, Morgan 24, with Kalin and Hassman getting 25 apiece.
The last time the Red Wings had four players score more than 20 goals in a season was back in 2011-12, when Jesse Ross, Coltyn Sanderson, Keegan Bruce and Miguel Pereira all broke the mark.
Since the start of the new year, the Red Wings have managed to put 59 pucks in the opposition's net. That works out to 3.93 per game. Before the Christmas break, the Red Wings had only scored 86 goals, or an average of 2.86 per game. The goals scored are the third most in the SJHL since January 1st, behind only the North Stars and Broncos. The goals per game for the Red Wings is also third in the league behind those two teams.
So how do the games this weekend have impacts on the playoff picture in the SJHL?
The games against the Hounds have the chance to open up the gap between the two teams to 11 points with two Red Wings wins. Then, there is the Yorkton Terriers, who are 14 points back of the Wings. A Terrier loss Saturday and three Weyburn wins will all but eliminate the Terriers from playoff contention, as the gap will be opened up to 20 points.
The Wings will also have a chance to make up some ground on the Nipawin Hawks for 7th place, and the Estevan Bruins for 6th place. Nipawin is currently four points up on the Wings, and is idle this weekend. Three wins will leapfrog the Wings ahead of the Hawks. The Bruins are coming into the weekend eight points on the Wings, and are in Humboldt for two games against the Broncos. A pair of Humboldt wins, and three Weyburn wins, will move the Wings up to within two points of the Bruins, while still holding two games in hand.
The game Friday will be at Crescent Point Place with the puck dropping at 7:00 p.m. The game Saturday against Yorkton will also be at 7:00 p.m. at Crescent Point Place. The weekend wraps up Monday at 5:00 p.m. against the Hounds in Wilcox.