Brandon Wheat Kings

Edmonton, AB — Sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference will be up for grabs Saturday night when the Brandon Wheat Kings close out a 4-game road trip in Red Deer against the Rebels.

Red Deer came from behind to beat the Western Conference leading Tri-City Americans 3-2 Friday night and that win, coupled with Brandon’s 6-2 loss to the Eastern Conference leading Oil Kings in Edmonton leaves the Wheat Kings just two points up on the Rebels entering Saturday night’s game.

Red Deer also enjoys three games in hand as the month of January draws to a close.

In Friday’s loss – Brandon’s tenth of the month – Henrik Samuelsson scored twice and Winnipeg’s Michael St. Croix had a goal and an assist as Edmonton scored three unanswered second period goals en route to their 33rd win of the season.

As for the Wheat Kings, whose January record slipped to 3-9-0-1 and 24-24-1-2 overall, Brenden Walker scored in the first and Michael Ferland rounded out the scoring in the third when Brandon was down by five goals.

The Wheat Kings poor second period was nothing new to the team, that has been outscored to the tune of 31-10 in ten of thirteen games this month.

“After one, I thought we were fine…I thought we were right with them,” Brandon assistant coach Darren Ritchie told CKLQ’s Bruce Luebke on Friday’s post game show. “We get the early goal there, the nice power-play goal to start the second, and they came right back the next shift and scored. We gave up 17 shots in the second period and, right now, our second period’s killing us.”

Rookie Curtis Honey got the starting assignment in goal but was pulled after forty minutes of play and replaced with Corbin Boes. Boes, who was chased from the net in Wednesday’s lopsided loss to Calgary, gave up one goal on 15 shots during the third period.

Brandon was again outshot by a wide margin Friday – 44-27 – and the Wheat Kings are on pace to give up the most shots and goals against in the last fifteen years.

With less than two months remaining in the 2011-12 regular season, the Wheat Kings are shooting for a franchise record 12th straight playoff appearance. Brandon has qualified for post-season play in eighteen of the last 19 seasons. The only year that the Wheat Kings failed to make it was 1999-2000 when an injury riddled team finished with a record of 25-43-4.

Following Saturday’s “4 pointer” in Red Deer, the Wheat Kings will return home where they will play host to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday night.