Wheat Kings on a roll

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Codey Burki is liking the handle and feel of his Brandon Wheat Kings these days.

In fact, the 19-year-old Winnipeg native, who leads the Wheaties in scoring, sees no reason why they can't drive themselves all the way to a WHL championship two months down the road.

"This year's team reminds me a lot of two years ago," Burki said yesterday from Brandon. "We have around the same amount of points we did that year. We had 96 points at the end of the year, and right now we have 90, so it's a lot similar to that year.

"Hopefully we can go as far, if not further, this year than we did that year."

The team two years ago, which featured the likes of Eric Fehr, Ryan Stone, Lance Monych and Tim Konsorada, made it all the way to the WHL final before bowing out to the juggernaut Kelowna Rockets in five games.

Now it's Burki's team, and he has it red-hot entering the playoffs, which start next week. The Wheaties are 13-3-1 since Feb. 1, they locked up first place in the East Division two weeks ago, and they had a nine-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night in Swift Current.

Goaltender Tyler Plante is 9-2-1 with two shutouts since Feb. 1, Robert Klinkhammer has 29 points in 26 games since being acquired from Portland in January, and Mark Derlago, who leads the team with 43 goals, continues to dent the twine on a regular basis.

"Once we started winning three or four games in a row there, it just carried from there, and then we ended up winning nine in a row," Burki said. "It's just been good lately."

While most teams in their situation would be on cruise control right now, the Wheat Kings have the pedal to the metal.

"I don't know what it is," said Burki, a Colorado Avalanche draft pick. "I guess it's the chemistry on the lines. We've been putting some pucks in the net.

"Guys are happy to come to the rink. We stay out on the ice for a long time after practice, and we're just having fun."

Brandon, which boasts a 40-20-2-8 record, wraps up the regular season tomorrow and Saturday with a home-and-home series against the Regina Pats.

They're not sure after that, because their first-round opponent hasn't been determined yet. Going into last night's action, the Prince Albert Raiders, Moose Jaw Warriors or Saskatoon Blades were all still alive for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.

Burki said they're ready for anyone, thanks to their hot play of late and their home-ice advantage.

"It certainly gives you your confidence going into the playoffs, knowing that you finished first, and then having the home ice is an even bigger boost to the team," he said. "We're just going to hopefully take advantage of what we've got."


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