This weekend marked the exact halfway point of the season for the Weyburn Red Wings. 29 games have come and gone on the 2018–19 SJHL season and the Red Wings sit with a record of 10–16–3.
Their first half was marred by injuries and the wheels fell off after a hot start to the season. In fact, the Wings have had just a couple of games since the end of September with an entirely healthy lineup. Veterans Sean Olson, Zac Gladu, Jordan Kazymyra, Burke Johnstone and Connor Pyne have all missed time this season, which was a big part of the 10-game losing streak.
General Manager Tanner McCall made some calls and swung some deals to add some depth and the Red Wings have played some good hockey in the last little while (minus a pair of disappointing games to kick off the road trip last week). Newcomers Drew Anderson and Eric Soar have shown great qualities and many still believe this Wings squad has the horses to turn things around after Christmas.
With plenty of in-division matchups to go and of course, the remaining 10 games with the Estevan Bruins, the Red Wings find themselves still within striking distance for the Viterra division crown. A roller-coaster first half of the year has come and gone, but now we look back at the opening 29 games.
Most Valuable Player: Cade Kowalski
An easy choice for the Red Wings so far. The captain is tied for the team lead in goals with 13, leads in points with 36 (also good for 8th in league scoring) and has scored many clutch goals already.
Kowalski is making the most of his final season of Junior A and has paced the offence all year. Look for him to continue his tear in the second half as the Wings try to climb the standings.
Top Rookie: Jacob Piller & Rhett Frey
You could make the argument for both here as both 18-year-olds have made a handful of contributions. Piller leads the Wings in rookie scoring with four goals and eight points. His large frame and physicality have earned him powerplay minutes and a role on the second line for most of the season.
Frey, on the other hand, plays a more checking role and he does it very well. He has appeared in all 29 games this season and never takes a shift off. He kills penalties and is good in the faceoff circle as well, while also chipping in four points and a pair of goals. He, along with Will Cruise and Burke Johnstone, have formed a fourth line that is tough to play against.
Top Defenceman & Breakout Player: Carson Scheschuk
The 19-year-old Wadena native has been a huge bright spot this season. He's been one of the most consistent Red Wings so far and has earned the trust of the coaching staff. He plays with a lot of intelligence and jumps in the rush at very opportune times.
Scheschuk plays a lot of minutes on the top pairing and has enjoyed a breakout season offensively, too. His eight goals and 16 points are tied for third on the team and puts him second in the league among defencemen goal scoring.
Brass Knuckles Award: Riley Lamb
The top fighter on the team could go to a handful of Red Wings, with Ty Brown, Garrett Szeremley, Tristan Petrie and recently Mkyllan Couture have all shown they're capable with their mitts off.
But we've all seen the early season goalie fight involving Lamb and the lickin' he laid on Pierce Diamond. Players will definitely think twice when getting in Lamb's crease.
Best Game: Weyburn 3, Notre Dame 2 (November 10)
It was easily one of the most thrilling games of the Wings season. Down 1–0 for most of the game, the Red Wings score with the man advantage in the third period to tie it at one, before the Hounds seemingly score the winner with 1:24 to go.
Cue the captain. Kowalski ties the game back up with 18 seconds remaining to force overtime, where Carson Scheschuk blasts one home for the game-winner in an improbable come-from-behind victory in Moosomin.
Weyburn will play 17 of their final 29 games on home ice and are hoping that can be an ingredient in their recipe for second-half success. Getting some healthy bodies back in the lineup and putting together full 60-minute efforts night in and night out is now the next challenge.