BROOKS, AB – The slogan of the 2019 National Junior ‘A’ Championship has been ‘All Roads Lead to Brooks,’ something the Wiesblatt brothers are more than familiar with.
Orca and Ocean Wiesblatt’s junior hockey careers separated the pair, but they’ve now been able to reunite for a shot at winning a national title in their former arena.
Both began their junior hockey careers at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks, playing their rookie campaign in the 2016-17 season as teammates.
The brothers drifted apart the following season though, with Ocean traded to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees and Orca receiving a promotion to the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.
Last summer the MJHL’s Portage Terriers came calling for the elder Ocean, with the Bandits later trading Orca’s rights to the eventual Manitoba champions in December.
“It’s obviously great playing with [Orca],” said Ocean. “I played with him here in Brooks and then obviously playing here with Portage again. It’s an experience that not everyone gets to experience, so I’m pretty thankful for that.”
Winning the Turnbull Cup and the Anavet Cup to advance to the National Junior ‘A’ Championship, it’s a return to Brooks for the pair.
Lining up against their former teammates for the first time since their respective trades, the Wiesblatts said it lived up to expectations.
“It’s always great, good buddies there,” said Ocean. “It’s always fun playing against your friends and playing the game that you love. It can’t get better than that.”
With close to 100 combined games of experience with the Bandits, Orca added they picked up a bit of a scouting report on their former squad despite falling in a 5-3 decision on Sunday night.
“It was funny, before the game I went through the face-offs that they did,” said Orca. “So, we defended pretty good.”
Both brothers have been key contributors for Portage’s offence ahead of the national championship, each sitting comfortably in the team’s top-six forward group.
Ocean set career-highs with 12 goals and 39 points in 54 games with the Terriers, while Orca sat just under a point-per-game pace after being acquired by Portage.
While both have played their most impressive hockey out east in Manitoba, the brothers credited the Bandits organization for accelerating their development.
“It’s an amazing organization, a first-class organization,” said Orca. “It’s good to be back, I’m happy.”
The Wiesblatt brothers and the Terriers face an uphill battle though, beginning their tournament with a 0-2 record.
They’ll face the winless Oakville Blades on Tuesday afternoon, in what’s become a must-win contest for the Portage squad hoping to clinch one of the four playoff spots.
Orca said their season hangs in the balance and will need a strong effort against a Blades team that’s just as hungry.
“We got to win the next two,” said Orca. “There’s two big games we have to win, we don’t have any choice other than to win.”
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