It’s been a slow burn rather than a flash in the pan for the RDC Kings hockey team to find the right mix of talent.
Head coach Trevor Keeper said the 2017-2018 season is the one where his group finally breaks out.
The RDC Kings finished 13-14-3-1 in the regular season last year and lost in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference quarter-final to University of Alberta-Augustana in three games.
Next weekend the team will play a set of exhibition games at SAIT.
Goalie Mike Salmon, who is back for his fifth year, said the intensity through a week and a half of training camp has been much different than in the past.
“Over the past five years I’ve been here this is the highest intensity I’ve seen and I’m really happy about that,” he said.
The squad this year features a line up with 18 returning players and seven hotly recruited players.
The Kings haven’t been to an ACAC final in the last four seasons. With the right veteran leadership and experience, Keeper is betting on this year to be their most successful in recent memory.
“We started four years ago with 25 rookies and then last year we still had 11 new bodies in the line up . With 18 guys returning this year, we can get started quicker. We had really good recruits come in so I think they’ll pick up things quickly,” said Keeper. “We’re at a point this year where I think we can push through and get to the finals. We have good leadership with guys who have been around the league for a while.”
Fifth-year forward Tyler Berkholtz, who led the Kings with 14 goals last year, will likely be a big contributor up front. On defence, David Heath, Mike Statchuk and Tanner Butler are expected to be anchors.
Rookie forwards Jacob Wozney, Dylan Thudium, Donovan Lumb and Tyrell Mappin all had productive campaigns in junior hockey last year and will bring a dash of scoring to the Kings. Wozney and Lumb were teammates with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey league and had solid numbers.
Wozney had 30 goals in 55 games and Lumb chipped in with 32 points in 58 games.
Mappin is the biggest point producer of the group, putting up 90 points on a powerhouse Brooks Bandits team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“The last two years we focused on always having skill and speed and adding size, but this year we wanted to add some more offence, especially for our five-on-five scoring and power play. We’re happy with our new guys for sure,” Keeper said.
On defence, newcomer Tyler Podgorenko should have a solid season after putting up 36 points in 36 games with the Notre Dame Hounds in the SJHL and seven more in 19 games with the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the AJHL.
The Kings will also play in a tournament in Lacombe at the end of September before they start the regular season on Oct. 6 on the road at Concordia University of Edmonton.