Kings 6 Clippers 4
PENHOLD — Red Deer College Kings head coach Trevor Keeper is doing his best to not let a near collapse break up his team’s momentum.
The Kings (9-9-0-1) built a four-goal lead through 2:31 of the third period on Friday, but it turned out they needed every single one of those goals. The Briercrest Clippers (3-17-0-1) nearly came all the way back, until an empty-netter iced the 6-4 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey victory for RDC at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.
“It’s kind of human nature when you’re up by a few goals to relax and be a little bit casual,” said Keeper. “In the third period when they did get a few goals there, some guys panicked a little bit. But it wasn’t like we weren’t in good position, we were just standing still in our own end.”
At the centre of the victory was a breakout game for the Kings’ top line of Riley Simpson, Doug Jones and Greg Lameroux which combined for 11 points — three goals by Simpson and four assists each to Jones and Lameroux. Joel Topping, Mike Marianchuk and Logan Sceviour had the other goals for RDC while Kraymer Barnstable made 31 saves for the win.
Josh Peters, Adam Friesen, Taylor Epp and Stephen Langford replied for the Clippers while Connor Dobberthien stopped 42 shots in the loss.
“It just finally clicked, we’ve been having a lot of chances, even since the (Christmas) break, we just haven’t been able to score,” said Simpson, who now tied for the league lead with 13 goals with NAIT Ook John Dunbar. “It happened today and it was nice, it felt good.”
This was a game that became a lot closer in the end than it ever should have been.
Simpson scored his hat-trick goal at 2:31 of the third period and the Kings were in full control, up 5-1. But when Friesen scored at 7:00 of the frame, the Clippers started to build some momentum.
When Epp out waited an outstretched Barnstable at 10:19 to cut the RDC lead to 5-3, the Kings were suddenly back on their heels.
At 13:27, Langford cut the lead to one goal, one-timing a pass from behind the net past Barnstable, and the Kings were in full panic.
But it’s also when Barnstable turned up his game and made several key stops over the final 6:33 to preserve the victory.
“When the pressure was on, he made some good saves,” said Keeper. “Those ones they got when they pressured us in the end, they were just scrambles in front and guys not knocking the puck out or boxing guys out.”
The victory gave RDC three in a row. They host the Clippers again today at 1:30 p.m. at the Penhold Multiplex, and it’s another game they can ill-afford to drop as they dig their way out of an early-season hole.
“If we can continue to play well, build wins, put them together, we have the opportunity to potentially be in fourth, maybe in third place, by the end of January,” said Keeper.