Kings 3 Griffins 2 (OT)
The Red Deer College Kings sent a message to their likely first round Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey playoff opponent on Friday.
Despite being big underdogs in the standings, the Kings (12-13-0-3) outplayed the MacEwan University Griffins (20-5-0-4) to earn a 3-2 overtime win at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.
The effort should come as little surprise to the Griffins, who lost in three games to the Kings in the first round of the playoffs last year.
“They’re a bit of a different team than us, they’re very structured, they clog up the middle … but we like how we match up against them,” said Kings head coach Trevor Keeper. “We seem to outshoot them and outchance them, but they’re very good defensively and opportunistic.”
Riley Simpson scored the winner 47 seconds into overtime while Joel Topping and Doug Jones also tallied for RDC and Nick Bell picked up two assists. Kraymer Barnstable was sharp, stopping 29 of 31 shots for the win.
The Griffins responded with a goal each from Shawn Proulx and Tyler Reay while Chris Wray made 39 stops in the loss.
It took a while for the Kings to get into this game, failing to register a shot on net until 6:23 of the first period while MacEwan had already fired seven on Barnstable.
However, the Kings found their legs after that, and took over complete control of the game in the second period, outshooting the Griffins 22-2 in the frame.
But MacEwan still lead 1-0 after 40 minutes.
RDC continued to put the pressure on in the third and finally broke through at 1:43 on the power play as Jones tipped Bell’s point shot past Wray.
Red Deer managed to take the lead at 15:45, seconds after Barnstable stopped Proulx on a breakaway, sending the Kings back the other way as Topping finished off the rush.
The lead only lasted 50 seconds.
MacEwan broke down on a rush of their own, Dallas Smith picked up the puck off the end boards and whipped a pass in front for Reay who beat Barnstable with a one-timer to send the game into overtime.
The four-on-four session did not last long.
With the Griffins setting up shop in the RDC end, Bell forced a turnover at the blue line and lead a two-man breakaway with Simpson back the other way.
Bell made a move in close before dishing to Simpson who had a wide open net to shoot at.
“Nick is so good at anticipating the play and anticipating the puck when it’s coming, so he gets a breakaway, he’s tired, there’s a man on him and he still had the poise to dish it over to Riley Simpson to get the game winner,” said Keeper.
While the Kings have been thin up front with only one consistent scoring line, they do boast arguably the ACAC’s top defensive pairing with Bell and Topping, two former WHL defenders.
Both joined the club this off-season and have been paired together since camp, but it has taken until this second semester for them to really develop a chemistry.
“We’re both the same type of D-man, we both do the same type of things, we’re both offensive,” said Bell. “We’re just starting to pass it back and forth a little more and get some opportunities on the blue line. … We’re just starting to click and things are going good for us.”
Barnstable also had a big game for RDC, especially early when he stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first period. They will need more performances out of the fourth year goalie like this as they head into the post-season in two weeks.
“The first period was a struggle, we came out pretty slow, but Barney gave us a chance to get back in the game and that’s exactly what we did,” said Bell. “Having so much confidence as he does now, he brings it on for the rest of the team.”
There is an outside chance for the Kings to catch the Keyano College Huskies (12-11-2-4) for fifth place in the league which would set up a first round meeting with the Augustana Vikings (18-9-1-2). But if things do hold they will play the Griffins in the first round of the playoffs.
The two teams will meet again tonight in Edmonton at 8:15 p.m.
“A month from tomorrow and somebody could be lifting the cup for our league,” said Keeper. “We just reminded the guys that 30 days is going to fly by and we want to be playing play off hockey.”