Kings 4 Clippers 1
PENHOLD — The RDC Kings opened their Alberta Colleges Men’s Hockey League regular season just how they hoped.
The Kings put together a solid two-way game in downing the Briercrest Bible College Clippers 4-1 at the Penhold Regional Multiplex Friday.
Despite starting a bit slow, the Kings were simply the better team once they found their rhythm.
“Regardless of how good your team is I think you’re always a bit nervous in your first game, especially when it’s your home opener,” said Kings head coach Trevor Keeper. “We started with good possession of the puck and were running our plays and doing some things we were practising, but you could see we were a bit nervous. There were times when we double clutched or just hesitated and got ourselves in a bit of trouble.”
But by the 10-minute mark of the opening period the Kings started to control the game.
“We started holding onto the puck and making plays and as a result upped our shots and that carried over to the rest of the game,” added Keeper.
The Kings trailed 6-3 in shots in the opening period but were ahead 11-7 by the end of the 20 minutes.
First-year winger Dustin Gorgi of Red Deer, who was named RDC’s player of the game, gave the Kings even more confidence as he shovelled home a rebound 27 seconds into the middle stanza.
Alex Bechtold managed to tie it at 8:19 against RDC starter Mike Salmon, but Gorgi made a perfect backhand pass into the slot which Tyler Berkholtz converted to put the Kings ahead for good at 9:26.
Gorgi, who played with the Battlefords North Stars, was inserted on the line with Berkholtz and Riley Simpson early in camp and the trio showed immediate chemistry.
“We knew Gorgi was a left-handed shot but always played right wing and would be a good fit for that line,” said Keeper. “He has a good shot and is a big body. If he gets open the other two will find him.
“The other guys have been on him to shoot more and he showed that tonight. Plus he’s a smart player and uses his size to protect the puck.”
Nick Fountain gave the Kings some breathing room, snapping a quick shot off a faceoff scramble high to the glove side of Clippers netminder Dan Dekoning, who played junior with the Owen Sound Attack.
Berkholtz completed the scoring with an empty net marker at 18:21 of the third period.
Keeper couldn’t have been happier with the overall effect against a much improved Briercrest team,.
“They have speed and forecheck hard and their goaltender was tough to beat. He’s big and we had to get him moving from east to west to open up some holes.
“As for ourselves we use the Team Canada example that we don’t have lines one to four. Every line has their own role and identity. (Landon) Kletke’s and (Austin) Hunter’s lines forecheck and use their bodies and are hard to play against. Jordan McTaggart’s line were unsung heroes. A lot of guys were blocking shots and doing the little things that don’t show on the scoresheet.”
The Kings defence was dominant, not only in their end, but in their ability to move the puck.
“We have seven really good defencemen,” said Keeper. “They can hang on to the puck and make the outlet pass. They don’t panic. We want to be in possession of the puck until we get it out of our zone. No risky plays and we have enough skill and depth to play like that.”
The Kings finished with 40 shots on Dekoning while Salmon faced 16.
The teams meet again today at 1:30 p.m. in Penhold.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca