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RODE: RDP Kings coach Trevor Keeper reflects on second straight ACAC title


RDP Kings hockey head coach Trevor Keeper’s season is never officially over.

After winning his second straight Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference title, Keeper has to turn around and start looking at next season.

“It’s draining … my body is physically exhausted the last few days,” he said a couple days after the Kings downed the Concordia Thunder 3-2 in double overtime to capture the best-of-five ACAC final 3-0.

“I’m hoping to take two or three days off to relax, but then I’ll still be recruiting,” he said. “We still need a goaltender and at least couple forwards.”

Since the championship win, Keeper’s phone has been blowing up.

“Getting a lot of calls from guys who were slightly interested and who are lot more interested now,” he said. “I have one goaltender who is close to signing, and a couple forwards who are also close. But I’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone and watching a lot of junior games. It’s once their season is over the guys want to make commitments.”

The Kings are losing seven players plus two other defencemen — Brennan Davis (shoulder) and Ty Ettinger (knee) — will be recovering from surgery.

But Keeper, who was forced to use two forwards — Regan Doig and Easton Haygarth — on the blueline the second half of the season because of injuries, hopes to have all the depth he needs on defence next season.

“Both Regan and Easton did a great job of stepping in and playing out of their comfort zone, but we don’t want to be in that situation again next year,” said the veteran coach.

The Kings will lose Lane Toder from the blueline, although he missed most of the year with an injury as well.

Two of the three newcomers on the blueline are from the SJHL — six-foot-four, 200-pound Tyson Perkins, who was a captain with the Yorkton Terriers and five-foot-10 180-pound Nathan DeGraves, who is an offensive style rearguard and assistant captain from the Kindersley Klippers.

The third new face is six-foot-two, 200-pound Tristan Baumung.

He was a captain with the Olds Grizzlys before finishing his junior career as an assistant captain with the Spruce Grove Saints.

“They’ll provide a lot of leadership and depth … we look for that leadership, it’s important to us,” said Keeper. “Two of the three are more defensive stay-at-home defensemen, while Nathan is smaller, skates well, and will provide more offense.”

Keepers does have Jarod Newell, all-star Tanner Sklaruk, Kevin Minnoch, Tyson Janzen and Liam Stalwick returning on defence.

The two new faces up front both have ties to the Blackfalds Bulldogs. Kasey Hiemstra of Big Valley played with Drumheller, Olds and Blackfalds in the AJHL before spending last season with the Mount Royal University Cougars.

Kody Willick, out of Saskatoon, also played with Drumheller before joining the Bulldogs where he was team captain.

“Kody has a high hockey IQ and is more of a penalty-kill, defensive forward while Hiemstra will be one of the best and fastest skaters on the team,” added Keeper.

The Kings do lose two all-star forwards in Jake Wozney, who was on the first-team, and Chance Longjohn, who was on the second team. As well high-scoring Hayden Clayton and Jaxon Steele, who scored the championship golden goal in overtime, are also graduating.

All the forwards were solid in the playoffs, as was fifth-year goaltender Arik Weersink, who was the MVP of the playoffs.

“Arik really stepped up big time when we needed it,” said Keeper. “Chance and Jake were good all year and left big holes to fill, but looking back, when they first joined us, they were role players as well.

“You never completely replace the fourth and fifth-year guys, but you hope the second and third-year guys step up in their development, and they’re the ones you’re counting on.”

The Kings received some good news when Erik Miller indicated he’ll return despite finishing his course.

“He has a couple other things to work on so he will be back, which is good news,” said Keeper.

Miller will join Nolan Doell, Deegan Mofford. Ryland McNinch, Holden Knights, Sean Michalevich, Dawson Leroux and Chase and Easton Haygarth up front.

Kristian Lyon and Evan Fradette are back in goal.

Keeper did have some time to sit down and look back at this past season.

“Repeating was tough. The first half we got everyone’s best and we weren’t playing our best. We were 5-7, but the guys understood what it takes to win and they put it together and we were 15-2 in the second half and undefeated in the playoffs. That showed our experience … what we learned the year before.”

Concordia gave the Kings a battle, especially in the third game, tying the game at 2-2 late with the goalie pulled.

“A team with less experience may have fell apart when they scored,” said Keeper. “But there was no panic. The guys simply went about their business and were confident heading into overtime.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at