It may have been the first exhibition game of the season, but Red Deer College Kings goalie Kraymer Barnstable already appears to be in mid-season form.
Barnstable made 41 saves to lead the Kings past the defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey champion SAIT Trojans, 2-1 at the Penhold Regional Multiplex on Thursday night.
The former Red Deer Rebels netminder still had the shutout intact in the final minute, but Clayton Cumiskey poked a rebound past him with 2.5 second left.
“I felt good, I didn’t think my energy was really there, but I had that last year where I had little energy, so I’ve learned how to change my game a little so I can still have some energy,” he said.
Logan Sceviour and Greg Lamoureux replied with goals for the Kings.
RDC is kicking off their second season since returning to ACAC men’s hockey last year. In their first campaign, the Kings made it all of the way to the league semifinal before being eliminated by the NAIT Ooks.
However, this year, they are returning a large portion of that roster, including their top five scorers and both goalies.
But that did not keep head coach Trevor Keeper from hitting the recruiting trail as he made over his back end, adding Joel Topping from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Nick Bell from Mount Royal University Cougars and 2012-13 Manitoba Junior Hockey League defenceman of the year Tanner Butler from the Dauphin Kings.
This was his first chance to see them all in game action, and he liked what he saw.
“I thought Joel Topping and Tanner Butler were really good for their first game in the ACAC coming out of junior, real solid defensively but they made some good passes and heads up plays and were really reliable,” said Keeper.
All of the new faces on the blue-line, however, means there is some chemistry that needs to form and defenisve systems that need work.
Keeper put Topping and Bell together in his top pairing while slotting Butler along side veteran rearguard Brett Wold.
It was an eye-opening experience for Butler, an offensive defenceman, as he gets used to a new level of play.
“It felt great, it was a little different than junior hockey, that’s for sure,” said Butler, who followed former roommate and Dauphin Kings defensive partner Shamus Graham to Red Deer, who is back for his second year with the team.
“It’s a little faster and bigger guys, but I thought it went.”
In the meantime, more strong performances by fourth-year senior Barnstable, 24, in net will go a long way to covering up early season mistakes.
“Kraymer doesn’t know if he’s going to play past this year and I know he wants to win a championship, I know he’s hungry and focused, and he started his very first game being like that,” said Keeper. “He held us in and gave us a chance to get a couple of goals.”
Last year the Kings had a lot of success for a first-year club, finishing fourth in the standings at 20-11-1-0 and beating the MacEwan University Griffins 2-1 in the best-of-three opening round of the playoffs.
But their run came to an end in the semifinal against NAIT as they were swept aside, getting blown out in both games.
The goal in year two is simple, they want to be playing for the school’s first championship since 1994.
“Everybody in the room knows where we want to be at the end of the year, it’s no secret,” said Keeper. “We want to be in the final, but we want to be good enough to earn a shot at winning it.”
NOTES — SAIT Trojan defenceman Cody Castro was given a match penalty and a five-minute major for high sticking Sceviour after the final horn went … Cody Befus got the start in net for SAIT and made 12 saves before switching off with Austin Smith at 11:11 of the second period. Smith finished with six saves on seven shots … Bell and DJ McGrath assisted on Sceviour’s goal at 4:43 of the first period, Blair Mulder and Davis Claffey assisted on Lamoureux’s goal at 19:43 of the second period … The two teams play again tonight in Calgary at 7 p.m.