PENHOLD — The only way for Red Deer Kings head coach Trevor Keeper to look at Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the SAIT Trojans (12-2-0-0) is as a missed opportunity.
RDC (6-5-0-1) became the second team to hand the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association men’s hockey first place team a defeat this season with a 2-1 win on Friday. On Saturday at the Penhold Regional Multiplex, they outshot the Trojans 40-29 but still were blown out on the scoreboard.
The biggest culprit was a power play that was 0-for-7 and a tough night in net for Kings goalie Mike Salmon, who was given the hook after five goals on 25 shots.
“We had an opportunity to play like we did last night tonight and we didn’t,” said Keeper. “I know when we’re playing like we’re capable of that we’re going to be rewarded like we were last night instead of this evening.”
Brenden Forbes had two goals for SAIT while Corey Tyrell, Trevor Cameron and Mikeal Jung also scored and Austin Smith had 39 saves for the win.
Tyler Berkholtz had the lone goal for the Kings.
The power play was a sore point all night for RDC, despite a penalty kill that was a perfect 3-for-3.
Missing three of their power-play mainstays to injury — first line right-winger Greg Lamoureux and offensive defencemen Nick Bell and Shamus Graham — the Kings had difficulty setting up in the Trojans’ zone, and were kept to the perimeter.
“It’s a tough situation for (the guys filling in),” said Keeper, who is hoping to have all three players back this week. “They practice it a little bit in practice, but when you’re missing three of your top players on the power play, you tend to not score as many goals or generate as many quality scoring chances.”
It was also the first game where Salmon has struggled this year, and still carries a .923 save percentage through four games, though his goals against average has ballooned to 3.01.
On the first goal at 9:30 of the first period, he was unable to corral a shot with his glove and the rebound popped out to an open Tyrell with the whole net to shoot at. On the second goal, at 11:42 of the second period, Salmon was caught scrambling and unable to find the loose puck which came out to Forbes who buried it. On the third goal at 18:54 of the second, he tripped as he was backing up in his crease, leaving Cameron with the a gaping cage to shoot at. The next time back down the ice, Jung made it 4-1.
The one goal he really did not have a chance at was the fifth, as Forbes scored on a terrific solo effort, somehow managing to beat Salmon as he was being pulled down from behind on a breakaway.
“It was an uncharacteristic game for him, he was over aggressive, over playing things, out of his net too much, hesitating to make some decisions, that’s a tough situation,” said Keeper. “When the players are in that situation and some one might have a bad game no one might notice. For goaltenders when you have an off day, everyone notices.”
Kryamer Barnstable played the final 8:10 and stopped all four shots he faced.
It was a disappointing result after the Kings had played so well the night before in Calgary. On Friday, they were not only able to match the Trojans’ physical style of play, they also forechecked hard and used their speed to their advantage. On Saturday, they were only really able to match SAIT’s physicality.
When they fell behind by three goals, they did not have enough left in the tank to rally.
“That’s like running up hill, trying to come out of that hole, you spend a lot of gas and it’s very exhausting, physically and mentally,” said Keeper.
This week they’re in Edmonton to play the MacEwan Griffins (7-2-0-3) on Friday at 8:15 p.m. and then host the Griffins on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Penhold. Keeper is expect a similar hard hitting style from the team they eliminated in the first round of last year’s playoffs, winning the best-of-three series 2-1.