It took the Red Deer Kings 40 minutes to find their game on Saturday afternoon against the Briercrest College Clippers, and by that time it was too late.
The Clippers (4-17-0-1) pulled off the 5-3 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey upset at the Penhold Regional Multiplex, a game the Kings (9-10-0-1) will look back as an opportunity missed.
In truth, the loss started 18 hours before as Briercrest nearly rallied from a four-goal deficit in their 6-4 loss on Friday.
“We put ourselves in too big a hole in the first period with the penalties and the power-play goals against,” said Kings head coach Trevor Keeper.
“We wanted to make this first two weekends 4-0, we’re 3-1 , but the real test is against NAIT coming up … Our ultimate goal is to end up third or fourth, set the table for playoffs, we want to host a playoff round.”
Taylor Epps scored twice for Briercrest on Saturday while Josh Peters, Manuel Schellenberg and Stephen Langford added one goal each and Connor Dobberthien made 46 saves for the win.
Greg Lameroux replied with two goals for RDC with Logan Sceviour getting the third. Mike Salmon had a tough afternoon, allowing five goals on 23 shots before being replaced by Kraymer Barnstable who stopped all six shots he faced over the final 23:28.
The Clippers scored two power-play goals in the first period as they took a 3-2 lead. Lameroux tied it up for the Kings at 6:48 of the second period, but it didn’t last as the Langford scored at 8:02 and then Epp at 16:32 to chase Salmon.
From there it was all Dobberthien who stopped all 17 shots he faced in the third period, several of the highlight reel variety, to give the Clippers their first win over the Kings since Nov. 8, 2003.
“He sees a lot of shots and he always plays well, he competes,” said Keeper of five-foot-nine Dobberthien. “He’s not a big guy but he battles hard. We pumped (almost) 20 shots at him (in the third) and we couldn’t score.”
It was another solid game for the line of Lameroux, Riley Simpson and Doug Jones. On Friday, they were in on four goals and combined for 11 points for RDC. On Saturday they were again the Kings best line with Lameroux scoring twice and Simpson and Jones both adding an assist.
“They have confidence and they’re moving the puck,” said Keeper. “Guys like Lameroux are starting to shoot the puck more, Doug Jones is moving his feet and getting lots of breaks driving wide, they’re creating things.”
Brett Printz made his season debut after missing the first five months to a cyst in his left femur. He was used in a fourth line role with Connor Patchett and Jordan McTaggart.
Printz then headed to the dressing room with nine minutes to go after the Kings shortened their bench in the third period to three lines in an attempt to come back.
“He’s got to expect that he’s not in game shape, he might feel good, but he doesn’t have the jump and the confidence and the timing,” said Keeper. “He can’t get frustrated, he’s got to find a way to get his feet moving and adjust to the game speed and he’ll be fine.”
The Kings have their work cut out for themselves next weekend with a series against the second place NAIT Ooks (15-3-0-1).