Local sport: Looking ahead to the second half of RDC sports season

It’s the time of year when the RDC athletes and coaches can sit back and relax after a hectic three months.

But more important, it’s a time to get healthy, reflect on the first half of the season, and get excited about the second half.

No one is looking forward to the second half more than Queens basketball head coach Ken King. At times it seemed the Queens had as many injured players as those healthy. At one point in November, they had only one starter available in Maya Parker.

Missing were Emily White, who played in only two games, Eva Bonde, Madi Nimmo and Laura Bailey. As well, second-year forward Kayla Guillet has been out all season with a knee injury.

As a result, the Queens go into the New Year with 2-5 record, sixth place in the South.

However, what the injury bug did do was give the younger players an opportunity to play and guard Paige Schultz and wing Jessie Handley, to name two, did just that.

The Queens have also been looking for a three-point shooter.

Schultz gladly accepted that role and hit five of 11 in a 19-point performance against Olds, when the Queens had only eight players dressed.

The walking wounded are all expect back, the Queens hope to make a run at a playoff berth. They won’t have long to see where they stand as they travel to Lethbridge Jan. 12-13.

Despite the injuries, the Queens proved to be one of the best defences in the league, allowing a fourth-best 63 points per game, but scored only 56.6 points per start, which was 14th best.

The basketball Kings are in a similar position as they posted a 3-4 record and are also sixth, but two points out of third.

They, too, had a string of injuries with veteran Spencer Klassen missing all but one game, and veteran forward Kevin Szymanek misisng all the first half. As well, rookies Braiden Ousey and Barzin Eskandarkhah got into only three games.

The Kings are loaded with outstanding rookies in Omon Edobar, Dshawn Tyrell and Darien Valdes, who are averaging 22.0, 21.2 and 17.1 points per game respectively, and veteran Eric Bakker, who has shook off the rust after being away for several seasons. The Kings can score, averaging a third-best 91.1 points per game, but allowing a 12th-best 90 points per outing.

The hockey Kings and Queens appear ready to continue on after a strong first half.

The Queens are led by fifth-year forward Jade Petrie, who is second in league scoring with 12 points and first in goals with nine, and goaltender Tracie Kikuchi, who has a 1.21 goals-against-average (gaa) and a .951 save percentage.Kikuchi has four shutouts and over her past several games allowed only three goals.

Queens head coach Kelly Coulter has also been busy recruiting, adding goaltenders Miranda Cook of the Yellowhead Chiefs and Nisa Bartlett of the Central Alberta Amazons, and forward Hannah Petrie from Pembina Valley. Bartlett is a former member of the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs. Avery Lajeunesse of the Sutter Fund midget AAA squad has committed for the 2019-20 season.

The Queens are tied for first with NAIT in the ACAC with 20 points, one up on MacEwan.

The hockey Kings are second with a 9-4-1 record, and they went into the break with an impressive win over first-place NAIT. In fact, it was the only regulation loss for the Ooks in the first half.

The Kings will add centre Austin Hunter to the lineup as he returns from surgery.

“He adds depth at centre,” said Kings head coach Trevor Keeper, who is looking to “build on what we did in the first semester.”

The Kings will also have defenceman Mike Statchuk, and forwards Damien Kulynych and Jason Miller healthy. Mike Salmon also returned late in the first half from injury, and he was spectacular with a 4-0-0 record, a 1.48 gaa and .947 save percentage.

What helped the Kings this season is they have scoring. Veteran Dylan Thudium is tied for third with 20 points, while Tanner Butler is fifth and leads all rearguards with 19 points.

The volleyball teams appear set for the second half.

The Queens are second in the South at 9-3, while the two-time defending national champion Kings had a disappointing first half with a 7-5 record, which has them tied for fourth.

However, the Kings have only one starter back from last season in middle Adam Turlejski and will improve as they gain experience. Rookie middle Mark DeWit has been impressive as have the two rookie setters Tom Wass and Jacob Rapin.

Two interesting stats on the women’s side has power hitter Miranda Dawe with 927 career kills, 73 away from 1,000, and setter Chanelle Kayser has 1,725 assists, 11 away from second place all-time.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at drode@reddeeradvocate.com

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