PENHOLD — The Red Deer College Kings learned a valuable lesson about coming prepared to play on Friday night.
The NAIT Ooks took a two-goal lead before the Kings even managed a shot of their own en route to a 4-2 loss at the Penhold Regional Multiplex in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey action.
Kevin Carthy scored twice for the Ooks while Tanner Dunkle and Jamie Johnson added singles and Kenny Cameron made 23 saves in net for the win.
Riley Simpson scored a goal and assisted on Shamus Graham’s tally for the Kings and Mike Salmon made 41 saves.
“In any sport you have to get started on time,” said RDC head coach Trevor Keeper. “They came out and they were casual with our break outs and puck support coming out of our own end. NAIT was forechecking hard, they get a power play goal right away, and five minutes in it’s 2-0 and that was the difference in the game right there.”
Goal scoring has started to become a bit of an issue for the Kings, with 21 goals for through seven games, tied for fourth in the ACAC with NAIT who has played two less games.
Simpson has been their most consistent offensive force all season, sitting fifth in scoring with nine points but tied for the league lead in goals with six.
Next on RDC in points is Graham, DJ McGrath and Joel Topping all with four points.
“The problem tonight offensively is we had guys with the puck that were trying to create their own plays rather than working with their linemates and teammates,” said Keeper.
“You don’t score many goals against good teams if you’re play individually.”
Simpson has found chemistry with his two linemates, McGrath and Greg Lamoureux, and the group was RDC’s most effective on Friday night.
“They make plays together, but Riley is such a competitive guy that he finishes them off,” said Keeper. “If he has a chance it’s in the back of the net.”
Scoring is not new for Simpson.
The five-foot-eight Innisfail product led the Kings last year with 28 points (12-16-28) in 30 games.
First line left winger, however, is a different role than what he was playing in his first college stop.
Simpson earned a scholarship to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes after lighting it up with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 2010-11, scoring 76 points (35-41-76) in 59 games.
But at OSU, he was put into a third-line checking role during his redshirt freshman year.
When he heard RDC was bringing back hockey, he jumped at the opportunity to come back to Central Alberta.
“I loved my time down there, it was a blast, but ultimately I just wanted to do what was best for me for schooling and I wanted to be close to home,” said Simpson, who is in the electrical engineering program at RDC. “I was in kind of a third line, checking role and penalty killing, so that was a little bit different than what I was used to, but I was happy to take that role on to help my team out. It was a good year, definitely a good experience.”
He to was frustrated by the Kings’ start on Friday.
Carthy opened the scoring at 3:25, finding Salmon’s five hole after being left alone in the slot. Dunkle made it 2-0 on the power play at 5:37, batting in a rebound out of mid air.
Carthy stretched the lead to three goals at 9:57 of the second period on another power play, roofing a rebound over Salmon.
RDC finally got on the scoreboard at 15:12 with a power-play goal of their own, as Graham blasted a point shot through a crowd and Cameron.
But the momentum did not last long as Johnson snapped another Ooks power-play goal past Salmon at 16:54.
Red Deer tried to get back into the game in the third period but could only muster Simpson’s marker at 8:03 after he forced a turnover at the NAIT blue line and broke in on Cameron.
“We just weren’t ready to come out playing like they were and ultimately that’s how we lost the game there — being down 2-0 five minutes in, that’s kind of a tough hole to be in,” said Simpson. “I think we battled back good in the second and third (periods) but we’ve got to stay out of the (penalty) box and come to play with the puck drop.”
The Kings are looking to new places to bolster their offence, including bumping Davis Claffey up from the blue line to the forward ranks, and he did not look out of place on a line with Logan Sceviour and Mike Marianchuk.
“He played forward his whole life until his last two years of junior, and we need another right winger that can shoot that adds a bit of a physical presence,” said Keeper. “Davis hits hard, he forechecks and I think he’ll be good on forward.”
The two teams meet again tonight in Edmonton at 6 p.m., and getting a split out of the weekend is imperative for the Kings.
“It’s big to set the tone for the rest of they year, they’re going to be one of our main competitors,” said Keeper.