The Red Deer College Kings roster has been finalized for their second Alberta Colleges Athletic Association men’s hockey season, but it was far from an easy task.
With a lot of returning players and two cuts to be made up front to get down to 25 players, head coach Trevor Keeper was forced to trim two mainstays from last year’s roster: Jared Ramstead and Andrew Coles.
They got bumped by Jordan McTaggart who walked on after changing his mind from SAIT to RDC and Tyler Berkholtz, a Thompson Rivers University transfer.
For the veteran coach, it was a decision he lost some sleep over.
“It’s really tough. They committed to a full season and they’re both exceptional individuals,” said Keeper. “You get to know each other, it’s not like in junior hockey when you cut someone after a few weeks; we had relationships established and they were good teammates. But it was tough because we had to pick the best 15 forwards that fit into the plan that we wanted moving forward.”
Ramstead played in 17 games for the Kings last year, recording seven points (five goals, two assists) and four penalty minutes. Coles was more of a physical third and fourth liner, collecting 52 penalty minutes in 16 games with three points (1-2-3).
McTaggart was one of the bigger surprises in camp for Keeper. The Grande Prairie native scored 45 points (21-24-45) in 147 games with the Grande Prairie Storm over three Alberta Junior Hockey League season and had originally committed to SAIT. But the five-foot-nine, 165-pound forward changed his mind about the program he wanted to take and phoned Keeper to see if he could tryout.
Keeper says he had never even seen him play before.
“He has exceptional speed and is really gritty and works hard and competes hard and I think he surprised some people,” he said. “We didn’t know a lot about him coming in, but he earned a spot.”
The six-foot, 209-pound Berkholtz spent four years in the B.C. Hockey League, scoring 123 points (39-84-123) in 195 games with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Trail Smoke Eaters. Last year he played for Thompson Rivers University, but the team folded after the season.
Their loss is RDC’s gain.
“He’s a bigger, grittier winger that likes to hit,” said Keeper. “He has good speed and will probably be a third or fourth liner if he plays his role effectively as we heard he had done in B.C. prior.”
The Kings open their ACAC season this weekend with a home-and-home set with the University of Alberta Augustana — playing in Penhold on Friday at 7 p.m. and Camrose on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Vikings beat the Kings 4-2 on Thursday in Penhold in an ACAC exhibition game.
“We lost to them last week but we thought we outplayed them, we outshot them by quite a bit but they won it on the scoreboard,” said Keeper. “We’re anxious to give it back to them this coming week in our first two league games.”
NOTES — Injured Kings goalie Mike Salmon is expected back from a hip/groin injury for the weekend. The Kings carry only two goalies but can affiliate with Heritage Junior B Hockey League teams, Red Deer Vipers and Blackfalds Wranglers.