Kings 6 Longhorns 3 (OT, Saturday)
Kings 3 Longhorns 2 (Sunday)
The RDC Kings wanted nothing easy to start this season.
That’s why Kings head coach Trevor Keeper decided four exhibition games against USports Canada West teams, one rung above the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, were necessary to prepare his team for the season.
It seemed to have the desired effect, as the Kings played two intense, high-paced and energy-packed battles with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on the weekend.
The prior week, they battled and lost a pair of games to the University of Calgary Dinos.
In the pair against the Pronghorns, it was a completely different story for RDC as it picked up a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 Saturday, and a 6-3 victory Sunday to capture the “Babcock Cup.”
It’s named for Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who guided the Pronghorns and Kings over his illustrious coaching career.
“If you start off slow, it’s hard to get the confidence to climb out of that hole.
“We’re really happy with having these pressure-filled, high-paced game to start with. Even if we did get some injuries, it’s good for our team game,” Keeper said.
“We tried not to even call training camp, training camp. We started practicing from Day 1, our team was set so we just came in and started working on our systems and building from the inside out. We’ll just keep doing that for the rest of the preseason.”
Those injuries were a product of the intense hockey and included: fifth-year Dylan Thudium, fourth-year Ross Heidt and second-year Chance Longjohn. Keeper figures with the ACAC regular season three weeks away, most of the injuries should be healed by then.
He felt his group used those injuries as a bit of a rallying cry, allowing some young players to step into opportunities they might not have seen at this point in the season.
Besides our tactics and how we’re playing together, I like that guys were able to step up and fill different roles,” he said.
“Everybody is listening and paying attention in practice, and it seems like everyone gets what we’re trying to do. We were really proud of how we played as a group.”
Lynnden Pastachak had a goal and two assists in the victory Sunday for the Kings, while Ryley Smith, Austin Hunter, Boedy Donald, Jake Wozney and Chase Thudium also had tallies. Smith had the overtime winner Saturday. Thudium and Kyle Salay also scored Saturday.
Keeper also credited a pair of newcomers on the blueline – Daniel Liberty and Carter Wolski – with strong play in the wins.
Tactically, the ramped-up pace was perfect for the Kings and allowed them to work on the pressure style they hope to apply this ACAC season.
“We really tried to manage the puck. Offensive zone entries, not dumping it away. If we did lose it on the cycle, guys reload above their man, and we keep the puck in. D-men were pinching and forwards were covering,” Keeper noted.
“We just wanted to make sure we stayed in their zone as much as we could. We’ve been really working on our d-zone cover and playing really good, tight one-on-ones. Guys are taking the body, blocking shots. We’re looking forward to how good they can get if they keep playing like that together.”
Nathan Alalouf stopped 21 shots in the Sunday’s win for RDC.
The Kings will just play one game each of the next two weekends, before a buy to open the ACAC regular season. They will start the season at MacEwan University Oct. 11 before playing their home opener Oct. 12 against the Griffins.