One area RDC Kings hockey head coach Trevor Keeper doesn’t have to worry about next season is in goal.
Despite losing Kraymer Barnstable, who finished his eligibility, the Kings have veteran Mike Salmon, who is heading into his fourth season, and second-year Devon Fordyce returning along with newly signed recruit six-foot-seven Troy Trombley of Sherwood Park.
Salmon proved to be one of the premier netminders in the Alberta Colleges Men`s Hockey League last season, and was especially strong down the stretch and in the playoffs. Salmon finished third in the ACAC with a 2.57 goals-against-average and a solid .926 save percentage and was a second team all-star. He posted a 10-4-1 record. In the playoffs he helped lead the Kings into the semifinal where they lost to a powerful, and undefeated NAIT Ooks.
The 23-year-old native of Red Deer, who will be with the Kings for two more years, was happy with his season but would rather talk about the team`s play late in the season.
“I`m happy with the way the season went but I think the team was playing real well heading into the playoffs,” he said. “We went through a stretch early in January where we couldn’t buy a win, but once we broke out of that we were like a new team. Once we started to score it lifted everyone up and it made my job a lot easier. I think that’s why we were successful.”
Salmon said he could look back and remember specific instances when he could see the difference in the team play late in the season after breaking out of their slump.
“The defence and forwards were making the extra effort,” he said. “They were strong in our zone, which of course helped me.”
Keeper liked what he saw from Salmon.
“As a third-year guy he stepped up as one of our leaders,” he said, adding he likes what he sees for next season.
“Devon has a year under his belt and knows the league and what to expect and Troy comes in with some Western Hockey League experience. They will be a good group.”
Fordyce saw brief action last season, but impressed Salmon.
“As goaltenders we would be on the ice 20 to 30 minutes prior to practice and work on a variety of things and that was basically Devon’s idea,” he said. “We were able to work on specific things and Devon was creative and had good ideas.
“He didn’t play a lot, but had a great attitude and excellent practice habits and work ethic.”
The only negative Salmon could see from last year was not making at least the ACAC finals.
But he believes they’re headed in the right direction.
“Our goal has always been to reach the final, if not win it,” he said.
“We have several guys still here from our first year (three years ago) and see the difference in the dressing room and on the ice. There is a different feel in the room. More leadership and more belief in themselves.”
Trombley played with Kamloops, Tri-City and Saskatoon in the WHL.
He spent the 14-15 season with Melville of the SJHL and Bonnyville of the AJHL. This past season he played with Fort Saskatchewan in the Chinook Hockey League.
Keeper also announced Thursday that Red Deer native Dustin Gorgi has committed for next season.
Gorgi, 21, played this season with Battlefords of the SJHL, scoring 28 goals and 31 assists in 58 games. The six-foot-two, 190-pound right winger previously played for the Olds Grizzlys and Grande Prairie Storm. He also was with the Telus Cup winning Red Deer Chiefs in the 2012-13 season.
As for this year’s edition of the Kings, Keeper has a solid group returning, which could even be stronger by the time the season opens.
Dylan Baer, Mike Statchuk, Tanner Butler and Alex Marcinew will be back on defence for sure with possibly David Heath, a second-team all-star, and Blair Mulder back. Mulder is recovering from a concussion sustained in a snowmobile accident and will return if cleared.
“I’ve been talk with three high-end defenceman and if we get two of them it will solidify the defence,” said Keeper, who has a solid group back up front, led by Pat Martens, Tyler Berkholtz and Riley Simpson, who were together most of the season on the top line.
Two of the team’s top rookies last season – Dylan Thudium and Ben Williams – will also be back along with Connor Patchett, Jordan McTaggart, Kirk Fountain and Logan Sceviour. Jody Sick and Regan Wilton may also return.
“Last year we had 10 rookies and have nine back and with the veterans returning we have a solid group,” said Keeper. “We do have solid leadership with Riley a fifth-year guy and returning captain, along with Berkholtz, Marten and Sceviour.
Thudium proved to be one of the pleasant surprises last year.
“He was a walk-on and because he wasn’t sure he wanted to play he came into camp a bit overweight, but worked hard and finished as our fourth leading scorer. He’s working hard already preparing for next season.”
Adding Trombley and Gorgi is just the start of Keeper’s recruiting.
“We’re talking with a number of players, keeping in touch, and will continue to until after the Royal Bank Cup,” he said. “We have two or three forwards close, but some don’t want to commit to early so they can see what’s out there.”
One thing Keeper is starting to do in recruiting is mentioning the new RDC hockey rink to open in the 2018-19 season.
“When I send a recruiting package out on email I include a link to the video on the new facility. I know guys are excited about it. Even some of the veterans joke they’ll take a year off then return so they could play in it.
“We’ll definitely start using it as a recruiting tool.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at www.rdc.ab.ca/athleticsblog.