The Dauphin Kings are in sole possession of first place in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s MGEU West Division after a stretch which saw the local junior team win five of six contests.
That stretch includes a 2-1 win over the division-leading OCN Blizzard, Oct. 25, in OCN and a 5-1 triumph over the Neepawa Titans, Friday in Dauphin.
The successful string of games came to an end with a 6-4 loss on home ice to the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, Saturday.
Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley said the team has been playing well all month.
“Coming into this game we were playing pretty well. Wayway, you have to give them credit tonight, they skated hard. They had some good speed. We made some mistakes at the wrong times,” he said. “I don’t think Marko (Belak, the Kings goaltender) was as strong as he was in his first two games.”
The Kings had been playing pretty well defensively, allowing just three goals in their previous three games.
“We expected a little bit of a different score tonight (Saturday). I thought we were using our speed tonight. We created a lot of chances. We didn’t get to second shots, didn’t get to the paint a lot. But at the same time, we still had some good speed and created some good two-on-ones,” he said.
The Wolverines scored what proved to be the winning goal just 15 seconds into the third period, which did not make Hedley a happy camper.
“Giving up a goal in the first minute of a period is ridiculous after you talk about winning a period. You’re 4-4 at home, you win 20 minutes and you win the game. We’ve just got to get better,” he said.
The two teams met in Waywayseecappo, last night. Hedley hoped for a better effort and planned to start Cole Sheffield in goal.
“We’ll basically go with the hot hand and he played really well on Friday, so we’ll go back to him on Monday,” he said.
The Kings scored a 5-0 victory, Monday, with Sheffield making 21 saves for the shutout.
Saturday was the first meeting between the Kings and Wolverines and it was pretty much what Hedley expected.
“We knew they had speed. Their forwards have some speed. They work hard in the offensive zone,” he said. “They cycle the puck well, so you really have to be committed to stick-on-puck and controlling hips and get stick independent. Just make sure the battles go to the corners. Whenever they get around the net like that, we lost them a couple of times and didn’t put pucks into the corners where we want battles to take place and they got some good opportunities in front of the net. So we’ve just got to get smarter and stronger on our sticks.”
The Kings are getting healthier as defenceman Anthony Bax returned to the lineup, Friday and rearguard Thomas Stewart is ready to return, while forward Riley Borody is about a week away from returning. Garrett Hrechka is close to returning, as well.
At 9-6-2-0, Dauphin’s 20 points has them seven behind OCN and two up on Virden and Swan Valley.
On the weekend, the Kings will look to sweep the season series with the Selkirk Steelers. The two teams hook up, Friday, in Dauphin, with the rematch, Saturday in Selkirk.
Dauphin won the first two meetings, Oct. 14, 3-2 in Selkirk, and Oct. 15, 7-3 in Dauphin.
A moment of silence was held prior to Saturday’s game in honour of the late Bob Buchy, who died, Oct. 22. Buchy helped the Kings win the MJHL championships in 1969 and 1970 . . . Former Kings defenceman Scott Gillingham was elected mayor of Winnipeg in last week’s municipal election, with 27.5 per cent of the vote. Gillingham played for the Kings in the 1987-88 season, scoring five goals and 39 points in 45 games, while compiling 157 penalty minutes.