A three-game losing skid has the Dauphin Kings on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s MGEU West Division.
Dauphin lost both ends of a home-and-home with the Virden Oil Capitals, beginning with a 4-1 setback at Credit Union Place on Friday.
Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley said Virden outworked his team.
“And it’s something to learn from. But we’re going to be okay,” he said.
On Saturday, Virden carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, when goals from Owen Wareham and Mason Smith 59 seconds apart pulled the Kings even with 3:22 left to play.
But the Oil Capitals ended up netting the winner with 1:11 left and sealed the win with an empty-net marker with 32 ticks left on the clock.
Despite the loss, Hedley liked what he saw from the Kings in that game.
“Basically, the game was decided in about two minutes. I thought we played really well. We did a lot of real good things. We started focusing on the task at hand and every shift guys got better,” he said. “After fighting back and making it 2-2 and then getting scored on with just over a minute left, it was really tough. But I think it’s going to make us stronger. I think we’re going to learn from it and move on from here.”
The Kings have a tough stretch to close out the season and it begins, Wednesday, when they face the Swan Valley Stampeders at 12:30 p.m., where a lot of school children will be in attendance.
The early start will not have an effect on the Kings, however.
“At this time of year, I don’t think it will bother us at all. We practice every day at that time anyway. So we should be fine,” Hedley said.
The Kings will face the Niverville Nighthawks in another home-and-home on the weekend.
Niverville will make the trek north to Dauphin, Friday for a 7:30 p.m. date with the Kings. Then Dauphin will head south, Sunday, for a 3 p.m. game.
With eight games left and the Kings sitting in fifth place, Hedley said they have to start finding points somewhere.
“We need to find a way to get some points,” he said, adding the disappointing thing about Saturday’s loss to Virden was the Kings had a point wrapped up until letting it slip away late. “It’s still right there for us. There’s a couple other teams in our division have real tough schedules, too. So it’s a matter of us focusing. It’s all in our own hands. We don’t have to rely on anybody. We just have to make sure we go out and play and try and get as many points as we can,” he said.
Dauphin sits in fifth place with 57 points. OCN is in first with 63 points, followed by Swan Valley with 62, Virden with 61 and Waywayseecappo with 59. Neepawa is in sixth place with 49 points.
Kings coach and general manager Doug Hedley still needs just one win to surpass Marlin Murray as the winningest coach in Kings history.