It’s coming down to crunch time for those players hoping to crack the roster of the Dauphin Kings.
Dauphin played three preseason games, last week, starting with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Neepawa Titans, Tuesday, in a game which feature all-rookie lineups for both teams.
Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley said the rookies on the ice in that game played very well and had a lot of energy.
“We directed over 100 shots and had 65 and lost in a shootout. But at the same time, both goaltenders were really good,” he said. “We saw some speed, some energy, some hard work. It was a great game by our young kids.”
The next night against the Swan Valley Stampeders saw each team dressed some veterans, along with prospects hoping to make the team.
The result was a 5-0 Kings victory.
Hedley thought the back pressure was outstanding, as well as the work ethic and compete level.
“I really liked our speed and our work ethic. And we were fortunate enough to get some goals half way through the game,” he said.
The final game of the week was a rematch in Swan River, Friday.
After a slow start, the Kings picked it up, erasing a 2-0 first-period deficit to skate away with a 5-2 win.
“I thought our back end controlled the game. The two American kids (Trey Gnetz and Karson Raymond), both were very good. And I thought Wicks (Nolan Wickham) and Brooksy (Aidan Brooks) were good. Baxy (Anthony Bax) and (Naaman) Hofer, I thought they controlled the game and really limited the opportunities,” he said. “I think they had five shots in about 35 minutes between the last five minutes of the first and five minutes left in the third. So I’m very happy with the effort.”
Even after falling behind 2-0 after the first period, the Kings still worked hard and created some opportunities and were rewarded for their efforts.
The veterans are starting to step up their play, especially on the blueline.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting into it. We’ve just got to get a little more urgency, a little bit more compete and using our speed the way they can,” Hedley said.
After skating over the weekend, Hedley hopes to cut down to about 28 players for the final two preseason games, Friday at home against the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Melville Millionaires, and Saturday in Virden against the Oil Capitals.
Defenceman Ryan Gower has been reassigned to the Kings from the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and will skate with the team this week.
Hedley said the two remaining preseason games will be a good test for those still trying to make the cut.
“The one thing that we really have to get back to from a couple years ago, and I really shouldn’t say we didn’t last year, but I think the consistency needs to be there with the compete and hard work. They’re both choices,” he said. “The skill you have to work at, but they’re individual choices on how hard you work, how hard you compete, how many stick battles you win. It’s all an amount of effort and decision to work hard. The exhibition season has shown that our vets have come back with a purpose and they’re working hard and it’s contagious. Our young guys are working hard and, you combine that with some skill that we have, it’s going to be an exciting year.”