Kings ready to weather a first-round Blizzard

Published on Tuesday, 19 March 2024 07:31

The Dauphin Kings enter the 2023-24 Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs riding a four-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Included in that winning streak is a 2-0 victory over their quarterfinal opponents, the Blizzard Jr. A Hockey Club, Wednesday in The Pas, a game in which the Kings sat their top line of Jordan Bax, Cayden Glover and Ashton Paul, as well as starter Cole Sheffield.

The night before, the Kings scored three late power-play goals en route to a 7-3 win over the Portage Terriers at Credit Union Place.

On Friday, Dauphin snapped a 2-2 tie with three third-period goals in skating to a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Blues in Winnipeg.

And in the season finale, Logan Walker scored three times and added an assist to lead the Kings to a 6-3 win over the Selkirk Steelers, Saturday in Selkirk.

Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley was pleased with how the team played in the final four games.

“I’m really proud of the guys for the way they worked in the last four games. Actually, the last couple weeks. They worked hard. We didn’t get the results all the time, but the compete and being hard on pucks and the speed and playing fast was all back again. I think we’re ready to go for playoffs,” he said. The schedule will begin on Friday in The Pas with the second game of the series in Dauphin on Sunday (4:00pm).

The Kings and Blizzard split the season series with each team winning three games and they each won twice on the road. The Blizzard outscored Dauphin 15-12 in the six games.

Hedley said it will be a tough series.

“We know what they bring. They work hard in five-man units. We have to match their work ethic and compete level. It’s going to come down to two great goaltenders,” he said.

The Kings, he said, have to play fast, get on pucks quickly and move them quickly.

“The longer you hang on to it, the more chance of a turnover with a team that works real hard. We just have to make sure that we’re hard on pucks, we work hard, we protect the middle of the ice and really look after the net front and help Sheff out as much as we can,” Hedley said. “We know he’ll make the first one. We’ve just got to look after rebounds and second shots and make sure we box out.”

But the biggest thing, Hedley said, is it is going to come down to will, hard work and never quitting.

“We’re going to make mistakes, everybody does. It’s just how you rebound, how resilient you are and how many times you’re going to be pushed,” he added. “It’s the best time of year. You find out about the players in your group and the players find out a lot about their teammates. It’s one of those things that is nothing but a positive experience.”

Hedley feels home ice advantage is overrated, noting they won the Turnbull Trophy two years ago in game seven in Steinbach.

“The only difference is the noise factor and a lot of times that gets you pumped up and ready to play, regardless of whether they’re going against you or for you,” he said. “It’s a matter of the focus, where we’re going and not necessarily who we’re playing. Our goal is to win the series and move on to the next one.”

Winning in The Pas twice will give the Kings confidence heading into the series. Because it’s a small ice surface, the key will be moving the puck quick.

“It’s one-touch. You can’t handle it too long. They come at you hard and they work hard. It’s a small building, things happen fast, so the support for your teammates all over the ice has got to be there,” he said. “So short passes, deep pressure and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Kings court:

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League recently named its award winners. Winkler Flyers forward Trent Penner was named Most Valuable Player, while Noah Szabo of the Steinbach Pistons won the Top Defenceman Award and his Pistons teammate Grady Hoffman won the Rookie of the Year Award. Blizzard netminder Tomas Anderson won the Top Goaltender Award and Blizzard coach Eric Labrosse was named Coach of the Year. Josh Lehto of the Virden Oil Capitals won the Hockey Ability and Sportsmanship Award. Penner, Szabo and Anderson were all selected to the first all-star team along with Steinbach forward Leo Chambers and forward Dalton Andrews of Winkler. Tayem Gislason of the Portage Terriers was the other defenceman selected. The second all-star team consists of forwards Sean Williams of the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, Lehto and Nolan Chastko of Virden, defencemen Sebastian Hamming of the Blizzard and Kaycee Coyle of the Niverville Nighthawks and Dauphin’s Cole Sheffield in goal. The rookie all-star team includes forwards Hoffman, Marlen Edwards of the Blizzard and, Nathan Brown of Niverville, defencemen Cole Slobodian of Virden and James Edwards of Winkler and goaltender Raiden Legall of Niverville.

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