The County of Grande Prairie Kings picked up a 6-3 victory over the North Peace Navigators in North West Junior Hockey League (NWJHL) action at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Saturday night
At the beginning of the season, offence was a question mark for the team, but after putting six goals by a decent Navigators team, perhaps offence won’t be an issue this year.
Although, consistency will be tougher than any opponent.
“I thought we did real good job of getting in on the forecheck and working the puck up top (to the point), getting pucks through and creating second chance opportunities and when we got those opportunities, we buried them,” Kings Head Coach Kyle Chapple said. “We went to the net, the dirty areas, the blue paint and we got rewarded for it.”
Early on, the club has found a rhythm, according to forward Justin Rudyk. The winger had a goal and assist on Saturday night.
“I think we tried a bunch of different line combos in the exhibition (schedule) and we’ve found a couple lines that click and we’re getting a lot of offence of it,” Rudyk said.
Tanner Davy notched a pair of goals while Blake Gillingham, Tulsen Fawcett and Kyle Chalifoux got singles for the Kings.
Currently, the Kings are second in the NWJHL with five points from four games. The Kings are in Fort St. John Saturday night before returning home for a Sunday afternoon game against the Fairview Flyers.
The club went into the third period with a 5-2 lead and managed to hold the fort, despite some anxious moments in their own zone. Chapple says defending a lead is a work in progress.
Last weekend, the Kings held a 5-3 lead over the Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks—midway through the third period—but ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 overtime loss. Even early in the season, points are precious and the coach is giving them proper respect.
“We still gave up too many chances, (on Saturday) and maybe some heavy legs caused a part of that,” Chapple said. “For the most part, (starting goalie Cameron) Beson could see (the shots). As long as we protect the middle of the ice and give up (opportunities to the outside), I am OK with it that way. Overall, our third was better but we have room to improve.”
Crucial two minutes
Perhaps, the most crucial moments of the game came just after Paul Chaston cut the Kings lead to 5-3 at 3:26 of the third period. Captain Brent Headon took a cross-checking penalty just 1:15 after the Chaston goal and the home side got the much needed response from players assigned to the task of shutting the Navs down.
“That was a real crucial shift for us right there,” Chapple said. “I told the guys going out on the PK, ‘we have to kill this one off’. That game could have been a lot closer and tighter right to the end, if we didn’t get that, I thought it was a real good job of our PK killing it off. There were some battles won by our guys and that was a big turning point, killing it off.”
The Navigators went 0-4 on the powerplay. So far this year, the Kings have given up four goals on 23 chances.
The first one
The club picked up its first win of the year, following a 4-3 road win over the Sexsmith Vipers on Friday night.
Wyatt Fournier got the start in the net and, according to Chapple, was solid in the victory. Fournier turned aside 30 shots in the victory.
“Fournier played well, he made some really good saves, especially late in the game,” Chapple said. “We didn’t play their style, we stuck to our game plan, the way we need to play. They’re hard on the puck, physical but that s not our style. We like to play with a little more speed. We did a good job of that and we got rewarded for it.”
The flu and other sickly abnormalities hit the club over the weekend. The Kings played with 15 players on Friday and 16 on Saturday.
“It’s that time of year,” Chapple said. “Everybody goes through it and this was our weekend. Hopefully, every gets healthy and we’re back to full strength next weekend.”