Grande Prairie Kings singing the scoring blues

Grande Prairie Kings forward Bailey Hartman battles with Dawson Briscoe of the North Peace Navigators in North West Junior Hockey League action at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Sunday afternoon. The Navigators picked up a 2-1 win over the Kings. The locals are 0-3 in November, having scored only three goals in three games. Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune

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The County of Grande Prairie Kings dropped a 2-1 decision to the North Peace Navigators in North West Junior Hockey League action at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on Sunday afternoon.

The Kings finished off the game with a 1:44 powerplay but couldn’t get the puck set up in the Navs zone on four separate attempts at setting up shop, looking to knot up a fairly even hockey game.

It was frustrating and disheartening for Kings Head Coach Kyle Chapple to watch his team struggle to gain the blue line of the Navigators only to be rebuffed time and time again with precious seconds ticking off the digital score clock.

Puck possession wasn’t a strong point in that situation and it hasn’t been a strong suit for the team this season.

“We wanted to get the goalie out once we got puck possession off the face-off but that was the problem. We didn’t get puck possession as face-offs have been a big problem for us,” Chapple said. “That was a big reason on why we didn’t get set up and get the play that was drawn up to happen. We have to win the draw, and execute and we didn’t do that. I think we had one little play around the net and it was a one and done.”

Tanner Davy scored the only goal for the Kings (4-10-1) while Wyatt Fournier got the start in the net and stopped 30 shots in the loss.

Woes continue

The club is winless in November, despite surrendering only nine goals in three games. The problem is on the other end where the club has scored three goals this month. The Kings have bruised the twine 38 times in 15 games.

If the coaching staff could pinpoint the exact issue plaguing them, the problem would have been sorted out but it’s different issues in different games.

“The two things that stand out to me, first and foremost, is that we tend to turn pucks over at their blueline when we’re gaining entry and that (comes from) a lack of speed when we hit them at the line (or) trying to do the toe drag, fancy move at the line, instead of chipping the puck deep or driving wide with some speed,” Chapple said. “Right now, we’re not doing these things.”

The coach continued, noting the team is too easy to push around in the offensive zone.

“We get the puck in the offensive zone and we get bumped and lose puck control,” Chapple said. “We’re not playing against some top-end defensive teams here. It’s one bump and we’re done. The forwards needs to compete and take the body and keep the puck. Yeah, you’re going to get hit but it doesn’t mean they should be taking the puck. Protect the puck and win the battle.”

“When you expose the puck to the defenceman it’s an easy poke check and that’s all it takes,” Assistant Coach Scott Walters added. “We lose it in the cute zone, as we call it, the area between the blueline and the top of the circles. We don’t want to lose it in that area so you either get the puck deep or get it to the net.”

Gets a chance

Kings goalie Cameron Beson spent the weekend with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and made his AJHL debut on Saturday night, a 4-3 loss to the Whitecourt Wolverines. Beson made 32 stops.

“In my nine years with this team, Beson is one of the hardest working players we’ve ever had,” Chapple said. “He’s got goal(s) in mind and he’s not letting anything stand in his way. It’s the AJHL, the Western Hockey League or working towards a scholarship. His mindset is (great). It doesn’t matter how the team plays in front of him. He’s going to work his butt off to be a top-end goaltender. For him to get an opportunity this past weekend was not a surprise at all.”