Flyers and Kings Tied at One
Entering into the North West Junior Hockey League semi-finals against the soaring Fairview Flyers, Kyle Chapple and the Grande Prairie JDA Kings knew it was going to be a long, physical series.
After two one-goal home games at the Crosslink County Sportsplex and the series tied at 1-1, the best-of-seven series now shifts to Fairview on March 5 and 7.
Three of their five regular season games between the two were decided in overtime or a shootout.
Thursday, despite outshooting the Flyers 41-17, the Kings lost the series opener 2-1. In the third period, with two minutes remaining and down 2-0, Darrel Hewko scored for the Kings with goaltender Andy Gilker on the bench for the extra attacker. The Kings were then unable to solve Fairview Flyers goaltender Kenton White in the dying seconds.
Game two on Saturday was a much needed win for the Kings.
Joel Wamsteeker, Corey Wamsteeker and Donald Gaudreault scored in the first period to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. After a scoreless second period, Joel Wamsteeker scored a powerplay goal early in the third period to give the team a 4-2 lead. The Flyers stormed back with a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes to force overtime.
Adam Hodge, a trade deadline pick-up for the Kings, was the overtime hero scoring 52 seconds in to lock the series at 1-1.
Chapple, the head coach of the Kings, said Saturday’s was a must-win game.
“In both games, I thought we played pretty good,” said Chapple after the overtime victory.
“The difference is tonight we found the back of the net and when they scored the goal late in third. We didn’t get down, or on the goal before that. We fought right back.”
“We knew this was an important game for us. We didn’t want to go down there (to Fairview) 2-0. After the game on Thursday, we weren’t going to hang our heads. I thought we played a real, solid game. We just talked (after Thursday) that we were probably playing to the outside a bit too much and we weren’t going to the scoring areas we needed to get to.”
Chapple said the team did a good job of getting into scoring position and getting traffic in front of White on Saturday.
“We can’t let the goalie have an easy night and stop pucks from the outside. It’s playoff hockey and you got to get to the blue paint and you’ve got to drive pucks to the net. I thought we did a much better job of that and it created much needed powerplays for us and opportunities to score,” said Chapple, adding he was also pleased with the team’s powerplay Saturday, which went 2-4.
As the series shifts to Fairview, Chapple said the team will need to work hard, be physical, keep their play simple and “find ways to win”.
“We have to go with the mindset that we have had success up there. We have played good hockey up there this year and there’s reason why we can’t win up there in the playoffs,” said Chapple.
“The more fans that can make the trip up there on Thursday, the better. It’s going to be a hostile environment in Fairview and hopefully we have a few GP fans there that can even out the noise a little bit.”
Thursday and Saturday’s games start at 8:30 p.m. in Fairview.
Game five is back at the Crosslink County Sportsplex on March 10 at 8 p.m.
North Peace Navigators vs JDA County Kings
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs Fairview Flyers