Kings back on the ice Saturday night – Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
After a 13-day break, the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings will return to North West Junior Hockey league regular season action on Saturday at the Crosslink County Sportsplex, hosting the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks.
The Kings are coming off a 5-3 season opener win in Fairview on Sept. 27.
“(We’ve) been trying to stay sharp and practising as much as we can and working on things in practice (such as) special teams and obviously working on fitness to stay in shape while we had the break between games,” said Kyle Chapple, head coach of the JDA Kings.
“I don’t think (a slow start) will be a problem (on Saturday). I think everybody’s excited to get playing games. If anything, I think they’ve got to remember to stay within the systems and not trying to do too much with everybody being anxious to get back to playing games.”
Chapple said the break has also allowed time for team bonding. He said the team did several activities, such as team workouts and bowling.
“I think every day, they’re getting closer and closer and it seems to be a real tight group already,” he said.
The Jr. Canucks enter Saturday’s match with a 2-1 record and are coming off a 2-1 loss to the North Peace Navigators on Oct. 3.
Chapple said the Jr. Canucks cannot be taken lightly.
“I expect a good, competitive game,” he said.
“They’re a physical team. They’re going to come in and I know they’re not going to be a team that we can take lightly. They’re definitely going to give us everything we can handle and they’re coming off a couple wins and a real, solid effort against Peace River.”
Chapple said he wants the JDA Kings to show improvement on the powerplay, which has been a primary focus in practice. Though the team went 2-2 shorthanded against the Flyers, Chapple said he was disappointed with the team going 0-3 on the man advantage.
He said the inability to capitalize on a powerplay, or clear the puck on a penalty kill, could cost the team an important game.
“Especially at junior B, there’s a lot of powerplays and a lot of times where you’re killing penalties and (special teams) is something that’s got to be sharp if you want to win games,” he said.
“We want to be executing on them at a high level from the beginning of the season, all the way to the end. It’s something I’m going to stress on throughout the entire year.”
Saturday’s game is the first of three home games for the Kings in October.
After Saturday, the team will next travel to play the North Peace Navigators on Oct. 17 and the Fairview Flyers on Oct. 18. The team will return home on Oct. 24 against the Sexsmith Vipers and Oct. 30 against the Beaverlodge Blades.
“We want to play the right way Saturday. We know we’ve got a couple of tough ones next weekend. Getting those points this weekend and playing the right way will benefit us moving forward,” said Chapple.
“We’ve got a young team and they’re anxious to play. Like I say, they’re excited and they know the next three games are going to be a challenge and everybody is looking forward to the challenge.”
He said goaltender Andy Gilker will make the start for the JDA Kings on Saturday.
Gilker started the season with the Grande Prairie Storm, but was affiliated with the Kings after the Storm already had Adam Beukeboom and Liam McLeod.
“He’s lived up to everything and more that we’ve asked for, not just in the net. He’s a great goalie, but he’s an even better kid. He’s been a help to the other goaltenders on the team (Cam Smith and Dylan White). (Gilker) is an extremely hard worker and we’re pretty lucky to have him,” said Chapple.
Game time Saturday is at 8 p.m.
“We were pretty happy with the fan support we got for our home opener, so hopefully we get the same turnout for Saturday’s game,” concluded Chapple.
JDA County Kings vs Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks
JDA County Kings vs Fairview Flyers
JDA County Kings vs Sexsmith Vipers