Kings Finding Identity – Logan Clow – DHT
Through their 20 North West Junior Hockey League games this season, the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings have struggled with inconsistency.
Sure, 11-8-0-1 and third in the NWJHL, isn’t bad at the 20-game mark. Yet, at the 20-game mark last year, the Kings were 17-3.
But, this is a much younger squad with a tad more inexperience than usual.
“Obviously, at this point in the season, we’ve seen the good and the bad. I think it’s just about finding that consistency and bringing it every night. Obviously, beating Fairview a few weekends ago and beating Peace River and then having Dawson (Creek) mixed in there and losing to them, it’s kind of ‘what are we?’ as a team. We know we can beat the top teams, it’s just being consistent…,” said Kyle Chapple, head coach and GM of the Kings.
Losing 7-4 last week to the second-last Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks and then responding with a win over the North Peace Navigators, snapping their 15-game win streak, is an example of that inconsistency that comes with inexperience.
Yet, Chapple feels the Kings’ identity is inching closer to what he’s visioned for this season. He’s added a player at all three positions in recent weeks.
Goaltender Andy Gilker has rejoined the Kings and is already 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA. Though the Kings are carrying Gilker, along with Jeremi Blais and Dalyn Haire, Chapple noted all three goalies with stick with the team for the remainder of the season.
Forward Tyrone Kipling was dealt to the Kings from the Beaverlodge Blades and has bolstered the team’s offence with five goals and three assists in eight games.
Chapple also sized up the blueline last week by adding 20 year-old Taylor Lileikis, who spent three years in the AJHL with the Calgary Mustangs, Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Whitecourt Wolverines.
Lileikis scored in his first game against the Beaverlodge Blades on Tuesday
“…we’re pretty strong in net, our backend just got a lot stronger and we still have those scoring forward lines up front. I think what our team identity has to be is that it has to be contributions from everybody, night in and night out if we want to be successful. It’s not going to be relying on a few guys, it’s going to be a team effort,” said Chapple, of how the additions have changed the team’s identity.
Lileikis, a former captain with the Calgary Mustangs, is listed as 6’5″, 229lbs. He recorded one goal and 18 assists in 126 AJHL games.
Chapple said adding size and strength to the team’s blueline was at the top of his wish list.
“We wanted to get stronger back there from a physical standpoint, but we also wanted to bring a guy in that can lead by example,” said Chapple.
“We started the year with a very young D-core and we’ve been very happy with the way they’ve developed to this point in the season and they’ve all gotten better and they’ve all had their ups and downs, but it seems to be more up of late. I think adding a guy like Taylor is going to come in and help them that much more.”
Kings host Sexsmith on Saturday
Kings alumni Nolan Trudeau and Corey Wamsteeker will have their jerseys retired prior to the Kings’ Saturday game against the Sexsmith Vipers at 8 p.m. at the Crosslink County Sportsplex.
“This team’s had a lot of success in the last four years and we’ve had many players who have been really strong players for us and a couple that just stand out to us. We wanted to do something special for them and they’re guys who represent what the Kings are all about,” said Chapple.
“They were Kings players through and through and they loved to play with this team and they had a ton of success and helped this team win a lot of big games. They brought a provincial medal to this team for the first time and league championship to this team for the first time.”
Saturday’s game will be taped by Eastlink Television and Chapple said there will also be team apparel giveaways throughout the night.
The Vipers (7-9-0-1) play in Beaverlodge on Friday night.
North Peace Navigators vs JDA County Kings
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs Fairview Flyers