Kings host crucial game against Navigators – DHT
Kyle Chapple admits he’s had Friday’s home game against the North Peace Navigators circled on his calendar for quite some time.
The game for head coach Chapple and his County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings squad will be crucial in determining whether or not they will have a chance to claim top spot in the North West Junior Hockey League.
“It’s a big (game). We haven’t played against Peace River in a while now and it’s a game that we’re looking forward to,” said Chapple.
“I think with our two teams’ capabilities of putting the puck in the net, I think the game will come down to who can play better in their own end and obviously special teams. If you can stay out of the box and not kill penalties all night, that’s definitely going to help. If you do get your chances on the powerplay, you have to bury them if you want to win.”
Friday marks the Kings’ final home game of the regular season.
With three games remaining in the regular season, the Kings, who are coming off a 3-2 overtime victory over the Fairview Flyers on Jan. 24, are 21-4-0-1 and ranked second in the NWJHL.
The Navigators, who are based in Peace River, are 24-2-0-1 and are enjoying a 14-game win streak following an 8-3 win over Fairview Wednesday night. The squad’s last loss came at the expense of a 3-2 overtime victory for the Kings on Nov. 7.
Wednesday’s win pulls the Navigators four points ahead of the Kings for top spot.
The team – either the Navs or Kings – that claims top spot at the end of the season earns a first-round bye in the post-season and gets home ice advantage.
Friday will mark the fourth meeting of the season between the teams. The Navigators have won two of three meetings, including their last game on Nov. 29 with a 4-1 victory.
Chapple said that with their various roster changes and the way the team is playing, he feels the Kings are a much better team than when they played the Navigators two months ago.
“(We) know the circumstances of what (Friday’s) games means, as well as the (Feb. 8) game against them,” said Chapple.
In their season series, the Kings have struggled on special teams. They’re 2-16 on the powerplay and have allowed nine powerplay goals on 21 opportunities.
Through three meetings, the teams have totalled 150 penalty minutes.
Chapple said although the long-standing rivalry with the Navigators never disappoints with its physicality and end-to-end action, the key will be for the Kings to keep their composure and stay out of the penalty box.
“I think (Friday) is going to be a fast-paced game,” said Chapple.
“We definitely want to come out strong, be physical and be a tough team to play against.”
Kings captain Corey Wamsteeker, who has 11 goals and 13 assists in his last six games, leads the team and league with 36 goals and 38 assists; forward Ryan Trudeau is third in league scoring with 24 goals and 28 assists; Joel Wamsteeker rounds out the top five in league scoring with 11 goals and 28 assists.
Chapple said in addition to the need for strong defence, he said the team will also have to have strong goaltending from either Andy Gilker or Cam Smith.
Gilker, who is 15-4 and sports a 2.17 Goals Against Average, has played all three games against the Navigators.
“I think this is definitely a good opportunity for people to come on out and watch some good hockey. Between these two teams it’s a good rivalry, we’ve played some good hockey games against each other over the last few years and every time we’ve played each other, it’s a good, hard battle,” concluded Chapple.
“We’re two teams that don’t like each other and I think it’s exciting for everyone involved.”
Friday’s game at the Crosslink County Sportsplex starts at 8 p.m.
The Kings travel to Peace River on Feb. 8 and round out their regular season schedule on Feb. 11 in Beaverlodge.
North Peace Navigators vs JDA County Kings
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs Fairview Flyers