Kings lose league crown – DHT
Kyle Chapple and the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings were hoping for a lot more from the fifth edition of what has been a hotly-contested rivalry between the two top teams in the North West Junior Hockey League.
The home team, Peace River’s North Peace Navigators blew out the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings 9-2 on Sunday, a far cry from what have been highly competitive matches all season. In the four games previous, the combined score was 14-13 for the Navigators.
Instead, the Kings head coach chalks the day up to a lack of effort.
“In both ends I think we got out worked,” he summarized on Monday. “Any time we play in Peace River it’s a tough game and if you don’t show, you’re not going to get the results.”
The penultimate game of the season for both teams was never a contest. The Navs broke out quickly in the first period, logging goals from Noah Russi, Ty Wiebe and Dustin Long, and a fourth – shorthanded – from Matthew Grant. Defensively, the Navs held the fort as well. The Kings weren’t able to take advantage of a five minute penalty after Navigator Tyler Grobowski was handed a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
The Kings did convert on a powerplay early in the second period, but 4-1 was as close as the game would get. Two more second-period goals would spell the end of Kings goaltender Andy Gilker’s night, he tallied 13 saves through 40 minutes.
A new goalie changed little in the final frame, Tallon Kramer was beat three times on nine shots before Kyle Smeding put a consolation marker behind Navigator goalie Kenny Fitzgerald, who made 14 saves for the win, with two minutes remaining in the game.
The Navigators top guns were just that on the night; Wiebe had two goals and three assists, Long had four helpers and a goal and Russi had two goals and two assists. Conversely, the top three Kings scorers on the season were held pointless on Sunday.
Peace River also dominated Grande Prairie in special teams, going three-for-six on the powerplay and adding another two shorthanded markers.
The special teams lapse also stems from a lack of effort, said Chapple.
“Our (penalty kill) has actually been really good for the last month, month-and-a-half, but it just seemed to fall apart. On the powerplay I think we just got complacent, lazy is almost the word,” he said.
Playoff picture becoming clear
The game had high stakes. A Grande Prairie win would have vaulted the Kings into first place overall, and barring a surprise in the final game of the season, would’ve secured them the regular season banner and a bye in the first round of playoffs.
Instead it’s the Navs who get the title and the rest.
The Kings conclude their regular season with a Wednesday trip against the Beaverlodge Blades, who’ve managed a single victory in their 27 games this season.
Chapple calls the game, and two schedule practices this week, a chance to return to form.
“We’ve got to try and get back to the drawing board a little bit and work on things we thought went wrong yesterday. It’s just a reset and a regroup as a team, we have a game on Wednesday against Beaverlodge and then we get ready for the playoffs,” he said.
Ultimately, Chapple isn’t going to discount a strong season because of one game.
“We’re not going to make a good deal about this, we put ourselves in a good spot going into playoffs.”
The NWJHL playoffs schedule has yet to be released.
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs North Peace Navigators