Kings set for title pursuit – Logan Clow/Daily Herald-Tribune
By LOGAN CLOW
Daily Herald Tribune
The County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings kick off their 2014 North West Junior Hockey League regular season Saturday against the Fairview Flyers, at the Crosslink County Sportsplex.
In early September, the Kings took to the ice for tryouts and then defeated the Cold Lake Ice 6-1 on Sept. 14.
The team then travelled to play in the inaugural Kal Tire Cup in Peace River on Sept. 19-21. The team lost 4-3 to the Fairview Flyers in a shootout and but won bronze with a 7-1 win over the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks to conclude their pre-season.
Kings head coach Kyle Chapple says the team allowed the Flyers to battle back, noting the team had a 3-2 lead after the second period.
“I think they’re going to be better (this season). They’re a team that’s going to be a real good challenge for us all season long. They have some strong players up front and have some guys that can put the puck in the net. I expect some really competitive games against them throughout the year,” said Chapple.
Last year, the Kings went 27-6-0-2 in the regular season, before losing to Peace River’s North Peace Navigators in the finals.
A tradition that Chapple wants to maintain the team to continue is their strong season starts. For the last two consecutive seasons, the Kings have won their first 14 games. In 2011-2012, the Kings won their first seven games.
“That’s our goal, that’s our plan is to get off to a good start. In the last few years we’ve had some strong starts and that’s really benefited us late in the season when you’re fighting for points to have that good start. It points you a good situation for later in the year when points are so valuable,” said Chapple.
Kings gain players before home opener; name captains
Ahead of their home opener, Chapple says the Kings have added forwards Donald Goudreault, who spent the pre-season with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (KIJHL), and forward Zach Bennett, who both played for the Sherpa Safety Midget AA Storm last season.
“Both guys are going to be counted on for big roles on our team.
Donald is a scoring winger that has all kinds of speed and ability to put the puck into the net. With Zach, he’s a big body to play the middle or play on the wing and has some offensive touch there as well. We’re going to use them in multiple situations,” said Chapple.
On Sept. 22, the team also added Patrick King – a 20-year-old defenceman from Ontario who suited up for the Dryden Ice Dogs last season.
“He’s not a big point producer, but a stay-at-home defenceman. What we were looking for was a bigger body back there to be a shutdown defenceman,” said Chapple.
“I think it helps with filling out or top four (defencemen). We have three veteran guys back there right now and three guys who are pretty new to the league and to junior hockey and I think it mixes things up well with the experience.”
Gilker added to goalie mix
In net, the Kings added goaltender Andy Gilker from the Grande Prairie Storm on Sept. 25. The 19-year-old, Quebec native, who turned in a 1-1 record with a 3.56 GAA in the AJHL, was recruited to Grande Prairie in the summer by Chapple.
“Andy was a guy we worked on to get to Grande Prairie all summer. He was who we thought we were going to have right from the beginning and he attended the Storm camp and not really knowing how that would turn out, he played really well there and made the team out of camp,” said Chapple, adding that the addition of Gilker, who will be affiliated with the Storm, is a boast for the team’s goaltending.
The team also still has goaltenders Cam Smith and Dylan White with the team, though Chapple says a decision has yet to be made on Saturday’s starter.
He says if Gilker can be carded, he will start Saturday. Should the paperwork not be finalized by then, Chapple says Smith will start.
He says the Kings will carry three goaltenders for the time being.
“The little time I’ve spent with Andy, I know he’s a really good kid. He wants to be the number one guy and he’s definitely a guy our younger goalies can learn from,” said Chapple.
The Kings have also named their captain for the 2014-2015 NWJHL season.
Thursday, Chapple announced that 21-year-old, Sexsmith native Corey Wamsteeker will be this year’s captain. Wearing the ‘A’, will be Joel Wamsteeker, Scott Nordstrom and a third player, to be named later.
“Corey has been a guy that has been a big part of this team for four years. He’s always been a big point producer, a guy that we have relied on in important moments and I think he’s just kind of worked his way into this position and all of his experience playing in the last four years with playoff runs and provincials last year and being the leader here, it really showed us that he was capable of the position coming into this year,” he said.
“He’s (Corey) excited this year. He wants to come in and he has one goal on his mind and that’s winning the league championship. He wants to be the leader that takes us this year and as a coach, that’s exactly what you want to here out of your captain. I know he’s willing to do whatever it takes to take these guys where we want to go.”
Chapple says the Kings will unveil their new third jerseys Saturday.
“We just have to come out and play a full 60-minute effort. We learned that the other night in the pre-season game (against Fairview) that we didn’t put a 60-minute effort in. I think if our boys come out and work hard and play for the full 60, I think our chances will be good,” said Chapple.
Sunday game cancelled
The Slave Lake Wolves announced recently that they have taken a one-year leave of absence from the league, cancelling all of their games off of the season’s schedule.
Although the Kings were slated to travel and play the Wolves on Sunday, Chapple says he’s interested to see how that will affect the team’s performance, noting they don’t play again until they host the Dawson Creek Jr. Canucks on Oct. 11.
The Wolves and Kings had five games scheduled against each other this season.
“I don’t think it’s a big loss to not play on Sunday. That would have been a quick turnaround early in the season,” said Chapple.
“After that, the problem is that we don’t play for a week-and-a-half after that and it would have been nice where we lose the Slave Lake game, but we have a Wednesday night game where we play
Sexsmith or Beaverlodge, but I guess that’s one of the main losses of losing Slave Lake for the season is those games and where you got to work it out in your schedule and fill those times with practices or something to keep the boys interested and not give them much time off.”
Saturday’s game against the Flyers is at 8 p.m. at the Crosslink County Sportsplex.
JDA County Kings vs Fort St. John Huskies
JDA County Kings vs North Peace Navigators