FULL FORCE - Pat Martens

RDC Kings and Queens hockey have strong showing

It’s been a productive season so far for the Red Deer College Kings and Queens hockey teams.

Both the Kings and Queens are among the top five teams in their respective leagues, with the Kings holding steady in third place and the Queens sitting atop their division.

Since the Christmas break, the Kings and Queens teams have hit the ice four times each and the results have been promising to say the least.

The Kings went into the break with a 10-6-2-0 record to find themselves right in the thick of things in a conference that, this year, is being dominated by the offensive powerhouse that is the NAIT Ooks.

The first two games of 2016 were kind to the Kings, who kicked off the back half of the season with a pair of road contests against last-place Briercrest College.

During the two game set, Red Deer’s players had an opportunity to shake off a little bit of the rust that tends to gather after a month of rest as they handily dispatched Briercrest 7-3 in the first game before picking up a 6-4 victory the very next evening. The Kings’ power play managed to convert five times over the weekend as 11 different RDC players found the back of the net on the way to the sweep.

But the team didn’t really have that much time to savor the wins. They had too much work to do to prepare for a home-and-home series against the reigning ACAC champions the very next weekend.

“We had a real good week preparing in practice. We changed some things with the penalty kill this week to kind of match up with what NAIT does with their power play,” said Kings’ Head Coach Trevor Keeper.

The two game set against NAIT, who are undefeated in league play so far this season, would be one of the Kings’ toughest challenges yet.

The Ooks are easily the strongest offensive hockey team in the conference with 128 goals for in just 20 games. To put that in perspective, the next highest scoring team is the U of A – Augustana Vikings with 83 goals in 22 games.

“We just tried to emphasize with our guys that the importance is how we play tonight, not the end result or the score,” Keeper said after Friday night’s 3-1 loss to the Ooks at the Penhold Multiplex.

Despite the overwhelming odds against them going into last weekend’s games, the Kings had a really good showing.

RDC put on a defensive clinic during Friday night’s game, holding NAIT to just three goals on the evening. And goaltender Mike Salmon had an excellent game, stopping 32 of the 35 shots that came his way.

“It was a good game. In reality it was a 2-1 game and we made two small errors and they capitalized on both of them,” Keeper said, referring to the Ooks’ second and third goals.

And the Kings just kept on getting better. They out shot NAIT 12-5 in the third period of Friday night’s game and proceeded to out shoot them in the first period of Saturday’s game as well, though the Kings did end up falling 7-4 in that one.

“We were happy with our work ethic and our forecheck and pressure and getting pucks to the net,” Keeper said, adding that after the game, he feels that his team has closed the gap a little.

“We know they’re a good team, they’re well coached. We know they’re improving.”

The Kings are back in action this Friday night at the Penhold Multiplex when they host the Keyano College Huskies. Game time is at 7 p.m.

The RDC Queens continued to show why they are tops on the women’s hockey standings as they kicked off 2016.

After a brief stumble on the road against NAIT in their first game of the New Year on Jan. 6th, during which they were handed just their second loss of the season, the Queens have been on fire.

They came back and defeated the Ooks 3-2 in overtime at home the very next night and then continued to trounce Olds College in a two game set this past weekend, outscoring their opponents 11-1.

The Queens currently hold a 13-2-1 record with 45 goals for and just 19 against. That’s pretty good for a team that has played 16 games.

RDC’s women’s hockey effort has been spearheaded by their goaltending tandem of Jen West and Alexandra Frisk, who have a combined save percentage of .948 as well as league leading goals against averages.

They’ve also benefited from a very even spread of offense among their skaters and a lot of depth on their offense as well as their blueline.

Next up for the Queens is a big home and home set against Grant MacEwan, who currently trail the Queens by just seven points in the standings. The first of those two games will take place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28th at the Red Deer Arena.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com