The Red Deer College Kings hockey team over-achieved last year in some areas according to their head coach but in others the team fell a little short in the second half.
The Kings won over 20 games in the first year back, posted a victory in a playoff round and made it to the semi-finals. All this after almost a decade of being absent from the ACAC ranks.
“In terms of our goals at the beginning we accomplished what hoped to and maybe more but in knowing the talent we have this year the guys are a lot hungrier to even go farther,” said Trevor Keeper, who is back behind the bench this season.
The roster of 25 will be populated by more than a dozen veterans from last season and it will be supplemented by a handful of players Keeper recruited during the off season.
Also in the mix is walk on player Jordan McTaggart who was committed to another team in the league but has since decided RDC was the place he wanted to go.
“He’s from Grande Prairie and played with the Storm, the junior A team in the AJHL for three years,” said Keeper.
“He was doing some work around Sylvan Lake in the summer and has some friends in the area and he contacted me and changed his mind and applied to Red Deer College.”
Two other recruits Keeper is high on both have Western Hockey League experience in the form of Innisfal’s Nick Bell who suited up with the Red Deer Rebels in 2009 and Red Deer product Joel Topping, a former Lethbridge Hurricane.
A fourth player with WHL and CIS experience is Greg Lamoureux who played with Vancouver and Wilfred Laurier after going through the Calgary Buffaloes Midget AAA program.
All this quality coming into the ACAC has people outside of Alberta paying attention to the players hitting the ice according to Keeper.
Last year’s Kings squad was built around skill and speed so Keeper has kept that blueprint on the table as he constructed this team with a slight change.
He’s added some size this time around to complement the other attributes as every one of his new recruits comes in at over six feet tall.
” All those players are intelligent players with high hockey IQs and they compete hard. I know they’re good character people. I’ve talked to them extensively through the recruiting process,” said Keeper. “So we’ve upgraded the skill and we’ve gotten bigger and that’s what we have to do in order to compete against teams like NAIT and SAIT.”
In goal the Kings have familiar faces in the form of Kramer Barnstable and Mike Salmon returning to the team.
Barnstable is into his fourth year and has yet to decide if this will be his final year at RDC while Salmon has four years left including this year if he decides that is the route to go.
“It’s the most important position on a hockey team and it provides us with some consistency,” said Keeper. “They’re both big goaltenders, they’re both very fit and athletic and they are great friends off the ice and supportive. They challenge each other so it’s a big hole not to have to fill.”
Keeper made a point of underlining the contribution of last year’s players but added there were some tough decisions to be made in order to reach the 25-man roster limit which meant dropping two of those veterans, Jared Ramstead and Andrew Coles.
It’s a process Keeper says every coach hates to have to do but he says the ACAC rules also require them to carry five extra players because they have to be full-time students.
“In doing that it makes decisions very tough for the coaching staff of who’s playing the best and deserves to be in the line-up.”