It’s been over a year in the making but Trevor Keeper finally has a men’s hockey team at Red Deer College.
“I watched a lot of junior hockey games last winter on top of coaching the Queens (RDC) hockey team, recruited 24 players to come to Red Deer College with some walk-ons trying out,” said the Kings head coach.
Keeper said it’s a mixed bunch coming from various programs but as a team returning to the ACAC they all come into this situation as rookies.
“I can see that they’re treating each other with respect and everyone is kind of on the same level so that definitely helps team dynamics.”
An area of comfort for the Kings will likely be in goal where Mike Salmon will be joined by former Red Deer Rebel netminder Kraymer Barnstable.
He said the highest point of his self-admitted rollercoaster of a junior career was with the Rebels and jumped at the chance to come back to a city where he made some good friends.
“I liked the idea of Red Deer College being a new team and getting a fresh start ,” he said. “I talked to Trevor and just the things he said it just sounded like a good fit for me.”
Keeper added both Barnstable and Salmon carry a lot of confidence with them and he points to Barnstable’s CIS playing time at UBC as a bonus for the Kings.
“He brings experience and maturity, not only as an athlete and a goaltender but he’s been in school and he knows what it takes to be a successful university player.”
Keeper said many junior players come out of those programs having just played hockey so to balance school with sport could be a challenge.
“I have told them already, school comes first because it doesn’t do you or the team any good if you’re not around because of grades.”
In addition to what Barnstable brings to the Kings on the ice the 23-year-old feels he might be able to be a sounding board for some of his teammates on a young team.
“I hope some of the guys can use that, ask me questions and hopefully I have the right answers for them,” he said. “I hope to be a leader this year and lead by example. I know hockey is hockey but when you add the school aspect it’s a huge thing to add on.”
Barnstable said he likes what he’s seen from the Kings in the few practices they’ve had and feels there is no shortage of skill in front of him to put the puck in the net.
“It’s been a really fast tempo over the few days and I know once we get into systems and we’re all on the same page it will only get better.”
Keeper said he has players well over the 6 ft. mark and some under that number but all of his recruits have the common trait of being able to skate.
“From there I try to recruit guys with really good hockey sense, smart with or without the puck and guys that have character, you know, compete level regardless of size,” he said.
As for team goals in their first year Keeper said he’s fine with making the playoffs but added this team has deeper goals to shoot for.
“The team we recruited on paper, there’s lots of potential there so it’s up to the coaching staff and the players to develop the chemistry and the team situation where they can overachieve.”
The Kings open their exhibition schedule against SAIT Sept. 13 in Penhold.