The Red Deer College Kings hockey season came to an end last Saturday at the Penhold Multiplex after losing the quarterfinal bout to the Augustana Vikings.
However their female counterparts, the Queens continue to push forward as they vie for the gold medal against the NAIT Ooks this coming weekend.
Kings Head Coach Trevor Keeper explained their loss was due largely to the impeccable goaltending present in the Vikings’ net. The loss left the Kings fifth in the league.
“We played well but we lost two games straight to them – one away and one at home,” said Keeper, who added his team played six games in nine nights. “In the two last games we had 86 shots on net and their goaltender stopped 85 of them – so his 98.8 save percentage was pretty extraordinary and he finished with the highest save percentage in the league.
“It was a bit of grind but we wanted to finish as high as we could and we ended up picking up 11 out of 12 possible points in our last game which put us up against Augustana and they are a very well-rounded team and we just came up short against them.”
With the RDC hockey program having only been revived last season, both teams have struggled to find their footing amongst the ACAC division against long standing teams such as Augustana, SAIT and NAIT who have had programs for decades.
“If you look at Augustana – 10 or 11 of their players are third, fourth, or fifth year players and that experience makes a huge difference,” said Keeper. “Last year it was tough because we had 25 first year players, this year 10 new players.”
“So unlike Augustana and SAIT who have multiple fifth year players – our veterans consist of 15 second year players.”
Fortunately for Queens Head Coach Bob Rutz, his returning players had a championship in their sight from the beginning of the season, which he believes is the reason they will be playing for a potential gold this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena.
The five round play-off series has seen the Queens face the NAIT Ooks leaving each team with a win on their board after the Queens took a 3-2 victory this past Saturday on home ice after losing one on the road.
“I thought we played at a much higher level in game two than we did in game one,” said Rutz. “We played with more passion and competed much harder and generated more offensively.”
Rutz added the Queens’ power play was the difference that night as they were able to establish a net presence and make things difficult for their goalie adding the Queens need to continue to compete at a level higher than NAIT and hopefully use their speed and grit to steal a game on the road this Thursday as they travel to Ooks’ territory.
Rutz added preparation for Thursday’s game will include extensive video playback of the last two games to ensure their time on the ice is as fine-tuned as possible.
“At the end of the day when you get to the finals you have to be able to play with the passion that will allow you to out-compete your opponent,” said Rutz. “It’s a combination of sending that same message we’ve been sending all year and fine tuning a few things on the ice.”
Despite a tough start to the season, the Queens rallied to go from last place in the league to second behind NAIT. Since January the Queens went 10-2-2 in the last few of their season games.
“Things have really come together for us which I accredit to the incredible athletes we have on our bench. This year we’ve just really bought into the whole notion of what it takes to be successful.
“I don’t think that last year we were prepared to do what it takes to win but this year the girls who have returned have really dedicated themselves to being better students and better athletes both on and off the ice.”