The RDC Kings lead a tight pack atop the ACAC Men’s Hockey standings.
The Kings finished the first semester with a 10-2-2 record, good for 22 points and a two-point lead over second place NAIT. Grant MacEwan is just three points back while Augustana and SAIT are just four points behind Red Deer.
“We have a lot of depth, a lot of skill at each position,” notes Kings head coach Trevor Keeper. “As the first semester progressed our special teams got better and better. Power play and penalty kill – that combination can win you a lot of games. Just putting players in the right roles and having them take pride in those roles – that’s one of the big reasons for our early success. Everybody has been buying in and playing for each other.”
Local content is once again an important part of this year’s Kings team with players from Red Deer, Sylvan Lake and Big Valley on the roster.
“Right from the beginning when we started this program up again six years ago, we’ve looked for Red Deer and central Alberta guys. It’s important for them to come home and it boosts our program.
“This year we have Chance Longjohn from Maskwacis. He played at Notre Dame in Wilcox (Saskatchewan) for a long time. His family now gets to see him play, there’s always a ton of them at our games."
Familiarity amongst local players in the same age group is a valuable recruiting tool, Keeper says.
Another strong recruiting chip moving forward is the Kings’ new home – the spectacular Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Keeper boasts. “Everything from the ice surface to the dressing room and all the facilities we have including a world class training centre upstairs. I don’t know that it played a role in recruiting this year, but it definitely will be.”
The Kings are playing home games on international-size ice (100 feet wide as opposed to 85) this season as that’s what will be used during the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Keeper admits this has given his squad a bit of an advantage.
“We’ve talked a lot about power play tactics and offensive zone entries, just those little things when you have that extra 15 feet where you don’t have to dump the puck in and you have some skilled player who can make some plays. Then when we get to a smaller rink we’re moving quicker because we have to anticipate more on our big ice. So we’ve tended to play well on North America-size ice.”
While the Kings haven’t played since November 24 it’s been anything but a quiet month for Keeper, who’s been on the road looking for the next crop of Kings players.
“Recruiting never ends. I do a big push in December and I get out to watch players and talk to them. It takes a long time, you reel them in and you keep reeling them in until their junior seasons are over.”
Tanner Butler, Lynnden Pastachak and Chase Thudium each lead the Kings with 19 points on the season. Troy Trombley has led the way between the pipes with seven wins and a .900 save percentage.
The Kings are back in action January 11 and 12 with a weekend series versus NAIT.
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