It’s always a challenging time of year for Powell River Kings, managing the distraction and anticipation of a week-long Christmas break and completing the task at hand, which this weekend was three games on the road and a valuable six points to vie for.
Friday night, Powell River made its only scheduled trip to Langley this season to face the Rivermen, a team the Kings had defeated 9-3 on home ice in November. Much like that game, Powell River came out flying in the first period, scoring a pair by Mitchell Hawes and Austin Kamer to give the visitors a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.
Despite a Langley comeback in the second, Powell River skated to the second intermission with a 3-2 lead, thanks to a late-period goal from Tristan Mullin, his team-leading 17th of the season.
Despite an advantage and impressive record when leading through 40 minutes (14-1-0-0), Powell River came out flat in the third, registering just four shots on goal to Langley’s 14, conceding a game-tying goal in the process with six minutes remaining.
Langley would score a game winner in double overtime, handing Powell River just their second overtime loss of the year. Goaltender Jeff Smith took the defeat in a 37-save performance.
“It’s always tough,” said defenceman Jake Kohlhauser of the overtime loss. “I thought in the first and start of the second we were playing really well; the boys were up and we were playing to our systems. They came out better in the third and it’s a heartbreaker, for sure.”
Saturday, the Kings managed poor weather, a brief closure on the Coquihalla Highway and arrived in Salmon Arm for their first meeting against the Silverbacks this season. The home team lead by a pair of goals through one, and then the teams traded goals in the second with Powell River twice getting within one with markers from Mullin and Liam Lawson.
Salmon Arm withstood a Powell River fight back in the third, scoring an empty net goal with 30 seconds remaining for a 5-2 victory. Kings goaltender Stefan Wornig, despite a shaky start, battled well and stopped 38 shots in the loss.
“There’s going to be some times when you win and you don’t really like your game, and there’s times where you lose and you like it a lot,” said head coach Kent Lewis. “We put forth the effort, but we made some simple mistakes, were careless with the puck and kudos to Salmon Arm who are a very good hockey club.”
On Sunday, Powell River visited Vernon to close out the pre-Christmas schedule. Powell River had dropped its previous two pre-Christmas closers, including a 5-2 loss in Vernon a year ago to the day.
A first period Vernon goal was cancelled out by Gavin Rauser early in the second, with Powell River taking the lead on a goal by Jeremy LeClerc. Despite another second intermission lead, Powell River came out flat in the third, conceding four goals in another 5-2 loss to Vernon. Smith stopped 37 shots as Powell River allowed 40-plus shots in the fifth straight game.
“Today’s game is pretty fast and some teams will shoot from everywhere,” said Lewis, “but we need to close down opposition players, tie up sticks and be more ready and more physical around both nets.”
The game saw Kings players Curtis McCarrick and Andy Stevens uncharacteristically drop the gloves against opposing Vernon players, a chippiness that surprised Kings assistant Brock Sawyer.
“We wanted to head into the break on a high note with a good win and you could see it get real testy in the second period and there was that physicality all night,” said Sawyer. “It was almost like a playoff game.”
Powell River finishes the unofficial first half of the season with a record of 18-14-0-2 (38 points), third in the Island Division behind Cowichan (41 points) and Nanaimo (49 points).
Kings players have returned home for the Christmas break and will return to the team on December 28 to prepare for a double header at Hap Parker Arena against Alberni Valley December 30 and 31.
Kyle Betts, Carter Turnbull and their Team Canada West teammates won gold at the World Junior A Challenge in Cobourg, Ontario. Canada West defeated Russia 2-1 on Saturday in the gold medal game.