Key players stepped up in key situations enabling Powell River Kings to pick up four points and grab top spot in BC Hockey League’s Island Division.
On Saturday they won in dramatic fashion, coming from behind for a 6-4 result against Nanaimo Clippers. On Sunday, backed by Jeff Smith’s solid goaltending, they blanked the winless Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-0.
Saturday’s game was wildly entertaining for fans but they had to wait until the third period to feel comfortable with the outcome.
Nanaimo surprised them with a goal at just 11 seconds but Matt Scarth scored twice to give the Kings a 2-1 lead after 8:27 of the opening period.
Nanaimo responded with the next three goals and, despite the wide margin in play in favour of the Kings, led 4-2 three minutes into the third period.
Patience and perseverance finally paid off with four Kings’ goals, scored by Kurt Keats, Luke McCaw, Ryan Scarfo and Jarid Lukosevicius, which enabled them to overtake the Clippers 6-4.
Scarfo got the winner for the Kings with a laser to the top corner.
“Early on we tried to go low because he gave up a lot of rebounds and we were banging at the net,” he said. “But the last two goals just happened to be up high and it worked out so it was good.”
It was extremely gratifying to see the Kings remain patient despite outshooting Nanaimo 45-17 and virtually owning the ice.
“We knew if we kept plugging away we were going to get one eventually,” said captain Aidan Wright of the early struggles. “Luckily in third, with about 10 minutes left, one went in and then the four unanswered.”
He spoke highly of his teammates. “We have a solid group of leaders in this room,” he explained, “and I’ve said it before that there are 23 guys that could be wearing a letter. I think that speaks volumes for our character.”
On Sunday, Kings faced a desperate club from Alberni who were yet to win a game this year in six tries.
They looked anything but winless in the first 10 minutes as they peppered netminder Smith with eight shots to the Kings’ one.
He held off the Bulldogs until his teammates could get their legs going and eventually score the first goal when Wright slapped in a point shot at 16:57 of the first period.
Keats, McCaw and affiliate call-up Braydon Taekema rounded out the scoring in a game that wasn’t as exciting or sound as the night before, but with five regulars out, Kings were very happy to have the points.
Smith was all smiles after he picked up a couple of firsts. “We started off slow and I just knew I had to keep us in it early,” said the game’s first star of his first BCHL shutout. “Then we came back and outshot them in the last half of the first period and I felt comfortable from there on in.”
His biggest save was on a penalty shot awarded to the Bulldogs five minutes into the second period with the Kings leading 1-0.
“He came in, I read it perfectly, and I made the save,” he said, adding that his pad save wasn’t too difficult. “It was important to be patient, wait for him to make a move, follow him and stay calm.”
The team continues to find different ways to win but Wright said ultimately sticking to the program is the main thing. “If we keep working hard and we keep playing Kings’ hockey we should go pretty far this season.”
Kings actually played better on Saturday than Sunday but, as head coach and general manager Kent Lewis explained, “It was an ugly win but you’ve got to get different things on different nights to win hockey games. Tonight it was goaltending and timely goals and doing it with a pretty depleted roster.”
Hopefully some of the injured starters will make it back for the one game scheduled this week. Kings face Langley Rivermen in the lone game at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 27 at Hap Parker Arena.
Kings' Scroll: Powell River Kings took number 6 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Rankings. Kurt Keats was recognized as Player of the Week for BC Hockey League.