Health might be all that is standing between this year’s Powell River Kings and the elusive championship they’ve been chasing for the last few years.
Not once have they been injury free this season and that solemn fact has dogged them right up to the Christmas break.
The extended break for the Kings, over tonight Friday, January 3 against Prince George Spruce Kings, should give most of the injured sufficient time to heal.
The game at Hap Parker Arena is a chance to celebrate as winners of the Kings’ Dream Lottery will be announced between periods.
Looking at the remainder of the season, coach and general manager Kent Lewis said, “I expect us to do better in the second half. I don’t like talking about health but we’ve got guys like Luke Ripley and Matt Scarth coming back who haven’t really played yet. I want to get some continuity back, get guys in the lineup,” so he can evaluate his team with the looming January 10 trade deadline. “I need more consistency and piss and vinegar to be honest. We need to be hunters and we need to get after it here.”
On their last road trip JJ Coleshaw and Brian Rideout returned to the lineup to help the Kings win the first game in Coquitlam 8-3 and the second in Vernon 7-2, but they lost two players, Drew Dorantes and Ryan Scarfo, in the 5-0 loss to Salmon Arm in game three.
Kings left in a snow storm for Coquitlam Express but played one of their best road games of the year when Stephen Hiff, Dorantes and Jarid Lukosevicius scored to make it 3-0 before the midway point of the first period.
They gave up their first shorthanded goal, the last team in the league to allow one, in the second period but Rideout, Kurt Keats, Jarryd Leung and Luke McCaw all scored to overwhelm the Express 8-3.
They seemed to have solved their goal-scoring problems from the previous week and boarded the bus with optimism for the next game in Vernon against the Vipers.
With a different opening for the Kings, as the Vipers rang up two goals in the first half of the period, they surged on offence.
Hiff got a big powerplay goal at 18:57 of the first for 2-1 and after that it was all Kings.
Six more goals from Coleshaw, Luke Nogard, Jordan Burns, Leung and a pair from Keats gave them an impressive 7-2 win over the Vipers who came completely unglued during the onslaught.
Aside from the score a couple of Kings, notably Jeremy Leclerc from a blindside check to the head and Hiff from a knee, were targets of cheap shots but the Kings remained disciplined and focused on beating their old rivals.
They weren’t as fortunate in Salmon Arm when Dorantes and Scarfo left the game early due to injury. The loss of two players who log a lot of minutes added to the collective weary legs on a long road trip. The Kings fell to the Silverbacks 5-0.
“Fatigue and Santa Claus are tough opponents to go up against,” said Lewis. “We played a very inspired Salmon Arm team and we just didn’t have it. I was pleased with the trip up to that point though and saw some good things with some rounded out scoring.”
While the loss meant the Kings trail Victoria Grizzlies by a single point in the overall BC Hockey League standings at the break, an optimist would point to their higher winning percentage with two games in hand.
“It’s nice to have some competition,” Lewis said, crediting Victoria. “We have a big game coming up against them on Saturday.”
Leung had three goals and three assists to earn Player of the Week honours while Nogard was given honourable mention for his goal and three assists. Goalie Jeff Smith has committed to University of Massachusetts Lowell and Dorantes to Ferris State University in Michigan.