With a third of the regular lineup either at the World Junior Hockey Challenge or nursing injuries, Powell River Kings found a way to get the job done on the weekend.
After dropping the opener at home on Friday, 3-0 to Coquitlam Express, the Kings roared back to win 3-2 in Duncan against Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday and 4-2 in Alberni Valley against the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
Coquitlam and Powell River each had three players make the cut for Canada Team West but Kings were also without the services of captain Teagan Waugh, Bradley Parker, Matt Dupont, JJ Coleshaw and Matt Scarth.
“Just to get to the camp and be exposed to that environment and then to make it, is a life-changing experience,” said coach and general manager Kent Lewis of Evan Richardson, Luke Ripley and Jonah Imoo. “Good for them.”
The absence of so many meant the Kings had to bring in affiliated players and throughout the weekend they contributed to the team’s success in a very big way.
Despite a good effort and 31-19 shot advantage on Friday, however, the Kings couldn’t finish on a number of good chances against Coquitlam and lost 3-0 to the visitors. A couple of defensive lapses turned into goals, one in the first period and another in the second.
Down 2-0 Powell River pulled goaltender Braeden Ostepchuk with 2:13 remaining in the third and the final goal was scored into an empty net at 18:58.
“We controlled a lot of the play tonight,” said Lewis, “but mental mistakes can’t continue to keep creeping in. Offensively tonight we had a lot of odd number rushes that we didn’t take advantage of and it’s not being aware and it’s not playing good hockey. Our goal scorers have to step up.”
Players must have been eavesdropping as the Kings did get production out of a couple of marksmen on Saturday who have been quiet of late.
After a scoreless first period against Cowichan, two of them cracked the scoresheet to lift the team to an early lead.
Back in the lineup after missing the Coquitlam game, Dupont had just served a minor penalty and caught up to a loose puck to wire a shot from the top of the circle at 1:52.
Three minutes later JP Villeneuve, with a great solo effort, won a draw to the right of the Capitals’ net and took a low shot to make it 2-0.
It was 2-1 after the second period, but Kings’ Dupont crashed through the defence and beat Cowichan’s goalie with a low shot to make it 3-1.
His goal was a big one because, with the goalie out, the Capitals closed the gap to 3-2 at 19:41 and kept the pressure on until Ostepchuk made one last save to secure his first win in a Kings’ uniform.
The victory was a nice bounce back for the Kings, but more than the points it was the way they maintained their defensive play and also found a way to capitalize on their chances.
It was a quick turnaround the next day against the Bulldogs, but once again the Kings kept it simple and put in a few timely goals to win 4-2.
Affiliates Dean Allison, Corey Renwick, Daniell Lange and Mark Walton fitted right in while Jarryd Leung opened the scoring, Brayden Low added a pair and Drew Dorantes put it away with an empty-netter.
Ostepchuk recorded his second win in a row with a brilliant performance and the Kings took a giant stride toward consistency as they wound up a tough schedule to open the season.
After playing 15 out of 22 games on the road to start the season, they now have seven straight at home.
Kings begin next week with a back-to-back series against the Bulldogs starting at 7:30 pm on Friday, November 9, and then at 5 pm on Saturday, November 10.