Over the course of the 2016/2017 BC Hockey League (BCHL) regular season, Powell River Kings have spent a lot of time on the road. Ten games remain on the schedule, six of them are at home.
“The road is tiring,” said head coach Kent Lewis. “We had nine triple-headers this year and the majority of the Sunday games were afternoon games.”
All nine of those weekends, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Kings played three games in two and a half days.
The schedule did not affect the postseason because, just as all of Lewis’ teams have done before, the current team clinched a playoff berth in the BCHL Island Division. Victoria Grizzlies, who lead the division ahead of the second-place Kings, are also assured a playoff spot.
Kings’ recent winning streak ended at nine games with a 5-2 loss to Langley Rivermen on Sunday, January 22.
Kings opened the three-game road trip Friday, January 20, with a 5-3 win over Salmon Arm Silverbacks, followed by a 3-1 win over Vernon Vipers.
In the two wins, the Kings power play was the factor. Against Salmon Arm, three goals were scored on five chances and in Vernon, after falling behind 3-1, it struck for three goals on six opportunities in the third period.
“Any coach will tell you special teams are big, especially as the season is winding down,” said Lewis. “You have to be disciplined and special teams have to execute.”
Lewis said it all comes down to discipline and hard work. “My teams are always disciplined,” he said.
A stretch of six straight home games for the Kings begins Friday, January 27, with a highly anticipated matchup against Wenatchee Wild.
With 35 wins, six losses and four ties, Wenatchee leads all BCHL teams with 74 points and features the top two scorers in the league.
Kings have their own formidable scoring punch, with Tristan Mullin, Jonny Evans and Cam Donaldson all among the league’s top 10 point producers. Evans was recently named BCHL Player of the Week for the week ending January 15.
Meanwhile, BCHL held its semi-annual board of governors meeting January 16 and approved moving from a 22-player roster to 23 for next season. Lewis said there are many benefits that come with the decision.
“We’ve had that before,” he said. “As a coach, you certainly see the benefits of it. I can recall when there were 23.”
One of the advantages of having that extra player might have helped the Kings this season, said Lewis. When his team was hit with the flu bug, having an extra body available might have minimized the effect of a player falling ill.