The Wheatland Kings are back and are off to an explosive start to their regular season, having won two of their first three games.
Starting off the season on Sept. 16, the Kings took a commanding win over the Rocky Rams, 4-0, then on Saturday defeated the Red Deer Vipers 3-2.
During their first game on home ice on Sept. 18, however, the Kings were soundly defeated by the Cochrane Generals 11-4.
Kings head coach Ron West said overall he is pleased with the team’s start to the season but was hoping to not suffer such a defeat so early on home ice.
“Getting home late both nights affected our early start (on Sunday) and we took a beat down against Cochrane, which is one of the best teams in the league,” said West. “The boys played very well in the first two, they were forechecking the way we needed to and their defense was good. They were strong and goaltending was also strong in both games.”
West added several of his new players this year have just moved up from the AA leagues into Junior Hockey and still have a few things to learn, but overall played well out of the gate.
Turnover from last season, West said, saw “at least” eight players changed on the roster. He said the team is going to have to adjust to the change, but he’s optimistic they will settle in soon.
“The one thing that was nice to see this year is, we have a lot of great support from past AA players from Wheatland who have decided to come play for the Kings,” said West. “In the past, they have went off and played in the BC league and then other leagues. It was nice to have them stay here and come home. We should have a very strong team this year and should compete in the Top 4.”
West said the league is going to be tougher to compete in this year, but the goal to finish out the season in the Top 3 remains the same.
West remains cautious of the Okotoks and Cochrane teams going forward, yet is optimistic his team will rise to the occasion in order to challenge them.
“I think we just need to get stronger in the neutral zone. We shouldn’t have teams skating through the neutral zone and getting into our zone as quick as they are,” said West. “We need to have more body contact and make it tougher for them to get through. Once we do that, I think that will make things a lot easier. It’s a very smart group, so I’m not too concerned.”
West maintains a strong offensive presence on the ice and boasts a very fast team. He is confident once his defense tightens up, the Kings will have a strong shot at the top three.
Their next game will be aon the road versus the Three Hills Thrashers on Sept. 23. The next game at home will be Sept. 24 against the Rocky Rams beginning at 8 p.m.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times