Kings crown Ooks in home opener at Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre

Kings crown Ooks in home opener at Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre

Brent Forster - RDC

Red Deer, AB – As the page turned to begin the 2018 - 19 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Men's Hockey season, a new chapter was written at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre as the RDC Kings faced the NAIT Ooks in the very first ACAC regular season hockey game played in the state-of-the art facility. 

With family and RDC Kings Alumni in attendance, the Kings never trailed in the game and on the strength of their special teams, they cruised to a 6 - 2 victory, continuing their recent dominance over the Ooks. 

After a cautious start, about five minutes in the first period the NAIT Ooks had a golden opportunity to take an early lead on a two-man advantage. Strong penalty killing from Chance Longjohn coupled with several key saves from Troy Trombley kept the game scoreless.

Kings Hockey Head Coach Trevor Keeper appreciated the relentless effort from Longjohn at a key moment of the game."Chance is so good at protecting the puck. He is so strong. He can pursue it, stick check, angle it. He has a very high hockey IQ," says Keeper. "The thing about our team right now, and it's kind of a culmination of the past five years of building a program, is we have players in slots who use their strengths to the best of their abilities. Everyone has a role and they take pride in it." 

At 11:10, RDC's Tanner Butler received a pass on the tape and snuck in from his defensive position, beating Brenden Jensen five-hole to give the Kings an important 1 - 0 edge. His marker cemented a spot in RDC history as the ACAC's first regular season goal in the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. Tyrell Mappin and Dylan Baer recorded the assists.

The Kings were energized and they added to their lead with 4:59 remaining. Red Deer's Ross Heidt released a quick shot low past Jensen's glove. Thirteen seconds later Tanner Dunkle of the Ooks got on the scoreboard, reducing the lead by one.  

The RDC Kings recaptured their two goal lead on the power play with 31.3 seconds left in the opening frame. RDC's defenceman Jantzen Leslie fired a hard shot from the point and Lynnden Pastachak, who was well positioned in the slot, deflected the blast into the back of the net for a 3 - 1 edge.

The Ooks struck early in the middle frame. At 1:01, NAIT crawled within a goal when Thomas Foster redirected a pass into an open cage from the left side. But the Kings responded exactly one minute later. On a two-on-one, Red Deer's Parker Smyth fed Dylan Baer on the right side who beat Jensen high on the glove side.

The Kings had a strong third period, effectively cycling the puck down low and eventually tacking on another pair of goals. With 2:15 remaining in the game, Tyler Podgorenko's slap shot from the top of the right circle beat Jensen on the power play and Kyle Salway salted the game away with an empty net goal, for a 6 - 2 victory. 

Trombley was strong in the RDC net, stopping 21-of-23 shots (0.913) in the win.

Keeper saw the momentum created in exhibition carry over to the the home opener. "We played today like we've been practicing and playing in the preseason. We are trying to iron out our systems and how we want to play on this international sized ice," he says. "The guys have been getting better week after week and we built on what we established in the Lacombe tournament against Augustana and the Generals, just trying to use our speed and support the puck. Our power play was 2-for-6 and our PK was 6-for-6 tonight, so all of the things that we are working on, we see show up in games and as a coach that is all that I can ask for." 

After a tentative start, Butler's goal was a calming influence and propelled the Kings to focus on their style. "The guys were a little bit nervous to start. It is alumni night, and parent and family night. There are a lot of people here," says Keeper. "We talked to them about focusing on what is just inside the glass but the puck was bouncing a bit and then Tanner Butler, our captain, scores the first goal, and I could see it on the bench. The guys started relaxing a bit and played Kings hockey." 

Tyrell Mappin was named the Player-of-the-Game for the RDC Kings. Tanner Dunkle received the award for the NAIT Ooks.

"Ty thinks on another level. He has really high hockey sense and distributes the puck. He is so accurate with it because he doesn't panic," says Keeper. "As a defender, they don't know which way he will go because he is very shifty and has great vision. He got rewarded for playing his game and he brings his strengths to our team game." 

In a rematch, the RDC Kings (1 - 0) will compete against the NAIT Ooks (0 - 1) on the road on Saturday, October 6, at 6:00 p.m