Griffins take semi-finals, Kings optimistic for next season

Mike Salmon (31) made 27 saves and Mike Statchuk (4) was steady on defence. Photo - Tony Hansen
Mike Salmon (31) made 27 saves and Mike Statchuk (4) was steady on defence. Photo - Tony Hansen

Brent Forster - RDC

With their backs against the wall, the Red Deer College Kings showed a lot of heart and gave everything they had in game two of the best of three semi-finals against the MacEwan University Griffins but narrowly missed tying the series. After the Kings took an early lead, the Griffins snuck ahead late and an empty net goal helped the visiting team pick up a 4-2 win to take the series.

The intensity on the ice was evident from the drop of the puck. The RDC Kings had an effective forecheck which generated several scoring opportunities. At 5:05 of the first period, the Kings were rewarded for their hard work. Austin Hunter had good positioning in the high slot and snapped one by Marc-Olivier Daigle on the stick side. The RDC Kings controlled the majority of the play in the Griffins' zone in the period. About six minutes after the goal, another good shift created a turnover and the Kings took advantage. The line of Dylan Thudium, Chase Thudium and Scott Ferguson pressured the MacEwan University defencemen which resulted in the go-ahead-goal. Captain Tanner Butler stepped into a shot from inside the blueline and blew it past Daigle on the blocker side to push the Kings ahead 2-0. Chase Thudium and Dylan Thudium recorded the assists. Over 20 minutes, the Griffins outshot the Kings 14-11.

Austin Hunter (14) opened the scoring and was effective on the forecheck

 

The Griffins had a good start to the second period. At 2:55, MacEwan University pulled within a goal. Sean MacTavish was in alone on Mike Salmon and showed his patience as he outwaited the goaltender and tucked it in on the backhand. With the period winding down, the Griffins tied the game. Ryan Baskerville knocked a clearing attempt out of the air and shot the puck on net with traffic in front. Nolan Yaremchuk got his stick on it and knotted the contest 2-2. In the middle frame, the Kings tested Daigle 12 times. The Griffins had 8 shots.

In a back-and-forth third period the Griffins took advantage on their special teams. At 8:23, MacEwan University went up 3-2 on the power play. Sean MacTavish completed a 2-on-1 to give his team the 1 goal edge. The RDC Kings generated several scoring opportunities but Daigle made some key saves. Kings Hockey Head Coach Trevor Keeper called a timeout and pulled Salmon with 1:39 remaining for the extra attacker. The RDC Kings pressed but the Griffins capitalized on the empty cage. Ryan Baskerville made it 4-2 with 41.6 seconds left. RDC worked tirelessly throughout the game but MacEwan University picked up the win to move on to the finals to face the NAIT Ooks. NAIT defeated the University of Alberta Augustana Vikings 4-3 in double overtime and 4-1 to capture their semi-final series. 

The Kings outshot the Griffins 33-31. MacEwan University connected on 1-of-7 power plays. RDC went 0-for-5. 

Mike Salmon, a fifth-year student-athlete, was named the player-of-the-game for the Kings. The Bachelor of Business Administration student from Red Deer made 27 saves and gave his team a chance to win in his final Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) game in net. Sean MacTavish received the award for the Griffins.

Mike Salmon (31) and Tanner Butler (24) made a positive impact

 

Not much separated the two teams and Keeper was proud of the Kings' effort. "It was playoff hockey and a good game - a close game. It came down to pulling the goaltender at the end. We had a lot of opportunities on our power play and our penalty kill was very good. They got one power play goal and the other one was a bad bounce where the two d-men got tangled up and that's the way it goes," said Keeper. "It can be one mistake that can give the other team an opportunity. We are very proud. The guys did everything that they were asked. They are quick learners, focused and committed. We were really happy with the effort but not the outcome."

The Kings will look to build on their playoff experience for next season. "It takes being in a situation until you have the poise and experience to be able to push through to the next level. This is our third time in five years that we've been to the semi-finals and I think that this was the best that we've played in the semi-finals," said Keeper. "Next year, the guys will have that experience and hopefully they will be able to utilize that to move on to the finals. MacEwan got there last year and they had a veteran group of players. Most of those guys were there last year and have been in that situation before."

With a young lineup there's plenty of optimism for the puck to drop in the fall of 2018. "We could have twenty-one players returning to our roster. Going into our sixth season with a new building, we will have an older team with more experience," said Keeper. "There's no doubt that we want to push through to the next level and the finals."