For the second game in a row, the Wheatland Kings fell to the Sylvan Lake Wranglers 3-2 on Saturday night. This marked the first time the team lost back to back games since Doug Raycroft became the head coach. Losing two in a row is of course never ideal, but Kings GM Lee Smith isn't too worried about the overall state of the team, as he says their recent success plus their improved quality of play has them headed in the right direction.
"In the last two games that we lost, we had our opportunities to win both of those games against Sylvan. Not taking anything away from Sylvan, Sylvan's a good team, they're a little older than us, they've got a little more maturity. And I think that might have been part of it," Smith said.
Even though Smith pointed to Sylan Lake's maturity being a potential factor in the Kings' consecutive defeats, that doesn't mean Smith believes the Kings are immature. Rather, Smith is happy to see how the team is growing and learning what it takes to win against good teams.
"We're definitely playing at a better a higher level than we were for sure (before switching to Coach Raycroft). I think it's just the maturity of the team as well as the coaching change. Guys are starting to get used to playing in this league. There's a lot of young guys, we're one of the youngest teams in the league, we have 12 18-year-olds which is quite a few for this league."
Smith went on to say the maturity of the Kings is starting to show in how they respond to losses, as the team doesn't linger on the loss too much and just focuses on the next game. Raycroft says the Kings will need that focus to get back in the win column, as they face the Cochrane Generals on Friday night in Cochrane.
"It's going to take us playing a really strong 60 minute game, play well defensively and disciplined. We'll have a shot to beat them for sure. The difference is whether we can score or not, so we just have to find a way to score when when we have our chances and if we're disciplined we'll be in a position to to win that game, so that's the goal, and that's how you beat these good teams," Raycroft said.
The Kings have been short two of their top goal scorers in Kage Yellowfly and Philip Raycroft, which was another factor in their consecutive losses to the Wranglers. However, Yellowfly will be coming back this weekend, which could provide a much needed boost to take down the Generals again.
"Getting Kage back will help a lot, it really helps because it really strengthens all the lines because your depth kind of gets divided amongst two or three lines a lot more. When you got your top scorers out, sometimes it's hard to find the back of the net so that's really cost us," said Raycroft.
Smith added he knows that those outside of the team may be doubting the Kings can pull of another upset against Cochrane, but if they did it once they can do it again.
"It was one of those games that we weren't supposed to win, but we did, and we just move on and try and duplicate it and do it again, right? As long as we play within ourselves, we'll be fine," said Smith.
The Kings end this month with two games on the road, as they face Cochrane on Friday before taking on the Coaldale Copperheads on Saturday. They won't be on home ice again until January 10 against the Mountain View Colts.
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