A quick glance at the scoreboard of the Wheatland Kings' weekend games may not seem that special. One win, one loss: a 4-3 victory on Saturday followed up by a 4-1 loss on Sunday. However, that Saturday victory is much bigger than a regular win.
On Saturday, the Kings took down one of the top teams in the league in the Cochrane Generals in what could be considered their most exciting game of the year. Not only did they take down a top team, they did it by beating them in a shootout that went 12 rounds!
"It was exciting because they're one of the better teams in the league. The kids need to start believing that they can beat those teams, so it was a good win to show that we're right there with them," Kings Head Coach Doug Raycroft said.
Raycroft gave credit to the entire team for earning that win, but said goalie Rhett Harten was especially impressive, as he kept making key saves in the shootout.
"He made lots of big saves that night and to be honest their goalie was excellent too. It was a tough job trying to get one past there with the netminders that night. 12 rounds, says a lot about both goalies, but we were really happy with Rhett's performance."
Even though the win over the Generals is a big moment for the Kings, Raycroft says there is still a lot of work to be done, considering they followed that victory up with a 4-1 loss to the Sylvan Lake Wranglers.
"There's a certain way we have to play to be successful and we're still not at that point. Good teams play well every game, so we're still working on some stuff with that."
As for why they lost Sunday, Raycroft said it could be due to many factors, like not being prepared or focusing too much on the victory over the Generals rather than the upcoming game.
"We had moments in the game (on Sunday) when we played ok, but we definitely didn't put in a full 60 minute effort. It could have been a little bit of an emotional letdown, or maybe even just not being prepared properly, It's hard to say, obviously the boys wanted to win. That's part of being an athlete, making sure you're prepared right mentally. It's tough after a big win, sometimes you get that emotional high, and then trying to keep that emotion for the next game is sometimes a tough thing to do."
Ultimately, Raycroft sees this weekend as a great learning opportunity. Following up the best win of their year with a disappointing loss wasn't ideal, but the win shows this team has what it takes to compete with the best. As the Kings prepare for the playoffs in February, Raycroft says they'll continue to work on consistency and bringing high-quality hockey every match.
The Kings will have a chance to right the ship this Saturday night at home with a rematch against the Wranglers. Head down to cheer them on at 8:00 PM.
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