Another month of Kings hockey is in the books, and November saw a complete turn around from what was a ghastly October. A strong 4-1 record in November following a 1-8 October has the Kings moving up the rankings to fourth place in their division with an overall record of 8-10-2.
November ended with two solid Kings' performances, with a 3-1 win over the High river Flyers on Saturday and a 4-1 showing against the Red Deer Vipers on Sunday. Kings GM Lee Smith said he was happy with the wins, but there's still some things that could be better.
"We played really well all the way around Saturday night, we came out, we skated really well. Our compete level was really high on Saturday. Everybody had their feet moving, really going, and then Sunday we didn't play as well but we played well enough to win," Smith said.
Head Coach Doug Raycroft echoed the sentiment, noting that the 4-1 victory looked a lot better on paper than on the ice.
"We've really been focusing on being disciplined and not taking a lot of penalties. And we started to see that creep in a little bit this weekend, not terrible, but we took more penalties than we have in the last few weeks and we had to kill some more penalties. Yesterday we didn't come out with the pace of play that we wanted to, so we were a little sluggish in the first period, but once again, we fixed that in the second and third," Raycroft said.
That the Kings are in a position to critique their wins shows the drastic change between November and October. Under previous Head Coach Ron West, the Kings were mired in a losing streak and seemingly couldn't get out of their own way. Now, they're winning in dominant fashion but continuing to improve. It's often said in sports that a mark of a good team is when you don't play your best but still gut out a win, and it seems like the Kings are starting to turn that corner.
While the standings don't show it yet, as the Kings have a lot of ground to make up, Smith is finally starting to see the exciting team he envisioned when he put the roster together before the season began.
"We're young and we're fast and we're building something here and it's more what we thought at the beginning of the year what we were going to get. We're getting good goaltending right now, Rhett Harten has been playing just fantastic, and Landen Brassard has been playing great as well," said Smith
It wasn't just the games that was noteworthy last weekend; the Kings also raised a lot for the Strathmore and Wheatland Christmas Hamper Society. Smith said they raised more than $800 in cash, as well as a lot of food and toys. Smith said the Kings like to get involved and help the community whenever they can, and events like this help them further that goal.
As for what we can expect on the ice in the future, the Kings will have a tough test when the Cochrane Generals come to town this Saturday night. Raycroft said it'll take near perfect defense to pull off the upset.
"They're very offensive. They got some really top end offensive guys so if you have a breakdown in your end those guys put it away, they score. It's going to be important for us to make sure that we're outworking them, playing really well on our own end, and not giving them the opportunities that we've given them in past games," Raycroft said.
While the previous home game against the Generals was a 6-2 blowout loss, both Raycroft and Smith believe the team has what it takes to have a much better performance this time around.
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