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Late game heroics get Kings back into win column


The Dauphin Kings snapped a five-game losing skid in dramatic fashion, Friday night.
After a 5-1 loss to the Portage Terriers, Wednesday in Portage extended the team’s losing streak to five, the Kings hosted the Winkler Flyers, Friday at Credit Union Place.
The Kings entered the third period holding a 4-2 lead on a pair of goals from Cole Dekoninck and singles from Leeam Tivers and Avery Smith.
But Winkler, one of three teams battling for the final two playoffs spots, battled back to tie the game with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
It stayed that way until the final minute when Dauphin forward Kolby Johnson led a rush into the offensive zone and threw the puck into the slot area as he was falling to the ice while being checked.
A Winkler player misplayed it and the puck ended up on the stick of Kings rookie Carter Sawchuk, who went to the back hand to deposit the winning goal with just 3.7 seconds remaining on the clock, lifting the Kings to the victory.
The next night was a little less dramatic, but just as important.
Riley Buller scored three times and added an assist and Bryon Fobair had a goal and three helpers to lead the Kings to a 10-1 win over the OCN Blizzard, eliminating OCN from playoff contention.
Dekoninck and Brendan Arnold each had a goal and two assists and Grady Hobbs and Brayden Pawluk each contributed three assists in the victory.
The Kings move to within five points of the fifth-place Selkirk Steelers and are six behind the Virden Oil Capitals in fourth place.
The Kings enter the week four points ahead of the Winnipeg Blues, who the Kings will host on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. They are also eight up on the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Winkler, which are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Winkler not getting a point in Friday’s game was huge, said Kings coach and general manager Doug Hedley.
“I thought we played well enough to win that game in regulation anyway. I really didn’t think they deserved to be where they ended up,” he said.
“I just thought we had a great second period. Our speed picked up, we created some opportunities and their goaltender played well. He made some big saves to keep them close.”
Hedley was pleased the team was able to take care of business against OCN, with the standings so close, noting every team around them in the standings has games in hand on the Kings.
“We need to win the games in front of them. With the crowd tonight, it was a good start,” he said, noting the opening ceremony lasted almost 45 minutes.
“You never know how it’s going to go. But this was their third in three nights and they’re short bodies. But it’s good for us. A game like that can, hopefully, get us going in the right direction,” he said.
Hedley was pleased the team did not stray away from the game plan.
“I thought our speed was great. We shared the puck a lot. Ten-footers everywhere. Drive the middle lane. We had a lot of chances going to the paint,” he said.
“It’s hard to play a game like that. But I thought our structure was very good.”
Hedley said the line of Buller, Fobair and Hobbs has been the team’s best in the last five or six games.
“They’re sharing the puck, with speed and 10-footers and they go to the net. It’s good for that line,” he said.
The Kings are hurting as bit on the blueline as both Andrew Liwiski and Landon Russell missed Saturday’s game with hip injuries. And veteran defenceman Stephon Perreault left the hockey club.
Hedley said the 20-year-old felt he was not getting enough ice time and has gone to play in the Western States Hockey League.
After hosting Winnipeg on Wednesday, the Kings end their five-game home stand with a pair of games against the Steinbach Pistons, a possible first-round opponent.
The two teams meet at Credit Union Place, Friday and Saturday, with both games beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Doug Zywina