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2010 Kings were the second best team in Canada


When the 2010 RBC Cup finally began, May 1 at Credit Union Place in Dauphin, the hometown Kings had earned their spot in the national junior A championship tournament.
They had won the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Turnbull Cup and followed that up with a series victory in the Anavet Cup.
But of the five teams competing in the tournament, the only one the Kings were familiar with was the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s La Ronge Ice Wolves, who the Kings had beaten to win the Anavet Cup.
The three other teams - the Brockville Braves, Oakville Blades and defending RBC Cup champion Vernon Vipers - were unfamiliar foes, especially the two teams from Ontario.
Then Kings head coach and general manager Marlin Murray used his contacts to develop a dossier on their RBC Cup competitors.
It was something the coaching staff had done right from day one of the playoffs.
“We were firm believers in bringing all the information to the boys before every series right from day one. We wanted to start that off in the playoffs in series one, so it wasn’t new to them as we progressed into the RBC Cup,” he said.
Murray and his staff dissected each team competing in the tournament.
“I had several contacts from each league help me out with the pros, the cons, the good and the bad of all the clubs in the tournament. And we put together a piece that we went and dissected that piece a handful of days prior to the tournament,” Murray explained.
“The boys were well prepared. We did our due diligence prior to the tournament, for sure.”
Right off the hop, the Kings were faced with the task of playing the defending champion Vipers, which had 13 players return from the previous season.
Murray said playing in front of a large crowd like they had all throughout the playoffs helped the team overcome any obstacles placed in front of them.
“But when you’re playing on a national stage in an event like that, there is a little bit of nerves right off the start. Our mindset was, ‘let’s get through the first period.’ We wanted to try to dictate the period, but we had the understanding that we just had to sit back and see what took place, as well,” he said.
Facing the best team in the tournament, Murray said, served the Kings well.
Dauphin came out with the victory when Matthew Backhouse scored 42 seconds into overtime to give the Kings a 6-5 win.
That was huge for the Kings. The win pretty much guaranteed the team a spot in the semifinals.
“It was buzzing already, but after that overtime win on the first night, everybody in the town seemed to rally around us. The buzz in the town was excellent. And the boys, it gave them confidence, for sure,” Murray said.
Every game the Kings played was a one-goal game. In fact, every game in the round-robin was decided by two goals or less with two exceptions, an 11-2 rout by Brockville over Oakville and a 6-3 Brockville win over La Ronge in the final game of the round-robin.
Murray noted the Kings knew they would be in tough, but they were also confident, knowing they could match up well with every team there.
“We thought if we could take care of games that we thought we could, we’d be okay. We didn’t want to beat ourselves. That was the main thing,” he said.
The Kings ended up finishing first in the round-robin, setting up a semifinal date with a familiar foe in the Ice Wolves.
Murray said a little bit of animosity had built up between the two teams, going back to the Anavet Cup series.
Heading into the semifinal the Kings had beaten La Ronge five times in a row, so some people thought the Ice Wolves were due for a win.
Instead, the Kings came away with a convincing 6-2 win to advance to the championship game.
“That was just a big testament to the players and the leadership group that we had in our dressing room. We weren’t overconfident playing La Ronge in the semifinal, but we were confident. The leadership group made sure guys were on key every time,” Murray said.
Winning six games in a row over the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champions is a pretty special feat in itself, Murray said.
“The SJHL is highly, highly recognized. They’re an elite league in the Canadian Junior Hockey League and to beat a team six times in a row, you throw the ‘dominating’ word out there and I think that’s what we did with them.”
Finishing first in the round-robin gave the Kings their choice of playing their semifinal game in the afternoon or evening. The team selected to play the evening game, which proved to be a hot topic in town.
Such a scenario is something Murray feels should be determined by the host committee beforehand. The coaching staff sat down with the players and the leadership group and asked for their opinion.
“We were very firm on telling them that the coaching staff was going to make the decision. And I think it was a unanimous decision that we all wanted to play at night just because we didn’t want to get out of our routine,” he said.
“Hockey players are creatures of habit. They’re almost like robots as far as routine goes and we didn’t want to get them out of rhythm.”
On the flip side, Murray said if they had chosen the afternoon game and still lost, people would be asking why they didn’t stick to their routine.
“It was a tough place to be in,” he said.
Vernon ended up winning the game handily, but a few breaks here and there and it could have been a different story. But the Kings could not capitalize on some chances early on and Vernon took advantage, scoring three goals in 48 seconds in the second period to break the game open.
“We didn’t get the breaks. We didn’t get the puck luck,” Murray said, adding the Vipers were missing some key players due to injury when the teams met in the round-robin, but they were back for the final.
A few months after the tournament, Murray spoke with Vernon’s assistant coach Jason Williams, who told him that was one of the best teams Vernon had ever put together.
“It was just the better team won that day. You can hang your hat on that. You look back on the season and say it was a pretty special season. But obviously, you’d like to have one more win,” he said.
It was a special season right from the start, with a lot of time and effort that went into it from a lot of different people.
“I could go on and on and talk for days about the character of the players and the commitment of the players and what they meant to the franchise and to myself. That group of players was special, but I think all the hard work, for the most part, paid off. You look back at it and there’s not too many regrets that you have during that season,” Murray said.
The end of the tournament gave the team and organization as a whole some breathing room, once it was all over.
“But the relationships and closeness you got with the players, and I always stated this right from the get-go, was winning teams and championship teams, they’ll always stay together throughout the course of life,” Murray said.
“You always remember each other and where they are and look after each other forever. It was tough to say goodbye. You look at those men in the eyes, you give them handshakes, you wish them the best and send them on their way.”
Within two weeks, Murray had his GM hat back on, completing deals he had made over the course of the season by settling on the future considerations owed to other teams.
Standing behind the bench, Murray was not able to appreciate just how special it all was at the time.
“But looking back at it and reflecting, I think it would have been a pretty special event as a fan,” he said.
After two seasons with the Kings, Carberry’s Steven Shamanski was named captain of the 2009-10 squad. He was named to the first all-star team and won the league’s Top Defenceman Award that season.
When preparing for their opposition at the RBC Cup, Shamanski said what stood out was the talent.
“You see the list of all the players they have and the stats and you’re pretty impressed. To be honest, you’re thinking, oh man, how are we going to stack up against these guys?” he said, adding the week after winning the Anavet Cup was all about rest after their bout with food poisoning.
“We were all trying to get healthy again. It was just about having a good week of practice and focus on ourselves, because we’d never seen any of those guys play. So it was going to be a feeling out process, no matter how you went about it,” he said.
The opening game against Vernon was the team’s measuring stick, Shamanski said. After going toe-to-toe with the defending champions and tournament favourites, Dauphin’s group realized they had a chance to win the national crown.
“It just gave a big boost of confidence within the group, that we can play with anybody,” he added.
The loss to the Kings was the only round-robin defeat Vernon suffered in their back-to-back national titles.
After going 4-0 in the round-robin, the Kings had a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.
“All the games were close. A bounce here or there either way and (the opposition) could have won. Every team that was at the tournament was really good. So we knew it was going to be a challenge no matter who we faced,” Shamanski said, adding the Kings were all pretty confident facing La Ronge in the semifinals.
Although the result in the final was not what they were hoping for, Shamanski said it was still a great team and a great year.
“We had a ton of fun. We won a lot of games. It was a great group to be a part of,” he said.
In the final, once Vernon got up in the second period, the Kings started taking chances and pressing a bit too hard.
“You need the goals and against a team like that, if you press too hard, sometimes it just goes the other way and they get oddman rushes and power plays that they probably wouldn’t get in a normal circumstance,” Shamanski said.
“It was one of those games where it was three shifts and it went upside down for us.”
Shamanski felt the extra few hours Vernon had from playing the afternoon semifinal may have been a factor.
“I think we also were maybe feeling the legs a bit. I think those extra four or five hours that Vernon got to just sit back and relax may have helped with that, as well,” he said.
As captain, Shamanski was the first player to take hold of the Turnbull Cup and the Anavet Cup. To play two hours from home and captain the team in his final year of junior hockey was a big opportunity for Shamanski.
“It is something I always look back on,” he said, adding some of the players were trying to organize a 10-year reunion before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It’s still crazy the bond you have with all of them and a lot of the guys you keep in touch with pretty frequently. Being the captain was really just the cherry on top of it. I was just happy to be a part of it and playing with a good team and a good group of guys and playing local.”
Shamanski proved to be a versatile player that season. He played defence throughout the regular season, but moved up front as a forward late in the season. Growing up, he always wanted to be a forward, but never got the opportunity.
“And then I think after the deadline, we had a couple of injuries and it just led to the opportunity where we had a enough healthy D and guys were all playing well, so I took the chance and they moved me up front. And things just kind of clicked,” he said.
“And then when we got going on the playoff run, I just stayed up there. It was great for me. It was something I had always wanted to do. It definitely took some time to adjust to playing a different position, but I enjoyed it. I got a few more opportunities to score goals and make some plays, which is always fun.”
Playing in the RBC Cup led to a scholarship to Providence University. Coming into the tournament’s opening weekend, Shamanski was talking with only one school about a scholarship. Providence ended up losing a defenceman, who transfered to another school. With all junior leagues done by then, Providence coach Tim Army asked if he could attend the tournament.
“So he came and watch us play the La Ronge game and the one before (against Brockville). So from there, that was the only time they had seen me or Shane Luke play. Two weeks after the tournament, the two of us went down there and visited. So it was crazy how, with three games or four games left in my junior career, that’s how I fell into that,” he said.

Doug Zywina