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Cherepak Leads Kings To A Split On Opening Weekend

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Carson Cherepak’s debut with the Dauphin Kings was a memorable one.

The Kings acquired the two-time Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League Goaltender of the Year with the Winnipeg Wild last week from the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League for future considerations.

In his first game with Dauphin, the Winnipeg native stopped 45 shots in blanking the Neepawa Titans 1-0 in the Kings’ home opener, Saturday at Credit Union Place in front of 827 spectators.

The win came on the heels of a 3-1 Neepawa victory in the season opener, Friday in Neepawa.

Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley felt the Kings played better in Neepawa than they did in the home opener.

“It was a 3-1 game, but I thought we deserved a little bit better in Neepawa. (Saturday) we weren’t very good,” he said.

Hedley noted Neepawa played more preseason games than the Kings did.

“This is like an exhibition season for us where we’re still trying to finding our structure and our feet. I think once the guys realize what we’re doing and get on the same page, we’ll be fine,” he said, adding the Kings were getting beat to pucks and loosing stick battles.

Power plays were lopsided in Neepawa’s favour in both contests. The Titans had 11 power plays in the two games, while the Kings had just two.

“It makes it really tough. It puts you back on your heels and all of a sudden, you’re chasing the game. The good thing about it was we had a goaltender who stood on his head tonight,” he said.

Besides playing in front of the hometown crowd for the first time this season, players are trying to adapt to new systems.

“A lot of those guys haven’t played much hockey in the last little while. It’s been a lot of summer hockey and hockey with no structure. So we’ve got to get better with our sticks. Stronger bottom hands. We’ve got to take less penalties and that just comes from our feet not moving fast. We’ve got to get our feet moving,” Hedley said.

Another area the Kings can improve upon is generating scoring chances, with Hedley noting they do not have a middle lane drive yet.

There were certain players who played well, Saturday, most notably Slade Stanick and hometown product Garrett Hrechka.

“The young Stanick kid played exceptionally well tonight. I thought Slade was very good. And Hrechka played very well,” Hedley said. “When you drive the middle lane, you’re going to get a chance if you put a 10-footer in. They did it once and we had a chance to score.”

The Kings will be bolstered by the additions of forwards Matthew Rathbone and Sean Williams, who was attending the Swift Current Broncos camp of the Western Hockey League.

There are still some decisions to make to get down to 25. Hedley expects to move three or four players this week, including a goaltender.

Last week, the Kings sent 17-year-old Brayden Stevenson to the Virden Oil Capitals for futures, while acquiring 19-year-old goalie Rylan Labrie from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Weyburn Red Wings for futures.

The Kings and Titans meet twice again this weekend, beginning Friday in Dauphin before the return match, Saturday in Neepawa. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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