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Kings Move Into First Place Overall After Sweeping Stamps

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A four-game winning streak has propelled the Dauphin Kings to the top of the overall standings in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The Kings completed a four-game sweep over the Swan Valley Stampeders, this past weekend, scoring a 5-2 win in Swan River on Friday and a 4-0 shutout victory, Saturday, in which Keaton Woolsey made 18 saves for his first career shutout.

At 16-4-0-0, the Kings are alone in first place in the MJHL, one point ahead of the East Division’s Steinbach Pistons and Winnipeg Blues, and Dauphin is two up on their division rival Waywayseecappo Wolverines.

Dauphin’s defence was stellar against the Stamps, allowing just three goals against in the four games. The Kings have allowed the fewest goals against, with 40. The next closest is the Winnipeg Blues with 48.

The good defence all starts with the goaltending, according to Kings head coach and general manager Doug Hedley.

“Both guys are really solid. You see Wools tonite, he hasn’t played in six games and he stepped right in. He works hard in practice,” he said, adding goaltending coach Dan Keeping has done a great job along with Jayson Argue in working with both Woolsey and Carson Cherepak.

“And I think our backend, we’ve got seven guys that are mobile, that can move pucks, that win stick battles, that play fast at times,” Hedley added. “When we play our best, we play fast and that’s moving pucks to forwards as soon as we can, creating some offence through the neutral zone.”

What Hedley liked about Saturday’s win was the Kings were not as good as they could be, but they still found ways to win battles and make sure they were on the defensive side of battles.

“We’ve got everybody in that room that cares and it makes a big difference,” he said.

Tanner Brouwer and Nolan Wickham both scored their first career goals in the two wins, with Brouwer bending the twine on Friday and Wickham netting his first in Saturday.

“We continue to get scoring from everybody, whether it’s backend guys or new guys every night,” Hedley said.

Every game, Hedley said, somebody different steps up to lead the charge offensively.

“That’s what’s good about the hockey club is we always have somebody stepping up and filling that void,” he said.

Wickham started the season on the blueline, but has played the last few games as a forward on the fourth line. His play up front has been a pleasant surprise, Hedley said.

“He’s got the skill set and he’s got the grit to play up front. He plays a great left side, goes to the net hard and he’s responsible defensively. You couldn’t ask for much more, that’s for sure,” he said, adding Wickham is gaining more confidence carrying the puck.

“And he loves it. He’s having fun out there. I’m not saying he’s never going to play defence for us again, but it’s always good to have those guys that are in that bottom six kind of guys that can maybe, if we have an injury on the backend, they can go back and fill in. They can step up and play both. Right now, he’s been really good for us,” Hedley said.

This is the busiest stretch of the season for the MJHL as teams now prepare for the league’s Showcase in Portage, Monday to Wednesday.

For Dauphin, it means playing six games in 10 days.

After two days off, the Kings are back on the ice in Portage, Tuesday to face the Steinbach Pistons followed by a date with the Winnipeg Blues on Wednesday.

After another two days off, the Kings are back in Portage for the first of a home-and-home with the Terriers, with the rematch, Saturday in Dauphin at 7:30 p.m.

Hedley is not a fan of playing the Showcase during the week, preferring it to take place on a weekend.

“You want high energy games and I think that’s the reason why they’re playing the division against the division in the slots. But now a lot of teams are playing four games in five nights, four games in six nights, six games in nine nights. It’s going to be tough,” he said.

“The good thing about it is we didn’t have to use our power play a lot tonight. Some guys got a break.”

Forwards Slade Stanick and Ethan Williment will return to the lineup this week, Hedley said, allowing him to give some players a rest.

Forward Matthew Rathbone will be reassessed today and will be out indefinitely with an upper body injury.

Facing teams from the East Division comes as a welcome break from having to play the same team four times in a row.

“The way the schedule is working, its going to be an exciting December, that’s, for sure,” Hedley said.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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