Butler and Kings down Clippers in double-overtime, retain top spot

Tanner Butler (24) had two points in the home victory. Photo - Colby Brochu Photography
Tanner Butler (24) had two points in the home victory. Photo - Colby Brochu Photography

Brent Forster – RDC

Red Deer, AB – The RDC Kings faced a sharp Briercrest College goaltender but they stayed patient and stuck with the game plan, earning a 4-3 decision in double-overtime from an all-star defenceman at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. 

At 6:45 of the first period, Briercrest College found the back of the net. Kings' goaltender Troy Trombley made the initial save but Cale Kindrachuk pounced on the rebound. Then with two minutes remaining, Russell Olson struck on the power play to provide the Clippers a 2-0 edge.

Colby Brochu Photography

The Kings remained persistent and climbed back into the game in the second. At 6:50, Chase Thudium had Dekoning moving to his left and fired a quick low shot on the blocker side to pull RDC within one. The Clippers' goaltender was remarkable and made several sprawling saves but the King kept pressing. On the power play, Dylan Baer one-timed a slap shot past Dekoning to even the contest 2-2 at 14:42. About a minute later, Red Deer's Ross Heidt used his speed up the right wing and after his attempt was stopped, Mike Statchuk capitalized on the rebound to provide the Kings their first lead of the afternoon (3-2). As the clock wound down, Briercrest College's Ryan Laird found space high on the short side to knot the game 3-3.

When neither goaltender could be beaten in the third period or the four-on-four overtime period, the game headed to five minutes of three-on-three.

 

Colby Brochu Photography

Twenty seconds into double-overtime, Tanner Butler sealed a 4-3 victory for the home team. The smooth skating defenceman joined Scott Ferguson on a two-on-one opportunity and beat Dekoning on the backhand.

The Kings outshot the Clippers 72-25.

Kings Head Coach Trevor Keeper recognized the challenge of facing Dekoning, who was focused and was a significant reason why the Clippers picked up one point in the standings. 

"It was a hard game. It was a tough way to get two points, going into double-overtime and their goaltender was outstanding today. He can be and we let him get into a groove early by not being as urgent as we could have been," he says. "Some guys were making an extra deke or trying to tuck it between the pads, rather than just burying it. A goaltender like that is used to a lot of shots. He got on a bit of a roll and made it difficult on us. We talked about when a goaltender is making saves that he shouldn't, you stop breathing, start squeezing the stick and start doubting rather than just slowing your brain down and letting your mind work, and letting your body follow. We did a better job of that in the third period but it took until overtime to get it done."

Colby Brochu Photography

Mike Statchuk was selected as the Kings Player-of-the-Game, accumulating one goal and one assist. Dan Dekoning was outstanding in net and received the honour for the Clippers, turning aside 68 out of 72 shots (0.944).

"Mike is consistent," says Keeper. "He plays defence really well - one-on-one, blocks shots, a great penalty killer and he has good hockey sense to create offence as well."

As conference play wraps up for 2018, the Kings have a detailed plan of staying in shape and being ready for the second half of the season. "It is a long break but we will continue to practice three days a week for the next three weeks. The players will hit the gym four times a week with our strength and conditioning coach," says Keeper. "We will have fitness testing when we get back and we have a little over a week of practice to get ready for our first two games against NAIT. We talked about our fitness training and being ready to come back in good shape, and go hard."

Overall, Keeper is pleased with the first half of the season but wants to fine tune a few areas. "We are in first place but we want to get better all the time. Our special teams have gotten better," he says. "Some things in our d-zone like shots given up, we need to clean up. Our goaltenders want to be a bit sharper. Overall, there are things that we need to refine, sharpen and carry over for the final 14 games of the regular season."

Later Saturday evening, the second place MacEwan University Griffins (9-3-1-0) will host the NAIT Ooks (9-4-0-0). Even if the Griffins win, they can't catch the Kings. RDC leads the way with 22 points in the standings and MacEwan University has 19.

Next, the RDC Kings (10-2-1-1) will play the NAIT Ooks (9-4-0-0) on Friday, January 11 at 7:00 p.m. in Edmonton.