Kings score late, fall to visiting Trojans by one

Arik Weersink (31) made several key saves. Pic - Colby Brochu Photography
Arik Weersink (31) made several key saves. Pic - Colby Brochu Photography

Brent Forster - RDC

Red Deer, AB The RDC Kings made a late charge against the SAIT Trojans, but couldn't score the equalizer, dropping a hard fought 3-2 home decision. 

Head Coach Trevor Keeper liked the effort.

"I thought that we played really well," he says. "There were a lot of areas of the game that we were fairly dominant - puck time, offensive zone possession, face-offs. I think we had 40 wins and 21 losses in the face-off circle."

Chance Longjohn (20) Colby Brochu Photography

The SAIT Trojans capitalized on a pair of early opportunities to take a 2-0 edge. 

"One was a rebound," says Keeper. "A great save was made by Arik Weersink and it just bounced out to the one loose guy and he tucked it in."

At 11:54 of the second period, Tyrell Mappin cut into SAIT's lead. The Thudium brothers set up Mappin's fourth goal and 20th point of the season. 

Kurtis Rutledge restored the Trojans' two-goal lead at 6:53 of the final frame. As time was winding down, Keeper pulled Arik Weersink for the extra attacker and the manoeuvre paid off. Fifth-year Tanner Butler made a cross-ice pass to an open Chase Thudium, who made no mistake, helping the home team pull within a goal with 13.8 seconds remaining. The clock ran out and the Trojans picked up a 3-2 road win. 

Colby Brochu Photography

Arik Weersink made 35 saves (0.921), earning the Kings Player-of-the-Game. Payton Lee was strong at the other end as well, turning aside 29 shots (0.935). 

Colton McCarthy was recognized as the Trojans' top player, recording a pair of assists. 

"We battled hard the rest of the game trying to score but they have a good goaltender," says Keeper. "It was tough and we ended up getting two goals on him, but ran out of time." 

After the weekend series, the RDC Kings (13-7-1-1) sit in fifth with 28 points, but the top half of the standings remain close. There could be a lot of shifting of positions before the playoffs begin. NAIT (18-6-0-0) leads the way with 36 points, but has also played two more games than the Kings. SAIT (16-5-0-0) is in second place with 32 points and MacEwan University (15-5-1-0) is only a single point back. The University of Alberta Augustana Vikings (14-7-1-0) are fourth with 29 points and only one point up on the RDC Kings. 

The Red Deer College Kings have five games remaining. Next weekend, the Kings will travel to Lac La Biche and take on the Portage College Voyageurs (3-18-1-0) in two games. On Friday, February 22, the RDC Kings will play the MacEwan University Griffins in the rescheduled game at 1:30 p.m. in Sylvan Lake. To wrap up the regular season, the Kings will travel to Saskatchewan and challenge the Briercrest College Clippers (4-17-1-0) on March 1 and 2. 

Graduating Kings

All-star defenceman Tanner Butler was recognized for his contributions to the Kings Hockey program, and played his final regular season home game at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. 

Trevor Keeper and Tanner Butler (24) Colby Brochu Photography

Keeper had a lot of praise for the smooth-skating defender. "Tanner is a quiet leader but is very respected. By the third week of his rookie year he was in our top four d-men and then quickly moved up to the top pairing," he says. "To be the all-time leading scorer in a program that has been around since the 1960's, particularly being a defenceman, that means a lot to pass a lot of good players, and forwards. Tanner has led the league in defencemen scoring the past two years and he's right up there again this year. He's a skilled player, but very good defensively and tough to beat one-on-one as well."

In 22 games, Butler has 10 goals and 16 assists from the blueline this season, which is four more points than the next highest scoring defenceman, Kevin Massy (22 points), of the Trojans. Impressively, the Kinesiology student shares ninth spot in overall league scoring.