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Kings awarded senior AA/A provincials

Morinville hosts Hockey Alberta tournament March 28 to 30

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013 06:00 am

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The Morinville Kings are skating to provincials in the franchise’s inaugural North Central Hockey League season as the host team for senior AA/A tournament.

The eight-team Hockey Alberta competition is March 28 to 30 at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre.

“It’s an honour for us to be able to host this tournament,” said Wayne Gatza, head coach of the impressive 8-2 Kings. “As for what it means for our organization, it’s huge. It’s going to help us get more fans and get more awareness about our team out there in the Sturgeon County area. It’s going to help us attract some more players and financially it will be a huge benefit as well. It’s a lot of work but a lot of rewards too that come with it.”

The 10-game tournament will feature the league winners from the Ranchland, North Peace, Sask/Alta, Battle River and NCHL, plus the Okotoks Drillers, the only AA team in the Chinook AAA league, one wild card team and the Kings.

Four games will be played Friday, with the winners advancing the AA side of the draw and the losers moving to the A bracket. The AA and A semifinals are Saturday and the finals are Sunday.

“It’s going to be great hockey. Every team has some ex-pro players kicking around and all leagues have high-end players,” Gatza said. “Okotoks is going to be stiff competition. They got some good hockey players.”

At the 2013 provincials in Innisfail, the host Eagles defeated the Daysland Northstars 8-3 in the AA final and the Nanton Palominos doubled the Devon Barons from the NCHL 6-3 in the A final.

The Eagles moved up to the AAA ranks this season.

The nine-team NCHL circuit will benefit from the Kings hosting provincials.

“It’s great for the league to have two teams in it,” Gatza said. “But in all honesty we want to be the league champs going into it and not just the host team. We have a really good team so we want to make sure we continue on our good roll.”

The Kings have eight games remaining before the playoffs in preparation for provincials.

“The guys are so excited right now that we have provincials and I would hazard to say the team is going to play even harder now because they want to make sure they have a good showing,” Gatza said.

The Kings have exceeded expectations as one of the top teams in league play. Winners of six in a row, the Kings are one point behind Devon (8-2-1), the defending champions, with a game in hand in the race for the first place in the north and the overall league pennant.

“I’m very happy with how it’s all gone for us. We have a pretty decent group of guys,” Gatza said. “The good part about our team is everybody there wants to be there. They are having an extraordinary amount of fun. They also work very hard. We have a motto and we play by that motto and that is sweat plus sacrifice equals success. We said right from the get go that this was a team thing and we all need to buy in and we all need to work hard and if we do that good things will happen and so far that has held true.

“We have four lines that work hard game in and game out. We’ve got skill and we’ve got some energy guys. We also have two pretty good goaltenders (Curtis Ronaldson and Jordan Panasiuk). They’re really close and they work hard and push each other.

“We just seem to have a really good mix of players that have bonded well together.”

Brayden Arcand and Dalen Paul, a pair of junior B Morinville Jets’ graduates, are the offensive ringleaders. Arcand has nine goals in nine games for a team-high 18 points and Paul is the top goal scorer with 11 in 10 games for 16 points.

“They both have very good skill set and are surrounded by guys that seem to bring out the best in them,” Gatza said. “They have such good chemistry together and they work so hard. They’re my go to guys all the time.”

Jorey McRae, another ex-Jet, has been a sparkplug on the energy line.

“Jorey has played a very prominent role. He has never been a big goal scorer but the energy level he brings and his compete level and ability to kill penalties and create energy helps get our team going,” Gatza said.

The next home game is Jan. 4 against the Slave Lake Winterhawks (4-6-1) at 8:30 p.m.


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