Kings pumped for provincials
Eight-team Hockey Alberta senior AA/A provincials start Friday morning at Ray McDonald Sports Centre
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:45 pm
Senior AA/A provincials
March 28 to 30
Ray McDonald Sports Centre
Morinville Kings: host, North Central league
Daysland Northstars: Battle River league
Devon Barons: North Central league
Dewberry Mustangs: SaskAlta league
Nanton Palominos: Ranchland league
Okotoks Drillers: Chinook league
Two Hills Longhorns: wild card, SaskAlta
Bonnyville Pontiacs: wild card
Friday, March 28 quarter-finals
Winners advance to Saturday’s AA semifinals
Losers advance to Saturday’s A semifinals
11 a.m. Daysland vs. Dewberry
2 p.m. Devon vs. Nanton
5 p.m. Bonnyville vs. Two Hills
7:30 p.m. opening ceremonies
8 p.m. Morinville Kings vs. Okotoks
Visit www.morinvillekings.com or
www.hockeyalberta.ca for results and schedules
The Morinville Kings have the luxury of home-ice advantage as the host team for the Hockey Alberta senior AA/A provincials at Ray McDonald Sports Centre.
The Kings play their first game Friday at 8 p.m. against the Okotoks Drillers.
“It’s exciting to play in front of the home crowd on a pretty big stage,” said netminder Jordan Panasiuk. “We’ll have a lot of family and friends come out to watch us.”
Friday’s schedule features four games, plus the opening ceremonies at 7:30 p.m.
The winning teams advance to the AA semifinals and the losers compete in the A semifinals.
Saturday the Kings will face-off at 8 p.m. in the AA bracket or 5 p.m. in the A bracket.
The AA and A finals go Sunday.
“We’re really excited to get going,” Panasiuk said. “We’ve been practicing better now than we have all year. All the practices are really intense. Guys are coming out and everyone is working hard and having fun too. It’s a good atmosphere and good preparation for provincials.”
The 6-5 exhibition win against Bonnyville Pontiacs on March 1 in Morinville is the last game the Kings played since their season ended Feb. 8, when the Westlock Warriors swept the first-year North Central Hockey League team in the best-of-three north division opening round.
“Our first game is against Okotoks and they’ve had a really long layover also,” Panasiuk said. “It will be tough but we’ve got to go out there and go hard and see if we can get our legs back under us.”
Okotoks, the only AA team in its first season in the Chinook senior AAA circuit, is expected to give the Kings a stiff challenge after compiling a 7-16-1 record for fourth place, one point ahead of the Stony Plain Eagles.
“They’ve played AAA all year so they’re going to be a force. I think they’re ranked No. 1 in the tournament so it will be a tough game,” Panasiuk said. “If we can do good against them I think we have a pretty good shot at doing well in the tournament. It will be a good gauge for us.”
The Kings are coming off a remarkable 13-4-1 campaign in their inaugural NCHL season. They finished two points behind the NCHL champion Devon Barons (13-2-3) in the north division with the second-best record in the nine-team league.
“None of us have played together so it was a very good season for us to come together and gel as a team and pull off a really good record,” Panasiuk said. “We were really good at finding a way to win. Sometimes games were 8-7 and sometimes they were 3-2. If the goalie was playing good and the players weren’t scoring we seemed to win and if the goalie wasn’t playing so good the team found a way to put the puck in the net.”
The Kings averaged 4.94 goals scored and 4.50 goals against in 18 league games before bowing out to Westlock 6-4 and 4-3 in the playoffs as the Warriors potted the game winner in both games in the third period.
Dalen Paul stirred the drink offensively with a team-high 17 goals and 30 points in 17 games. Brayden Arcand was the top playmaker with 17 assists for 28 points and Joshua Lafleche ranked third in goals with 10 and points with 19.
Panasiuk (6-4, 3.79 GAA) and Curtis Ronaldson (7-1, 5.29 GAA), a former junior B St. Albert Merchant, proved to be a formidable netminding tandem.
“He and I pushed each other to make each other better,” said Panasiuk, 22.
The High River product was selected as the NCHL’s best netminder in the regular season in voting by the teams.
“I thought I had a pretty good season. It was tough at the start because it’s a different style and pace of play so it took a little while to kind of get adjusted going from junior to senior hockey but I think I settled in nice. The guys were also awesome and supportive. We had lots of team play and we played pretty tight defence too,” said Panasiuk, who had stints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Drayton Valley Thunder (2009/10), North West Junior B Hockey League with the Whitecourt Warriors (2010/11) and the Capital Junior B Hockey League with the Beverly Warriors (2011/12).
The MacEwan University bachelor of commerce student described the NCHL level of play as similar to junior A.
“Lots of the guys are ex-junior A players. It’s the same pace and same skill level, just the pace isn’t quite as fast as junior A. It’s a little more slower and the guys are a little bit smarter.”