Nearly a week has passed since the Dauphin Kings opened up main camp inside of Credit Union Place. Beginning last Friday, the push to the regular season officially began and the battles were fierce and they still continue to be.
After Sunday's JoFo Cup which was won by Team Trotz, 7-5, the organization quickly flipped the page and focused on their preseason game on Monday evening. The Kings came out on fire with a goal just 59 seconds into the game and they easily took care of the Stampeders in the annual rookie game, 6-1.
"We were very happy with that game to start the week, there was a great compete level and everyone played extremely hard," said Doug Hedley, head coach, and general manager. "I think in general, having to keep camp down to just 34 players has been challenging at times."
The Kings would then begin a full week of practices on Tuesday afternoon with everyone that played in Monday's game getting the day off. Everyone was back on the ice on Wednesday as the battle for spots on the 2020-2021 Kings season continues.
Practices will continue on Thursday afternoon before the Club takes a day off on Friday. After another skate on Saturday morning, they host Neepawa for their second preseason game on Sunday evening.
"The speed has been outstanding this week so far. We're looking forward to skating on Thursday and Saturday to get ready for Sunday," offered Hedley.
The Kings have sent home a few players, including Zach Turner who had a great camp, but he's only 16-years-old and felt more comfortable playing one more year of AAA hockey. 20-year-old Gabriel Beauvais has also been released.
The team will now move some guys out this weekend or by Monday morning with the plan of getting down to 26 or 27 skaters.
"We're probably going to keep 15 forwards, eight defencemen, and a couple of goaltenders to start the season," said Hedley.
One of the most intriguing parts of camp so far has been the battle between the pipes which includes Zach Grouette.
Matthias Smith is back from last year and has looked very impressive so far. Mathias Savoie and Ian Lee round of the four that are looking to earn spots. At this point, Smith is a lock with the remaining three battling for a backup spot.
"A lot of it comes down to attitude. Some of them have put work in over the summertime and it pays off now," Hedley said. "Smith has been our best goaltender in camp and we expected that. It should be a good battle and some good competition with the other three battling right now."
(Jayden Jubenvill beats Zach Grouette)
Hedley adds that Jayson Argue will have a big say in who is chosen. The Kings have the luxury of saying they have a goaltending coach and one that has played at a very elite level.
Originally from Swan River, Argue played four years of Division 1 college hockey with Bentley University. Prior to that, he played 71 games with his hometown Stampeders. Argue is entering his second season as the Kings goaltending coach.
"He did a tremendous job for us last year and we've had him for just about every practice this year," said Hedley. "We couldn't ask for a better guy in town that is working in our community and that has the passion to be involved. There is a little bit of compensation, but it is nowhere near the valuable input that he has on our goaltenders."
Sunday evening's game will be inside of Credit Union Place at 7:30 against as noted above the Neepawa Natives. Neepawa's first preseason game is on Friday when they play Waywayseecappo.
Although Neepawa won just 13 games last season, many of their losses were by one goal and the team will return an all-star from last year in Eli Lieffers.
Carter Sawchuk will also play for Neepawa this season as he was acquired from Dauphin in the off-season, a trade that saw the Kings grab Parker Malchuk.
"They're going to have guys that have speed and work hard. It's going to be a great battle absolutely," ended Hedley.