In just a few short days, the Dauphin Kings will begin their 2019-20 regular season with a date against their Parkland rival, the Swan Valley Stampeders. The first of a home-and-home will be played at the Centennial Arena in Swan River.
The last time these two teams met in a meaningful game was last year in the first round of the playoffs, where Swan Valley won in four games. With that in the past, it's time to focus in on the upcoming season and six regular-season games between the teams.
Of course, Dauphin will play 54 other games through the season. Below, we'll take a full look at this year's team.
This year's team will feature the same coaching staff as one year ago. Doug Hedley is back as the Head Coach and General Manager while Mitch Topinka is back as the team's Assistant Coach.
Brad Dupasquier has come on as an assistant and video coach while Jayson Argue is the club's goaltending coach. Riley Ferster has joined as the team's strength and skills coach.
Dauphin began their training camp back on August 30. After a rigorous few days, the team began their preseason on September 2. They ended up winning four of six tune-up games.
"We're still carrying 28 games. This week is about getting into our systems and make sure guys are buying in," said Mitch Topinka. "We talked to some guys before camp and they said they're here to win it all. That's our goal as a coaching staff and every player wants that."
2019-2020 Dauphin Kings:
After going just 14-44-1-1 in the 2017-18 season, the team went 29-25-3-3 and they qualified for the playoffs and finished in the top eight of the standings for the first time since the 2013-14 season when they won the Sher-Wood Division with a 40-17-0-3 record.
In a season where the Kings dramatically improved, we'll take a quick look at what went wrong.
What went wrong?
Dauphin allowed the seventh-most goals in the MJHL and their 186 goals for were the seventh-fewest in the league. The team was also the second-most penalized club in the league. Their penalty kill was seventh at 80.5% and their powerplay was successful just 15.1% of the time.
The team scored 38 more goals and they allowed 96 fewer goals than the previous year. The team's rookies showed what they could do at a high level. Between Nakodan Greyeyes, Carter Sawchuk and Mitchell Joss, the trio scored 28 times and they racked up 43 assists. Cole DeKoninck also heavily stepped up with 14 goals and 24 assists.
Dauphin will be without their top three scorers from last season. Riley Shamray, Riley Buller and Bryon Fobair have all aged out. Shamray led the team with 47 points while Buller had 38 and Fobair notched 37. The three accounted for 44 of the team's 186 goals.
Despite losing their top three point-getters from one year ago, the team is happy to have back a strong core. DeKoninck, Grady Hobbs, Carter Sawchuk, Brendan Arnold, Avery Smith, and Leeam Tivers are all back. You can also toss in Andrew Liwiski who's a hometown boy. That group had 65 goals combined last year. Each of them also had at least 20 points.
In net, Bryan Landsberger is also back. He made 10 wins and he had a solid .907 save percentage.
By no means was it a quiet summer for Dauphin. Most notably, they added 20-year-old Baron Thompson. He's played the past three years for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. In his first game with Dauphin, he scored a goal and had several more chances.
"He's going to be a leader for us. We're very happy to have him with us," said Topinka. "His size is great and he's very good. It's an exciting addition for us."
Other notable additions include Carter Eha. The big American had three goals in the preseason in three games. Other solid additions include Gavin Wendorf, Austin Lamotte, and Shon Olivier-Roy, just to name a few.
In net, Matthias Smith has looked very solid in his time here and he's expected to play a big part in this year's team. We'll chat more about Matthias next.
Three goalies still remain on the team's roster. Matthias Smith and Landsberger are two. The third is Dauphin's Zach Grouette. The Dauphinite has made 42 saves during his preseason time for the Kings.
The plan for the team is to remain with three goalies for now. A definite luxury for the Kings here is having three goalies that have the capability of playing Jr. A hockey.
"We'll see how it goes. We haven't made a decision for this weekend yet, that'll depend on how the week goes," said Topinka.
Good Start: After a home-and-home this weekend, Dauphin will play seven games on the road through October 16. The two home games are October 4 against Portage and October 8 against Neepawa.
If Dauphin can get off to a good start with a full slate of road games, the team has a good chance of jumping up the standings. From October 19-30, they will play four of their six games at Credit Union Place.
Don't forget, Darnell Duff will broadcast 27 of the team's road games right here on 730CKDM. You can check out the schedule at Dauphin Kings on 730CKDM. When you get the chance to watch Dauphin live at Credit Union Place, Mitch says you should be in for a treat.
"We'll be fast and we're going to compete for sure," said Topinka. "We have a group that is going to stick up for guys all the time. We'll also be coming at team's with size and a lot of heart."
Don't forget to tune into the first Dauphin Kings Powerplay show this Friday with Darnell Duff after the 4:00 p.m. news, weather, and sports.