© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
Colemans Western Kings assistant coach Colin Caroll runs through some plays during a practice at the Pepsi Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
CORNER BROOK It‚Äôs a safe bet nothing will change the playoff picture for the Colemans Western Kings at the year-end tournament in Lewisporte this weekend.
But, don‚Äôt think for a second the Kings won‚Äôt be all business when the five provincial major midget hockey franchises converging on the Lewisporte Stadium for an action-packed weekend that will see the Kings play a game against the other four entries to wrap up the regular season.
The third-place Kings appear poised for a best-of-seven showdown with the St. John‚Äôs Maple Leafs in the first round in a best-of-seven affair, while the top-seeded Central Ice Pak will battle the fourth-place team, which may not be determined until the final buzzer in Lewisporte this weekend.
The Kings trail the Maple Leafs by eight points but there is no chance of losing third place because the Tri Pen Osprey hold down fourth spot with 13 points for a nine-point spread between the two franchises. The St. John‚Äôs Privateers sit in the cellar heading into the year-end tournament, but only two points separate them from the Osprey in the quest for the final playoff berth.
Kings second-year forward Jordan King said it will be business as usual for the team no matter what the standings look like. The Kings haven‚Äôt been played a game of competitive hockey in a month or so, but King said the boys are ready to get back on the ice.
‚ÄúI‚Äąthink, as a team, we have to set the tone for going into the playoffs and it starts this weekend,‚ÄĚ King said.
‚ÄúJust go out and hopefully win our four games and just let the other teams know we‚Äôre ready to play in the playoffs,‚ÄĚ said the speedy winger who earned the rookie of the year award last season.
This time last year King and company were in a slightly different position. They were a contender for the crown last year heading into the final weekend, but this time around it‚Äôs more of an underdog role with the Ice‚ÄąPak clearly the toast of the league on a consistent basis with scoring race leader Jordan Maher playing a key role in the central squad‚Äôs climb to the top this season.
King said the only way to approach the weekend is to send a message to the other teams that the Kings take pride in being the defending champions.
He hopes to help the team get off to a quick start and the best way for him to do that is contribute on the scoresheet like he‚Äôs done since breaking into the league last year.
He is only five points behind Maher in the scoring race so that‚Äôs crossed his mind a time or two this week.
‚ÄúOh yes, for sure,‚ÄĚ he said of his desire to win the crown in only his second season. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm hoping to up my game this weekend and hopefully by doing so we‚Äôll get all of our wins out of it.‚ÄĚ
No doubt, coach Angus Head is hoping King‚Äôs outlook is shared by his teammates heading down the stretch. Chances are the team will stay in third place and meet the St. John‚Äôs Maple Leafs, he said, so he wants the players to focus on beating both the Maple Leafs and Ice Pak because the road to a repeat will probably go through those two skilled teams.
‚ÄúThis is the chance to get our team tuned up for it and get them prepared for it,‚ÄĚ‚ÄąHead said. ‚ÄúWe know we can beat them. We‚Äôve beaten both teams so far this year so right now we need to focus on that and that‚Äôs where our concentration is going to be on this weekend. It‚Äôs not about how many points we get now it‚Äôs about whether we show up to play one of these teams.‚ÄĚ
*** Edited to correct name ***