Morinville Kings ready to skate in expanded league

by Stephen Dafoe

The Morinville Senior AA Kings are looking to build on two successful seasons in the North Central Hockey League (NCHL) this fall when they take to the ice in an expanded league.

“It was an amazing two seasons, and now we are getting ready to add to that,” said Kings President Wayne Gatza. “We’ve got some players that won’t be coming back. That happens every year, but we have some promising prospects coming in with some AJHL experience. And there’re some guys familiar with this arena that played with the [North Edmonton] Red Wings that have expressed interest in coming with us. So now we’re going to add to that younger, core group.”

Gatza said this season saw the departure of first line center Shane O’Neil for his new home in Vancouver. Danny Forbes has also decided to pack it in this season, and Gatza said he is not expecting Jeremiah Burak to return to the ice when the Kings begin their season.

“On the bright side, we have four new defencemen coming out to join us,” Gatza said, adding he could not yet disclose who those players were.

The Kings will hit the ice the week of Sept. 20 and will hold an exhibition game against CFB Edmonton’s team, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26 or 27.

The Senior AA players regular season starts Oct. 16 at home with an out-of-the-gate contest against the Drayton Valley Wildcats, a club Gatza said the Kings have never managed to defeat in the team’s two-season history. “Obviously, we want to win,” Gatza said of the home ice opener.

Expanded League — same number of games

The NCHL expands this year to add the Daysland Northstars, Bonnyville Pontiacs, Big Valley Oil Kings, and Tofield Satellites, four teams from the Battle River Senior Hockey League. The Drayton Valley Wildcats also return to the league after a year on leave.

Gatza said the increase of four teams to a 12-team league would not increase the number of contests each play. “We’re going with a 16-game schedule, and we are divided into two divisions,” Gatza said. “Because of travel, that will be great. There were lots of talks [as to] if we would go with a 24-game schedule or stick with 16. Sixteen was what everyone decided on.”

The 16-game set up will give the Kings eight home and eight away games. October will see the Kings doing back-to-back home games.

“We don’t go on the road, so we are hoping we can fill the barn and show those new teams what kind of support we have behind us,” Gatza said.

The Morinville Kings home opener against the Drayton Valley Wildcats is Oct. 16 at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre. Game time is 8:30 p.m.

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