by Stephen Dafoe
The Morinville Kings were hoping to take Sunday afternoon’s home game and the best-of-five playoff series, but it just wasn’t in the cards. The Kings fell 3-1 to the Red Deer Rustlers in the fifth and deciding game in the North Central Hockey League’s semifinal series.
The Kings started the series trailing Red Deer 2-0, taking on the pressure of needing to sweep the remaining three games.
But the Kings came back Feb. 22 at home with a 4-1 win over the Rustlers to make the series 2-1.
Saturday night the Kings tied the series up. The Kings started the night with a 2-0 lead after one and built that to a 5-0 lead after the middle frame. In the end, the Kings only allowed Red Deer to score once in the Kings 6-1 victory.
Sunday saw the Kings back home in front of a smaller than usual crowd for the fifth and final game.
With 7:03 left in the first period, Red Deer opened it to a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, it was 2-0 after Kings goalie Ty Swabb caught and then dropped the puck on a shot just as a Rustlers’ player was there to tap it in. With 3:35 left in the period, Red Deer came around the backside of the Kings’ net to pocket their third and final goal of the game.
Despite the Red Wings taking 10 chances in the middle frame and Morinville seven, neither side was able to capitalize on their opportunities in the middle frame, Leaving the Kings still trailing 3-0 after two.
The Kings came back in the third with Chance Thomas narrowing the margin by one with 14 minutes left in the game, but the Kings were not able to pocket any of their other ten chances during the period. Not even pulling Swabb for an extra man in the final minute bore fruit for the Kings.
The Rustlers will now move on to face Daysland for the best-of-seven Vanburg Cup Championship series. Daysland defeated Fort Saskatchewan 3-1 in that best-of-five semifinal series.
Later this year, the Morinville Kings will hang the League Championship banner in the Morinville Leisure Centre, having ended the regular season in first place with an 11-4-1 record.
They previously hung Playoff and Provincials championship banners in the new arena for last years’ efforts.