By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
The hat tricks have temporarily stopped, but the winning hasn’t.
The Strathmore Wheatland Kings extended their season-long winning streak to six games following their 3-1 disposal of the Mountainview Colts Nov. 12 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
“That was a tough win tonight. That was the fastest team we have played by far this season. They caught us off guard a little bit,” said Kings Head Coach Shadoe Stoodley.
The Kings have been blasting teams during this winning streak, having scored 37 goals in their previous five games entering their tilt with the Colts (8-5-3).
This one wouldn’t come as easy for the Kings, as they battled just to get the puck out of their zone and were blindsided by a number of odd-man rushes.
George Montour continued his career year by banging in a loose puck 24 seconds after puck drop. The Colts answered with a beautiful individual effort from Caden Switzer to knot the game at one to end the first.
Stoodley hasn’t required stellar goaltending during the streak, but it came in handy in the second stanza.
The Colts somehow managed to find an extra gear to start the frame, as the play predominantly remained in the Kings end.
The Kings were on a power play, when they yielded a pair of breakaways and a two-on-one rush, but second-year puck-stopper Indiana Kelly held his ground.
“There’s no doubt about it, Indy kept us in it,” said Stoodley. “If he allows any of those odd-man rushes to go in, it takes the wind out of our sails and makes it hard to come back from.”
Kelly’s most impressive save came on a Zach Erhardt to Zane Leatherdale two-on-one rush with just over eight minutes to play in the second. Kelly slid over to make the initial save and the rebound save from the seat of his pants, preserving the tie game.
“I still feel bad when a goal gets let in, but it’s been great knowing that my teammates have been amazing in front of me this season,” said Kelly. “The scoring we have received this year helps me clear my head at times and doesn’t let me dwell on a goal that I should have stopped.”
With just under six minutes remaining in the second, the top-scoring rookie’s vision put the Kings ahead for good.
On the power play in the second, alternate captain Brenden Moore did a great job keeping the puck in by dumping it deep behind the Colts’ net. Waiting there was Chayse Hnatowich, who one-touched the puck out to Matt Thomson, who pumped in the one-timer from 12 feet out, for his team-leading 12th goal.
“Hnatowich is a smart player,” said Stoodley. “He sees the ice well wherever he is out there. If he has the puck, chances are he’s going to find open ice for our guys.”
The Kings put the Colts to bed when Garret Vander Ploeg pounded home a one-timer from Montour who was stationed behind the net. It was Vander Ploeg’s third goal in two games.
“It’s really easy to play with George and Hnatowich,” said Vander Ploeg. “We’re all fast players and I’ve been doing a good job reading them well. It’s really easy to put up points when you get to play with those two guys.”
Vander Ploeg’s two prior goals came in a 6-4 shelving of their South Division rivals, the Okotoks Bisons Nov. 7 at the Family Centre.
It was a very impressive win with only three off-days from their previous game, while taking on a team that historically has the upper hand in this matchup.
“Those years are done. This is a new team and we have already beat those teams that have owned this team in the past,” said Vander Ploeg.
Rookie blue liner Quintin Vaugeois registered his first goal as a King 4:18 into the first period from Jaks Faris. Playing in his third game as a King, Jake Johnston popped in his first with the new team from Kody Hammond and captain Keenan Ogle nearly 10 minutes later. Matt Thomson added his 12th of the year to close out the first.
In the second, on the power play, Vander Ploeg buried one from Hnatowich and Montour, as that line continues to light the world on fire.
“That line has been our best line for the better part of a month now,” said Stoodley. “They work so hard and capitalize on any opportunity they get. They aren’t out there looking for the dangle goals, they just want to put the puck in the net by any means necessary.”
Montour and Vander Ploeg supplied unassisted efforts to close out the third, as Kelly stopped 36 shots in the win. Kelly has now played the third most minutes – 611 – and stopped the second-most shots in the league, with 333.
The Kings will now take this balanced attack on the road against two tough opponents.
First, the Kings will take on the North Division-leading Airdrie Techmation Thunder (10-4-2) Nov. 17 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, followed by a bout with the Red Deer Vipers (9-4-1) Nov. 18 at the Collicutt Arena.
“A lot of teams would look at those games and think they are pretty tough games,” said Vander Ploeg. “With the way we’re playing, we think those teams look at their schedule and think that they have a tough game when we come to town.”