PENETANGUISHENE – Many sports teams face an influx of fresh talent with the arrival of a new season, but that has been especially true for the Penetang Kings this season.
General manager Frank Hall noted the team had 10 players join this year fresh out of midget, leading to both an embarrassment of riches and challenges to get everybody on the same page.
“We have a pretty good team, a lot of talented kids,” he said. “It's going to take a little bit of time to get everyone to gel. Once we do that, I think we’ll really get going.”
Part of this focus includes ensuring the team stays disciplined, said head coach Josh Siegman.
“Bad penalties just take away from the flow of our game,” he said. “We’re a better team when we’re playing five-on-five and things are really rolling.”
Siegman added he wants to ensure his players understand the need to be on the top of their game for a full 60 minutes.
“We sometimes tend to take a period off now and again, which we can’t afford to do,” said the second-year coach. “It’s really about playing smart hockey, doing the small things right and not taking a night off.”
The Kings currently stand sixth in the Carruthers Division of the Provincial Junior Hockey League's North Conference, sitting at 3-4 after Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Huntsville Otters.
But, despite some early hiccups, both Siegman and Hall point to a lot of strengths on the roster, including goaltending and depth.
“Our goaltending has been good and we have a lot of talented forwards and defencemen,” said Siegman. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play at a high level.”
He said goalie Andrew North has been a standout, along with blue-liners Matt Gill and Doug Ross. Colin Kijowski and Matt Cochrane are both a real presence up front, he said.
But the competition within the division is pretty fierce, with Hall pointing to the Alliston Hornets and the Stayner Siskins as the teams to beat. Although the Kings fought a tough battle with the Hornets on Oct. 7, they ended up losing 6-5.
“Alliston is the top team and Stayner is loaded with talent,” Hall said. “They’re likely to be one and two, and the rest of us are in there for third.”
Siegman added the Midland Flyers are always a team the Kings look forward to facing.
“It’s definitely a fun rivalry,” he said. “The kids all know each other, so maybe it’s not as intense as it’s been in the past, but those games are the ones we want to win the most.”
The regular season will come to an end in January, and Hall said finishing third or fourth would “definitely be a big win for us.”
But Siegman is avoiding predictions, saying he prefers simply to focus on first place.
“If you’re not aiming to be the top team, then why are you playing?” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get there, but, if I said anything less than that, I’d be selling the team short.”
Looking ahead on the schedule, the Kings will play home games this Friday and Saturday against the Orillia Terriers and Huntsville, respectively. The puck drops at 8 p.m. for both games.
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