Kings focused on big prize

Trail hockey fans haven’t had a chance to see the Powell River Kings in peak form very often.

Powell River looks to clear final hurdle after back-to-back Fred Page Cup appearances

Trail hockey fans haven’t had a chance to see the Powell River Kings in peak form very often.

Although the two-time Coastal Division champions have been in Trail for the last two pre-season tournaments, the Kings have only played one regular-season game at the Cominco Arena since Sept. 28, 2007.

An unbalanced schedule in the 2008-09 season kept the Kings away and the team scored a 5-1 win in a visit to Trail a year ago.

So tonight’s contest might be local fans’ best chance to see one of the league’s dominant franchises from the last few years.

“I think every year is different,” said Kings’ head coach Kent Lewis prior to last night’s game in West Kelowna.

“We made some improvements. But the key to our team this year, we don’t have a lot of guys who have here for three years, is a lot of them have learned from last year.”

The Kings have been to the past two Fred Page Cup finals only to lose to the Vernon Vipers twice, including last year in seven games.

It’s those types of lessons that has the team on track this year, explained Lewis.

“We’ve been mellow and low key throughout the season. We haven’t been listening to all the reports and smoke.

“Our guys know what they’re gunning for. I’m proud of our group for that.

“When you play 80 or 85 games in a season, like we have in the past two years, we feel we’re nowhere near halfway yet. That’s how we look at it.”

Despite winning 13 of its last 14 games, Lewis doesn’t feel his team is playing its best just yet. And this week’s Interior trip against teams in Westside, Trail, Penticton and Vernon, should be a good challenge.

“We look forward tough games,” said Lewis. “We haven’t been playing overly consistent. We haven’t had a stretch of the year where we’ve really had to dig down. The adversity we get is usually from within.

“But we’re hitting a time of year when these teams are playing well and you’re going to face the best that they have.”

Trail head coach Jim Ingram expects the Kings to produce its usual sound defensive game just like they did when they beat the Smokies 1-0 in Powell River in September.

“They have a very good team. They put a lot of rubber on net that night,” he recalled. “The shots we did have were from the perimeter.”

Ingram said the key for Trail will be generating more shots and pressure on the Kings’ goal.

“They have a very good defensive scheme. They’ve got three or four defencemen in that six-foot-four range and they keep a lot of players to the perimeter.

“We have to get pucks on net and have guys driving the net. Especially have the support men going to the net. At the end of the day we still have to get inside those big defencemen.”

The Smokies will be without some of its offensive talent again with Travis St. Denis and Sam Mellor expected to remain spectators. On the blueline, Rajan Sidhu should be in the lineup but Ryan Dixon is on the injured list.