Klippers look for legs after holiday break

The Iron Horse Kindersley Klippers returned from a 12-day break with a few minor kinks to rework, but still earned three out of a possible four points during the team’s first road trip of 2015.

The Klippers were handed a 3-2 overtime loss on Jan. 3 against the Weyburn Red Wings. Weyburn seemed to always be one step ahead during the game, opening the scoring in the first. However, Kindersley’s Marc Dubeau tied the game in the second before the Red Wings regained that lead near the halfway point in the third. Klippers captain Shaun MacPherson took advantage of the extra ice on a power play and scored with 3:01 left on the clock, tying the game 2-2. However, the Red Wings scored in overtime, giving the team its first win of 2015.

One night earlier, the Klippers played its first game after the break in Estevan against the Bruins in a pretty solid 4-0 affair. Dubeau, Landon Gross, MacPherson, and Hayden-James Berra each had a goal during the game.

Head coach Rockie Zinger thought the Klippers had to re-adjust a little bit after having some time off, but were still successful on the road. Despite being outshot 42-35 in Estevan, goaltender Evan Weninger gave his team the support it needed to pull out the victory with a shutout performance, his third of the season.  Weninger stopped 78 of 81 shots during the road trip.

The Klippers struggled to manage the puck. Zinger saw the team turn over the puck at the blue lines and half-walls more than he would have liked. It’s something he discussed with the team during the road trip, and something that will improve as the team gets back up to speed.

It will be important for the Klippers to get back to their 2014-form quickly, as the playoff race starts to heat up in January. The Klippers, 26-8-3-2, own the second-best record in the league and are three points shy of the Melfort Mustangs in the overall SJHL points race. But more importantly, the Klippers have a 14 point lead over the Notre Dame Hounds within the Kramer Division. For what it’s worth, the Hounds do have six games in hand.

Zinger noted that every game is critical and challenging from here on out. Teams that aren’t as fortunate to have the record of the Klippers will be playing desperate hockey in search of playoff spots. It will be up to the Klippers to match that tenacious effort and maintain its place near the top of the SJHL and make a solid run through the playoffs.

While Melfort will pose a challenge to Kindersley, Zinger said the goal is to be ranked first or second within the SJHL so they have an opportunity to be fresh against a team coming through the wild card series.

Trade deadline looming

The SJHL trade deadline is this Saturday and Zinger hasn’t ruled out making another move before it passes. The Klippers have been active this regular season, making transactions to acquire Berra, Darcy DeRoose, and Braden Oleksyn.

DeRoose and Oleksyn specifically, because of their time to adjust to Kindersley’s systems, have made an impact on the roster this season and have their names showing up on the score sheet consistently. Zinger isn’t sure what kind of impact these trades will have until the deadline passes, but he was happy to be proactive on the market, rather than reactive. He also left the door open regarding the team making another move before the deadline.

“We got our shopping done on Black Friday rather than Christmas Eve,” Zinger said. “That being said, we still want to try and exhaust avenues and see if we can improve our team. And if we can find a way to improve our team, we’re going to do it.”

Zinger said his guys want to play for an extended period of time this postseason and that’s why he isn’t ruling out any last minute transactions.

Dubeau flying under radar

If there’s ever been a player to fly under the radar, look no further than Klippers alternate captain Dubeau. Dubeau owns the SJHL’s longest point streak, and that doesn’t come as a surprise to Zinger.

Dubeau’s has at least one point in his last 11 games played. The streak stretches all the way back to Nov. 29 and is still ongoing. During that time, Dubeau has had six goals and seven assists for 13 points.

The 6’5” centre from St. Lina, Alta. is set to have his best season as a Klipper with nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 39 games so far. Last season, his first in Kindersley, Dubeau had 26 points.

“Marc’s very level-headed and goes about his business in a quiet fashion off the ice and on the ice. He’s an excellent young man,” Zinger said of Dubeau.

He noted that Dubeau’s point-production has been aided since the acquisition of DeRoose. Having another big body on his line freed up space for Dubeau and has allowed the two to become quite the dynamic duo in the league. Cody Young, back from the World Junior A Challenge, has rejoined his linemates and they’ve already had an impact on the team. Dubeau had two goals in the first two games of 2015 with DeRoose and Young getting assists on both of them.

Zinger said Dubeau isn’t the type of player that will be found featured on the front page of the SJHL website for his accomplishments, but that hasn’t mattered to the player. Dubeau is described as a player with a team-first attitude and calculated in everything he does.

“[Calculated is] probably the best word to describe him. He’s calculated with his thoughts and how he expresses himself,” Zinger said of Dubeau’s leadership skills.

There’s no place like home

The Klippers will play 13 of its final 17 games at the West Central Events Centre including an eight-game homestand spanning from Jan. 8 – Feb. 3 and a five-game home stretch to finish the regular season from Feb. 13 – March 3.

“They’re only important if we win them,” Zinger said when asked of how important those home games will be.

The West Central Events Centre has been kind to the Klippers this season, with only one regulation loss and one shootout loss. Other than that, the Klippers have pulled out 13 wins in front of a home audience.

Zinger is confident the team will move along at a good pace regardless of where they play, but does note that as the weather turns bitterly cold, it could be an advantage to just drive to the arena rather than loading onto a bus and travelling around the province.

Because of the World Junior A Challenge in December and a slower start to the season, the Klippers’ home schedule got compacted into the month of January. Just under half, or 46 per cent, of the Klipper’s regular season home games will be played during this stretch of the season.

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