Marlin Murray has put together another great team in Dauphin. He thought he had a good one last year, but his first-place Kings fizzled in the playoffs.
This year, however, the Kings are clearly the class of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and if anyone had any doubts, all they had to do was watch Friday night’s game at Credit Union Place.
Jesse Sinatynski scored twice, MJHL MVP Guillaume Naud had a goal and two assists, Daulton Siwak had a goal and an assist and goalie Jeremy Pominville made 25 saves to get the win, as the Kings blasted the Winnipeg Blues 6-2.
Heading into the game, the Blues had won eight straight while the Kings had won 17 straight. The Kings have now won 18 straight and the Blues, who have had a lock on first place in the Addison Division for a long time, have to go home and regroup.
“Over the last 10 games we managed to rest some guys for a couple of games at a time and we’re in that frame of mind where we’re getting our lineup ready to compete for the long haul and have a good playoff run,” said Blues head coach Don MacGillivray.
“You never know how teams will play in the playoffs. Teams always play a little bit differently when the intensity is higher. Our objective is to be as healthy as we can and then play well. The experience we’re getting now, getting guys playing in different situations is good for our team and creates some opportunity and depth and that’s good for us.
“Obviously Dauphin is one of those teams with a lot of talent. They’re a team that will force the opposition into playing better just to compete.”
The Kings and Blues are clearly the best teams heading into the post-season, which will begin later this week (the final game of the regular season goes Tuesday night).
The Blues have one game remaining and are 44-14-1. The Kings, however, are 46-11-2 and with one game remaining will have the best record in the MJHL this season.
Still, the Kings were 41-21 last season, the best team in the Sher-Wood Division by 18 points, and yet lost to the Winnipeg Saints (now the Virden Oil Capitals) in the opening round of the playoffs.
MacGillivray knows that things can unravel in the playoffs – and so does coach Murray ion Dauphin. Despite Friday night’s convincing loss, MacGillivray believes his team is ready for the post-season.
“One of the things we talk about as a group is that we’ve achieved one of our goals,” said MacGillivray. “We’ve earned home ice advantage in our division throughout the playoffs. The next goal is that ultimately we understand our team is going to be judged by how we perform in the playoffs. You can’t turn it on and off either. You have to be prepared and you have to play as a prepared team and for the most part, we’ve done that.”
MacGillivray doesn’t place much stick in long winning or losing streaks. You play well enough in the regular season to get into the playoffs. Once the playoffs arrive, it’s a brand new season.
“When you have extended winning streaks, you know you’re playing pretty well,” the Blues coach said. “But we do know that bad habits can creep in and we have to eliminate those as quickly as possible. As San Jose in the NHL is finding out, they started the season 7-1 or 7-0 and now they’ve found they can’t win anymore. It can happen. You have keep bad habits from creeping into your game. You have to manage those losses or that time when you’re not playing well. We’re preparing for that. We want to play the right way and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
This year, MacGillivray’s Blues know that the MJHL championship will go though Dauphin. The Kings are a team with a great goaltender in Pominville, the league’s MVP in Naud and its best defenseman in Tanner Butler.
However, the Blues have award winners, too. Connor Cleverley won the Windy Lyndon Trophy, emblematic of sportsmanship and hockey ability while MacGillivray himself was coach of the year.
While the veteran coach was honored to win the award, he knows it means nothing in March and – hopefully — April.
“It means our team has had a good year and other teams recognize that,” the coach said. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to mean a lot if we don’t finish the job at the end of the year. These are things that other people are judging your team by. Our team has never been focused on individual awards. This is a team that’s trying to win a championship.
“Players will be recognized individually when the team plays well. Individual success comes with team success. Individual players are being recognized and I’m pleased with that, but we have one goal in mind and that’s to give ourselves a chance win a championship.”
The Blues will open the post-season later this week against Winkler. The Kings will open up against Waywayseecappo. Meanwhile, Steinbach will play Portage, but home ice advantage will be determined with the final games of the season for both teams while OCN will have home ice advantage in its series against Swan Valley.
“We know Swan Valley has a hard-working team and will be tough competition for us,” said OCN head coach Clay DeBray. “It will be a good series, a hard-nosed series. Hey, everybody looks forward to the playoffs.”