Red Lions ride depth to first-round playoff success

Senior team awaits SWHL semifinal opponent; heads to Shaunavon hoping to wrap up provincial series

Kevin McBain
of The Clarion

The Kindersley Red Lions swept last week’s games, winning all three playoff contests and advancing to the league semifinals.

The Red Lions defeated the Biggar Nationals 2-1 in overtime on Thursday night in Biggar and followed that up with a 5-1 victory back in Kindersley to take the best-of-three Sask West Hockey League series.

They also played Sunday night, hosting the Shaunavon Badgers in Game 1 of their provincial senior A series, winning by an impressive 5-1.

Scott Brownlee celebrates after he scores the Red Lions’ fourth goal of the game in a 5-1 win over the Biggar Nationals on Friday in Kindersley. The win was also a series victory after winning 2-1 in overtime in Game 1.

The Red Lions must now wait to see who they play in the league semifinals.

Meanwhile, they head to Shaunavon on Friday to try to close out that best-of-three provincial series. If not, they play again in Shaunavon on Sunday afternoon.

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Thursday’s game on in Biggar was tight but the Red Lions prevailed in overtime.

“Thursday’s game was a great one. We were missing a couple of players, including our captain, but I thought we outplayed them,” said Red Lions’ coach Wayne Samson. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we didn’t have much luck converting most of them, but in the end we prevailed.”

Brandon Cummings scored the lone goal of the first period, while Liam Boyle of the Nationals scored their only goal in the second period.

Tanner McCullough was the overtime hero in this game, scoring at the 17:13 mark of the first extra frame.

The Nationals outshot the Red Lions 41-37. Luke Sproule was in net for the win.

In Game 2, back in Kindersley, the Red Lions just wore the Nationals down. Samson said the key to success was the ability to roll four good lines and six defencemen.

“We had our four lines dressed and it was 1-1 after the first,” said Samson. “We were fine with that, because we can roll four very good lines and teams find it hard to compete with that.

“In the second we played almost 14 minutes shorthanded, but we were able to hold them off,” he adds. “We then just regrouped and kept hitting them with all four lines and we just kept taking it to them.”

He added that they also have six very good defencemen, which is also a key component in their success.

Jonny Calkins scored for the Red Lions and Josh Shatford replied for the Nationals in the first period. There was no scoring in the second but the Red Lions opened it up in the third against a tiring Nationals squad.

Goals were scored by Ethan Wigley, Jesse Ismond, Scott Brownlee and Jessey Pocock finished it off. The Red Lions outshot the Nationals 34-31 and Luke Sproule was again brilliant in net.

“I just can’t say enough about him,” he said. “The kid is really young but he feels no pressure. The bigger the game, the bigger Luke Sproule is.”

Provincials

The team added six players for their provincial run:

  • forward Andrew Dommett, who previously played for the Kindersley Klippers and the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits;
  • forward Dylan Smith, who has played with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins and the senior AAA Rosetown Red Wings;
  • forward Travis Statchuk, who has played with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the NCAA’s Ohio State University;
  • goaltender Jeff Malcolm, who has played with the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL and the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors/Swamp Rabbits;
  • defenceman Chris Forsman, who played with the Red Lions for six years after a stint with the BCHL’s Powell River Kings;
  • and defenceman Bryton Sayers who has played with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Victoria Royals.

“The guys we picked up are really good and they fit in very nicely,” said Samson. “It seems like they have played with us all season.”

The Red Lions got off to a quick start in Sunday’s game and just kept going hard.

“We got off to a great start,” said Samson. “I think we were outshooting them 12-0 before we got our first penalty.”

The score was 0-0 after the first and they had to adjust their game plan just a little bit.

“At the break we talked about getting more traffic in front of their goaltender and using the points a bit more,” said Samson. “This helped things open up a bit and we took a three-goal lead in the second and it allowed us to play a bit more defensively and they had to take more chances, which we were able to take advantage of a couple of times.”

D.Jay McGrath led the scoring for the Red Lions with two goals, and Jonny Calkins, Ethan Wigley and Andrew Dommett added singles.

The team put up 57 shots on the Shaunavon Badgers, a team that has had an impressive regular season in the White Mud Hockey League, losing only once.

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