Opening night is here

It’s been 128 days since the Dauphin Kings last played a meaningful game against an opponent in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Logan Calder scored in the second period while Brayden Dube scored the game-winning goal in the third while Carson Cherepak was brilliant as the Kings hoisted the Turnbull Cup. The Kings went on to advance to the national semifinal.

Dauphin’s championship banner will go up in the rafters on Friday night as the new-look club opens their 2022-23 regular season on home ice against the Neepawa Titans. It’s the second straight season that Dauphin and Neepawa have opened a season against each other.

This year’s roster will look very different to start the campaign as 16 players that were a part of last year’s playoff roster are no longer with the team. Eight of those are graduated players.

Eight members of last year’s championship team have returned. The list includes Garrett Hrechka, Jayden Harris, Ethan Williment, Aidan Brook, Tyson Pauze, Owen Wareham, Nolan Wickham, and Keaton Woolsey.

“We’re still finding ways here, we are kind of under construction,” said Doug Hedley, the team’s head coach and general manager. “We weren’t very happy with our compete and type of game we played in Melville, but we did get better against Yorkton in the third period of our second game.”

Hedley notes practice has been great this week, and everyone is looking forward to the home opener.

Friday’s game will be the first of a home-and-home between the clubs. They split last year’s opening series. The two-game set last year was punctuated by a 45-save performance from Carson Cherepak who has since moved on to play NCAA Division 1 hockey.

In their respective preseasons, Dauphin beat Wisconsin, 6-1 on home ice. They were defeated 2-1 in overtime against Swan Valley and they lost games to Melville of the SJHL and Yorkton, also of the SJHL.

Neepawa; meanwhile, won one of their five preseason games as they beat Waywayseecappo, 4-2. They lost to Waywayseecappo, Portage twice, and Kam River of the SIJHL.

Friday’s festivities begin with a tailgate party at 5 with the puck slated to drop just after 7:30.