There’s nowhere to go but forward for the Victoria Salmon Kings.
The Kings dropped the first of their current four-game road trip to the Bakersfield Condors Wendesday night, 2-1.
The trip continues with three games in three nights against the Stockton Thunder, beginning Friday. It’s the team’s final road swing before they return home to finish the regular season against the Alaska Aces, March 30 to April 2.
The loss to Bakersfield, however, does little to the Salmon Kings’ spot in the standings. Victoria is locked into seventh place, the final playoff spot among the eight Western conference teams. And Victoria is certain to finish there, unlikely catch the sixth-place Utah Grizzlies, who are nine points up. Nor is it likely the Kings will drop the eight points between themselves and the basement dwelling Ontario Reign.
However, there’s plenty to keep the team motivated, coach and general manager Mark Morrison said.
“There’s going to be four or five guys who don’t make our (20-man) playoff roster.”
That roster does feature three extra spots for players on the injury reserved list. But the list could get even smaller if Morrison wants to reserve Salmon Kings who’re currently on AHL callups, namely Ryan MacMurchy with the Abbotsford Heat and Derek Couture with the Connecticut Whale.
Morrison also has a list of highly-scouted junior and collegiate players becoming available on a daily basis, as the regular season turns to playoffs in major junior and the NCAA.
“We’ve already brought (three) guys in from the NCAA: Cam Ritchie (Princeton), Scott Freeman (Clarkson) and Jeff Terminesi (Mercyhurst),” he said.
“We need to get used to the team we have, get players playing the systems we’ve got here.”
The cutoff date for signing new players– April 4 – is the day the team must submit its playoff roster to the league. In the meantime, the new blood has brought new life to the Salmon Kings.
Former Clarkson University captain Freeman joined the Kings’ top line of Rob Hennigar and Chad Painchaud. The trio immediately clicked, combining for 17 points against the Utah Grizzlies in two wins and an overtime loss last week.
“It’s definitely a lot more fun playing four games in five days than one or two every week,” Freeman said.
“(NCAA) practices are intense; you finish your checks and go as hard as you can. But practice, and even games here demand being smarter and more efficient.
“Playing with Hennigar and Painchaud, I’m learning a little about when to sit back and play it safe and when to jump on a chance. It’s a different game.”
$5 tickets to April 1
The Salmon Kings are offering a special $5 ticket price for “Fan Appreciation Night” on Friday, April 1, against the Alaska Aces.
The $5 ticket offer is for seats in end-zone sections 105 and 113. There is no minimum or maximum ticket purchase, so the Salmon Kings expect the tickets to sell fast.