Salmon Kings triumph in Idaho, head to Alaska

Leadership not the cause of tailspin

Rick Cleaver battles with a member of the Stockton Thunder earlier this month.

Rick Cleaver battles with a member of the Stockton Thunder earlier this month.

Following the Salmon Kings late-game melt down to the Las Vegas Wranglers last Wednesday coach and general manager Mark Morrison said he was considering changes to the lineup.

“I’m leaning toward sticking with the we have,” he said.

Looks like the roster is safe for the time being as the Kings’ blanked the Idaho Steelheads 4-0 for their second win of the three game series on Sunday.

This weekend the Salmon Kings are in Alaska for two games against the Aces, Friday and Saturday.

The wins over Idaho was not just a good sign for the players, it’s a potential season-turning point for the team.

Prior to their weekend series in Idaho this weekend Morrison said there would be change if the losses continued.

Clearly the Kings responded.

“We were struggling to learn how to win games, instead we’re learning how to lose them,” Morrison said, questioning the desire of his younger players.

“I built this team with depth not just to handle injuries but to handle AHL callups.”

Sunday’s complete effort was one the struggling team’s best in some time, as David Shantz earned the shutout in net. Jeff Caister, Rick Cleaver and Ryan Dingle each scored in the second period and Matt Stefanishion added his eighth of the year in the third. Both Derick Martin and Matt Butcher scored a pair of assists.

It’s still a long road for the Kings who have won three in their past 10. Wednesday saw the Kings take a one-goal lead into the third period only to suffer a complete melt down and give up three goals in the final five minutes to the Las Vegas Wranglers.

It set for a grim post-game mood in the dressing room and a close-door meeting. Being in the throws of a mid-season slump added another element of curiousity around the team’s unique captaincy dynamic.

FISH TALES

Captain Pete Vandermeer was brought in this season for leadership. But Vandermeer wasn’t in the lineup versus Las Vegas last Tuesday (Jan. 11). Instead he was a healthy scratch. And it wasn’t the first time.

Morrison insists it’s not a leadership issue.

“Vandermeer plays against the tougher teams. Las Vegas isn’t as tough.

“Right now we have a lot of bodies that we want to get out there, on Tuesday Matt Butcher played instead.”

The Kings are in Alaska this week for the second time this season. The much talked about return of former captain We Goldie is coming up on Feb. 4.

The next home series is another three-in-three when the Las Vegas Wrangers visit Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-30.

Fish crackers:

Veteran Kiel McLeod (Nov. 21) and Canucks’ prospect Taylor Ellington (Nov. 17) remain the injured reserve list since mid-November.