Dauphin is counting on three Kings near the top of the scoring race to translate into a winning hand in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Other teams have scored more than the Kings this season, but none can match Dauphin’s 1-2-3 punch with 20-year-olds Jesse Sinatynski (30 goals, 34 assists, 64 points), Jon Gaudet (22-40-62) and Guillaume Naud (22-34-56) all sitting in the top four in league scoring. The recipe seems to be working, with the Kings third in the standings at 31-11-2.
"I feel very confident with our team this year," said Gaudet, who like Sinatynski is a former member of the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. "We’ve been playing excellent hockey lately and, with all four lines clicking, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go deep in the playoffs."
Gaudet, a Winnipegger, is the newest arrival of the trio of 20-year-olds, coming to Dauphin in a November trade with the Virden Oil Capitals.
Naud, who hails from Quebec City, arrived from the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Wellington Dukes in a September deal.
Meanwhile, Sinatynski is a third-year King who won the MJHL scoring title a year ago. While he’s not on pace to equal his staggering 59 goals from a year ago, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native said he’s gotten some extra attention from other teams after last year’s scoring exploits.
"There’s certain things I’m working on, trying to get my foot speed up a little bit, trying to move the puck a little bit more," said Sinatynski, who is leading the league in goals once again this season. "I’m still going to shoot the puck a lot but (opponents are) not giving me as much time as they gave me last year, that’s for sure."
That’s where the Kings’ depth up front comes into play. While the three snipers sometimes play together late in games when Dauphin needs a goal, Sinatynski and Naud have lately been playing together along with Francis Alarie, while Gaudet has been lining up with Jeff Archibald and Brandonite Mitch Van Teeling.
Naud said that being able to throw out a pair of lines that are capable of producing like a No.1 unit makes the Kings all the more dangerous.
"Lets say one day I don’t score a goal, I know that Jesse or Jonny is going to score, one, two or three every night," he said. "We have two lines that score on a nightly basis, so other teams have a hard time. They play their best defencemen against one line, but then the other line’s going to still score goals."
Being packed so tightly in the scoring race, the trio have a good-natured rivalry when it comes to their point production, but they share one common goal: They all trail Selkirk Steelers star Parker Thomas (26-39-65). By the end of the season, they’d like to make sure one of their own ends up on top — and if the other two move up as well, even better.
"We just want to finish in the top three or four, but we’re going for top three," Sinatynski said. "It doesn’t really matter if we’re one, two or three at all."