Yes I enjoy math and believe that numbers are your friend ... and in this case they most certainly are still being friendly to the Spruce Kings. With five games remaining in their regular season schedule, the team now finds themselves four points out of a playoff spot after the Trail Smoke Eaters earned a point in an overtime loss to the Penticton Vees. In the only other Tuesday night game, the Vernon Vipers came from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Merritt Centennials 7-3.
Now for the magic numbers and how they are still working for the Prince George Spruce Kings. As mentioned the royal ones have five games remaining, which means they have 10 points waiting for them. If they can sweep their games against the Vernon Vipers, Penticton Vees, the home-and-home with Williams Lake and the regular season wrap up with the Burnaby Express, the Spruce Kings could finish in fifth place with 47 points.
In order for the Spruce Kings to finish that high of course, it means that the other teams would have to lose all of their remaining games. Unfortunately that's not going to happen because for one the Merritt Centennials and the Trail Smoke Eaters still have a game to play against each other. Speaking of the other teams, their number of games remaining has to be taken into consideration in this equation.
Let's start with the team currently in fifth place in the Interior Conference with 43 points - the Quesnel Millionaires. The Mills have six games remaining of which only one is on home ice and five are against Coastal Conference opponents. If the Quesnel Millionaire win two of their six remaining games they will effectively prevent the Spruce Kings from taking over fifth place. The footnote here is to remember the tie breaker would go to the Millionaires. This leaves the Merritt Centennials and the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The team with the fewest points ahead of Prince George is Trail, but they have a game in hand on the Spruce Kings. With the overtime loss to the Penticton Vees, the Smoke Eaters sit with 41 points and hold onto that final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. The Smokies have three games against the surging Westside Warriors and singles against the Surrey Eagles, Merritt Centennials and Penticton Vees. If the Smoke Eaters perform at a .500 level, they too will prevent the Spruce Kings from catching them.
The Merritt Centennials, who sit in sixth place right now with 42 points, failed to take over fifth from the Millionaires and lost some cushioning on the Trail Smoke Eaters with their loss to Vernon on Tuesday night. The loss really puts the squeeze on the Centennials as they only have four games remaining in their regular season including a pair against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and singles against the Penticton Vees and the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Centennials have to win three games to keep the Spruce Kings out of the playoffs; two wins and an overtime loss would not be enough as Prince George wins this tiebreaker.
Again the caution in all of this is that the Spruce Kings have to come up with wins; as things sit right now, nothing less than three wins will keep the magic number and a playoff spot possible. The actual magic numbers right now are Quesnel: 19, Trail: 17 and Merritt: 14 ... any combination of points gained by the Spruce Kings and points lost by those teams will put the Spruce Kings into a playoff spot. In those three numbers is a requirement for the Spruce Kings to find a minimum amount of points as well ... against the Mills: 7, the Smokies: 5 and the Cents: 5 ... and for the other team to lose all their remaining games.
As much as the numbers are being friendly to the Spruce Kings right now, the team itself has to be their own best friend as they embark on their final five games of the regular season. It all starts this Saturday night versus the Vernon Vipers and then Sunday in Penticton to face the Vees. On Friday night the team will get a chance to scout both of their weekend opponents as they will be on hand in the Wesbild Centre to watch the two top teams in the Interior Conference fight over top spot in the Division and possibly the League.