It happened Friday afternoon and it happened again Saturday night ... the Spruce Kings skated away from their preseason exhibition game with a tie. On Friday it was a come from behind 2-2 tie against the Grande Prairie Storm and on Saturday night it was another third period comeback to finish regulation time with a 6-6 tie against the Dawson Creek Rage of the North American Hockey League.
The Spruce Kings opened the scoring with a heads up play from Jujhar Khaira who spotted Riley Spraggs all alone in front of the net at 5:23 of the opening period. That lead was short lived as the Dawson Creek Rage answered right back less than twenty seconds later on a Jason Wark shot at 5:42 of the first period.
In a season that will inevitably be filled with firsts for the Dawson Creek Rage, they established their first lead in a game when Evan Ripley ripped a seeing eye shot from the right point that went in over the glove of Cameron Large. With the hometown fans still cheering the Rage goal and the announcement not yet started over the PA system, Khaira intercepted an errant pass in the Dawson Creek zone and made no mistake snapping home the tying goal just eight seconds later.
The first period would come to an end with the teams tied 2-2, but not for a lack of trying on the part of the Rage who pressed hard in the Spruce Kings zone for a go ahead marker. The second period saw the Dawson Creek Rage pick up where they left off getting a few quality shots in on Large. Travis Irving of the Rage was called for boarding at 1:16 of the second period and that provided the opportunity that the Spruce Kings were looking for as three vets set up the go-ahead goal on the powerplay. Justin Fillion and RJay Berra got helpers on the Nicolas DeSousa goal scored at 1:50 of the second period.
That 3-2 Prince George lead lasted just over a minute as the Dawson Creek Rage tied the game when Blaine Bokenfohr walked into the top of the right side faceoff circle and let a howitzer go that went through Large and into the back of the net. From there the Rage took over the period and scored on back-to-back powerplay chances to stake a claim to a 5-3 lead after forty minutes. The powerplay markers were scored by Ryan Matthews and Carter Page at 7:25 and 12:31 respectfully.
Down by a pair to start the third period, the Spruce Kings started manufacturing chances but were coming up short against Edward Dyson who had taken over for Kris Drott midway through the second period for the Dawson Creek Rage. One for six on the powerplay at the midway mark of the third period and the Spruce Kings looked to be getting frustrated with their powerplay unit, that is until Jeff Earnest stepped on the ice.
With Brett Zarazun in the penalty box for interference after he held Kyle Manlow up on the right side wall, Earnest picked up the first of two on the night after he fired a shot to the top corner to cut the Rage lead in half at 9:46 of the third period. The Spruce Kings would go right back on the powerplay when Page was called for slashing right off the goal. With Earnest still fairly fresh, the sophomore vet committed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the 2011 season stayed on the ice. The decision would pay off as the Spruce Kings worked the puck around well looking for the shot ... the shot would come at 11:16 and again it would come off the stick of Jeff Earnest.
With their lead gone and finding themselves in a 5-5 tie, the Dawson Creek Rage went with an aggressive forecheck and relentless pursuit of the puck. The tenacious play of the Rage led to another powerplay chance for them when Jeff Datoff was called for a check to the head with 3:08 remaining in the game. Forty seconds into the powerplay the Spruce Kings would get a bad break when they were assessed a pair of minors and the Dawson Creek Rage only drew one. In a goal mouth scramble the Spruce Kings Jeff Datoff and Jeff Earnest were given roughing minors while Jason Wark was the only Rage player to receive a similar infraction. In fact Wark thought he was given a major for fighting and left for the dressing room expecting to get the automatic game misconduct that goes with fighting in the preseason.
The resulting two man advantage paid off for the Dawson Creek Rage when Sam Waterfield buried from the side of the net re-establishing a lead for the home team at 17:34 of the third period and still over a minute remaining in the penalty to Earnest. The Spruce Kings were able to kill off that second penalty and on the next stoppage of play called a timeout and brought Corey Koop to the bench for the extra attacker. The sixth skater for the Spruce Kings was Riley Spraggs and he would prove the coaching tandem of Tom Bohmer and Jason Garneau to be correct in their gamble. Picking up a Justin Fillion point shot rebound, Spraggs found the top shelf on the short side of the net with 5.5 seconds remaining to tie the game at six.
The two teams will meet one more time to finish off the preseason schedule on Tuesday September 7th at 7:00pm in the Prince George Coliseum. This game marks the only time this season that the Dawson Creek Rage will play in the Coliseum as they play out of the North American Hockey League. Tickets will be available on Tuesday during the game and also at the gate when the doors open at 6pm.