Sometimes things go well and sometimes they don't. The Spruce Kings had a little bit of both on their 2010-11 BCHL opening night. Dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to their rivals from down the road, the Quesnel Millionaires.
The night started off well enough with players and fans arriving early with an excited anticipation for the start of the season. The players were introduced one at a time to the applause of the fans in the building. A stirring rendition of the National Anthem was performed by Allison McNeill and then it was time for the drop of the puck.
In the early going of the game, the fans let the players know they appreciated the effort that was being shown getting into the action with a chorus of "Oooh's" and Ahhh's" with every scoring chance or big save. Five minutes in and the teams found themselves playing four on four when Justin Fillion intercepted a pass in his own end and started a rush up the ice. Spotting Nicolas DeSousa on his left side, Fillion was able to the pass onto the forward's stick who opened the scoring at 5:20 of the first period.
A few minutes later the Spruce Kings would find themselves with another man advantage and with full control of the puck in the offensive zone. With the top powerplay unit on the ice Chris Bodo worked the left side wall and was able to get the puck back to the right point for Fillion, down to the corner for DeSousa and then into the middle where RJay Berra fired a shot that trickled through the goaltender's pads to give the Spruce Kings a 2-0 lead.
The opening period ended with the Spruce Kings getting the job done at both ends of the ice, Ryan Benitez had made eight saves on the eight credited shots to the Quesnel Millionaires and the Spruce Kings had tallied twice on their eight shots on goal. The second period had more of the same for the Spruce Kings with the home team building up a 4-1 shot advantage in the first five minutes of the middle frame.
On one particular try for the visiting team, newly acquired defenceman Derek Henderson was able to get his stick on the puck and find DeSousa with a stretch pass into the neutral zone. DeSousa went down the right side looking to get his second of the game, but Charles Corsi would have something to say about that shot between the pipes for the Mills. Although the stop was made, the rebound came out the other side right to Berra who buried his second of the game to spot the Spruce Kings to a 3-0 lead.
With the Spruce Kings seemingly in control of their opening night game, things started to unravel with an innocent enough looking play. With a simple dump out of their own zone the Quesnel Millionaire started a line change, except for Clayton Chessa who tracked the puck as it rolled in on Fillion and then took a Millionaires bounce away from the twenty year old blueliner. The puck ended up on Chessa's stick who just flipped a shot on goal that went in over the shoulder and under the cross bar behind Benitez.
Five minutes later, the Mills were back looking for more and were able to capitalize on a scramble play in front of the Spruce Kings net with Derek Huisman getting one from a short side shot. The second period came to an end with the home side holding onto the one goal lead, but the Millionaires knew they were now right back in the game and had established a shots on goal lead of 18-17.
Five minutes into the third period Clayton Chessa ended up back on the doorstep of the Spruce Kings goal after the Mills broke out of their own zone on a three-on-two rush. It was Chessa that finished the play to tie the game up at three at 5:22 of the third period. The rest of the third period saw the goaltenders for both teams shine robbing sure goals to force overtime. In the extra frame, the Mills finished what they started in the second period and won the game 4-3 tarnishing the Spruce Kings home opener.
The Spruce Kings will play a couple of inter-divisional games this weekend with the Langley Chiefs paying a visit to the Castle on Friday night and the following night will see the transplanted Express rolling into town from their new home base in Coquitlam. Game time both nights is 7pm with doors opening at 6pm. Advance tickets, including the fifteen game punch cards, are available from the Spruce Kings office located in the Prince George Coliseum.