When you look at the final score and sometimes even just the boxscore, it is easy to miss what happened in a game and where things went right or even where they went wrong. For the Spruce Kings on Friday night, they did a lot of things right and created many chances because of some good effort and work ethic.
When seeing just the 7-3 loss, a much improved effort is lost in those numbers. The Spruce Kings did have that much improved effort in their first meeting of the season against the Trail Smoke Eaters. In fact the first three shifts all had a shot on goal and one good chance to open the scoring. Before the game was two minutes old, they also found themselves on the powerplay with a double minor from a tripping and checking from behind call.
It was a double minor and should of actually been a two man advantage instead, but those are the kind of things that the Spruce Kings have gotten used to dealing with as the season has unfolded before them. The power play generated another three scoring chances for the Spruce Kings, but chances were all they would get on the man advantage.
When the Trail Smoke Eaters got their first power play, they too were only able to generate chances. The difference was the six seconds after the penalized player stepped onto the ice and tried to get involved in the defensive zone. As if it was a sign of things to come, Scott Jacklin found himself picking up his stick and glove from the ice after losing it in a battle in the slot. After gearing up, Jacklin found the puck and was able to start a play that got the Spruce Kings turned around in their own zone and eventually the puck ended up on Sam Mellor's stick and into the back of the net.
The Spruce Kings weren't about to let this one slip by as they went back to work on their own offense. After setting up two previous scoring chances the resulted in shots on goal, Jujhar Khaira found himself behind the Trail Smoke Eaters net with the puck and spotted a wide open Kyle Manlow in the slot. With a perfect centering pass Khaira fed Manlow who then out waited Kiefer Smiley and then fired a high shot over the blocker of the goaltender to tie the game at 1.
The first would end that way as the two teams went to their respective dressing rooms. In the second period it was a pair of lifetime friends and team mates that put the visitors up by one. Justin Fillion was able to glove the puck down at the blue line and saucered a perfect pass that went over a defender's stick and landed flat on the ice for RJay Berra who came straight down the slot. With a forehand backhand deke, Berra beat Smiley high on the glove side.
That lead was short lived when a puck was mishandled coming out of the Spruce Kings with the team on the powerplay. Scott Jacklin was right there to pick up the loose puck and moved in untouched and put on his own moves on Alex Wright before sliding it under the Spruce Kings netminder. The short handed goal proved to be a turning point in the game as the Smoke Eaters would add three more in the second to take a 5-2 lead to the dressing room.
Like their first goal, the Trail Smoke Eaters third goal came seconds after the Spruce Kings had killed off a penalty ... and worse still it was banked in off a Spruce Kings player. The next two goals both came on the power play for Trail with Faiz Khan in the penalty box for high sticking and then Jujhar Khaira in the box for a retaliation slash.
In the third period the Spruce Kings closed the gap with a hard working solo effort from one of the newest acquistions to the team. Winning a puck battle along the half wall, Zac Ashdown made his way to the net and powered himself into the crease. Smiley was able to make the initial save but the puck was left there for Ashdown to reach back and flick it into the net. With bodies crashing in the blue paint, the goal was originally awarded to Nic DeSousa until video was used to show that the hard work and continuous effort resulted in Ashdown's first as a member of the Spruce Kings.
Any chance of a comeback was snuffed out by the Smoke Eaters as they scored two in less than a minute before the mid way mark of the third period. Behind on the score board 7-3, the coaching staff made the decision to pull Alex Wright to see if his team could generate some momentum for the back half of the weekend double header with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
The return matchup between the two teams is less than 24 hours later - 7:30pm in the Cominco Arena. Looking over the game tape after the game and also during the next day uncovered a few things that the coaching staff will try to use as motivation and strategy for tonight's game. In the words of assistant coach, Tom Bohmer, "70 percent of everything the team did, they did right." Obviously the message is to find that missing percentage and come away with two points tonight.
Game time tonight is 7:30 with the game being broadcast in Prince George on 93.1 CFIS-FM. It will also be available online from the radio station's website and also from the Spruce Kings website as well as the BCHL Fanzone. Audio only webcast will start at 7:15pm with the pregame show, Ron Gallo will provide the play-by-play and then a look back at the game during the Predator Paintball post game show.
Following the game tonight the Spruce Kings will travel into Vernon for their 2pm matinee meeting with the Vernon Vipers. It will be the first time the Spruce Kings have played the Vipers in their arena this season and if things go well on Saturday, the Spruce Kings already know that they have picked up one of their wins against the Vipers.