The Spruce Kings will be moving from the proverbial doghouse to the dog pound today as they head out on their Vancouver Island road trip to Port Alberni to play the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. A stinging loss last night that saw the Nanaimo Clippers win their first home game of the season and end a seven game winless streak with an exclamation mark.
Kyle Manlow had the first shot on goal, a sharp wrister labelled for the top corner far side that the Clippers goaltender was able to just get a piece of. That shot would be the last for the Spruce Kings until a pair on the powerplay fourteen minutes later. The time in between was all Nanaimo's as they tallied four goals including a penalty shot goal.
The light turned on for the Spruce Kings with a power play that saw the Spruce Kings work the puck around and get two good shots on goal. Justin Fillion, Jeff Earnest, Faiz Khan, Chris Bodo and finally Jujhar Khaira all touched the puck as it was moved around the offensive zone before Khaira slid his third powerplay goal and fifth of the season to put the Spruce Kings on the board.
That light was quickly turned off again for the visitors as the home team responded less than thirty seconds later to restore their four goal lead. The Clippers then scored twice more in a span of 11 seconds and added an eighth with ten seconds left in the first period. A first period that saw the Spruce Kings outshot 23-5 and outscored 8-1.
The second period was pretty much even with both teams registering nine shots on goal but neither team adding to their first period numbers. Having settled down in the middle frame, the Spruce Kings tried to rally in the third but could not get any bounces and gave up another goal before RJay Berra scored his team leading eighth of the season. It was a nice play that showed a crack in the armour of the Clippers as they coughed up the puck with both the goaltender and defenceman behind the net leaving Berra and easy roll and tuck into the open net.
Bright spots on the night were few and far between as the Spruce Kings were forced to play the game with a short bench with only 15 skaters and the two goaltenders. Jeff Datoff and Brendon Fornwald were both serving the first of their two game suspensions as a result of a multiple fight situation on Wednesday night versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Stephen Ryan and Bennett Hambrook sat in the stands nursing their injuries they had suffered in the same game.
Also out of the game was the head coach, Ed Dempsey as a result of a mandatory one game suspension that now exists in the Junior A Supplement discipline document. Jason Garneau assumed the role of head coach for the game, his first BCHL game as a head coach. For tonight's game Ed Dempsey will be back behind the bench but the two players will have to sit for one more. That has led to the Spruce Kings calling up an Junior B player from the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Sam Rice, who has played one game as an AP with the Cowichan Valley Capitals last season, is celebrating his 18th birthday today. Rice is a 6' 01" 190 right handed forward who will be wearing jersey #2 tonight. Rice will meet up with the Spruce Kings just before the team loads the bus to leave for Port Alberni. With the short bench still a factor in the game, Rice can expect to get a good chuck of icetime for his birthday.
The Alberni Valley Bulldogs may be a little nippy tonight after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Victoria Grizzlies in the Bear Mountain Arena last night. The Grizzlies scored twice on the 5-on-3 man advantage and added an empty netter for the win. The loss leaves the Bulldogs sitting in fifth place in the Coastal Conference with 11 points (5-2-1-0) in 8 games played.
The Bulldogs have posted some decent offensive numbers and have been averaging 3.30 goals a game, but they have given up just about as much with a 3.10 goals against average. The offensive threat for the Bulldogs are a brother combination with Sam and Josh Mitchell combining for 19 points (9 goals and 10 assists). Sam has been the goal scorer with 6 while his younger brother has been the setup man with 7 assists.
So far this season only Frank Slubowski has been between the pipes for the team and has posted numbers that put him in the top ten in goal goals against (2.93) and save percentage (90.73). Last season, Slubowski register both wins for the Bulldogs over the Spruce Kings including a shutout in the dog pound. The unknown entity for the 'dogs is Kiefer Giroux a rookie this year that calls Nanaimo home.
The Spruce Kings will have to sort out their current situation and the sooner the better as they will hit the quarter mark of the season Sunday afternoon when they play the Victoria Grizzlies. Game time tonight is 7:00pm from the Weyehauser Arena in Port Alberni, game broadcast will start at 6:45 and can be heard in Prince George on CFIS-FM 93.1 or online from the Spruce Kings website.