In a word the first game on Vancouver Island for the Prince George Spruce Kings was ugly. It started ugly and it got uglier. Nothing was going right for the Spruce Kings on Wednesday when they met the Cowichan Valley Capitals under the big stick in Duncan.
The Capitals were able to capitalize on two power play goals in the first period and then they added a short handed tally and another in the final minute on a 4-on-4 situation. To start the second period, the Capitals scored an even strength goal to make it a 5-0 game and leave the Spruce Kings in a hole that they couldn't climb out of without a lot of help or luck ... neither of which they would get on this night.
A 5-0 score was ugly for sure, but things got uglier when a Cowichan Valley Capitals player launched himself off the ice and planted a forearm smash directly on the chin of sixteen year old Stephen Ryan sending the youngster to the ice in a heap. The officiating crew handed out a five minute major for the check to the head and the automatic game misconduct that goes with that penalty.
On the ensuing five minute powerplay, RJay Berra was the recipient of a perfectly placed pass from Faiz Khan leaving the Spruce Kings captain a one-timer that put the visitors on the board. With the score 5-1 and still three minutes remaining in the five minute major, there was a glimmer of hope for the team and they seemed to respond.
On a subsequent play Kyle Manlow was able to get a shot from in close on the Capitals netminder who made the save but left a rebound sitting on the top of the crease for Brendon Fornwald to shovel into the far side. Fornwald's celebration quickly turned to disbelief as the referee waved off the goal citing that he lost sight of the puck and believed that it had been covered up by the goaltender.
The Spruce Kings shook that off and on the very next play found themselves on another offensive zone attack. RJay Berra and Nic DeSousa left the zone with a trailer on the play giving the Spruce Kings a 3-on-2 rush through the neutral zone. Berra dropped for DeSousa who went in with speed and got a shot off that again was stopped and again was left sitting in the open. Berra came down and was able to get his stick on the puck flipping it into the back of the net. Again after a brief discussion, the referee came out of the crowd waving his arms to signal no goal.
At 15:57 of the second period, with the teams back to full strength another Spruce Kings rush went offside. The Capitals back checker cross checked Nic DeSousa in the back and then turned his attention in the direction of Spruce Kings bench where Justin Fillion was trying to get off on the line change. Fillion was slightly impeded by another Capitals player when he was tagged hard in the small of his back with a two-hander that sent Fillion to the ice and the Capitals player into the Spruce Kings bench.
Three fights broke out in succession all around Fillion who still remained on the ice feeling the affects of the cross check he had just taken. In all of the action, the officiating crew incorrectly identified Justin Fillion as one of the fighters and gave the twenty year old defenceman a fighting major and game misconduct ... truly adding insult to injury.
With the new rules designed to crackdown on this exact occurrence from happening, the team still waits to find out who will get assessed suspensions for being involved in a multiple fight situation where no instigator call was made. *update* After the league reviewed the game tape, Justin Fillion has been reinstated leaving Brendon Fornwald and Jeff Datoff sitting with a pair of suspensions each.
Later in the second period, the Spruce Kings would make it a 5-2 game with their second powerplay goal. Connor Tiechko picked up his first of the season from the right side of the net where he found the inside of the far side post. Before the second period was over, the Capitals added to their offensive numbers finding a way to get their sixth into the back of the net with only five seconds remaining in the middle frame.
To start the third period, Chris Bodo and Jujhar Khaira were able to work the puck around to the top of the right side faceoff circle where Faiz Khan wristed in the Spruce Kings third of the game. Again the Capitals were able to answer back and hold onto their four goal lead. The Spruce Kings would get one more to dent the deficit ... a short handed goal that was a result of a left point shot from Isaac Davies that sailed wide and bounced off the back wall to a wide open Chris Bodo who picked up his fifth of the season.
That would be it for the goal scoring as the Spruce Kings stumbled in their first of four on the Island during their current road trip. The Island tour continues on with a game against the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday night, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday and a stop in the province's capital to play the Victoria Grizzlies on Sunday before heading home.