Monday, November 29, 2010

Overcoming Obstacles

The Spruce Kings are still looking for their first win under their new head coach, but some factors need to be put into consideration before any kind of judgment is passed. Those factors range from a lack of practice time as a new look team together to a lack of bodies on the bench to play the game.

As of this morning (November 29), the team had it's first team practice with Dave Dupas running the drills in five days. Those five days saw the team play three games in three nights and although improvements were seen and felt on the ice, the team was unable to put up any points in those games.

The reason for the lack of points was made painfully obvious on Saturday night as the team started the game two bodies short of a full roster for their game against the Interior Division leading Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Sitting in the stands were Riley Spraggs, Bennett Hambrook and Brendon Fornwald all on the injury list while their team mates tried to mask the open hole on forward and defence.

To make the short bench even shorter, Kyle Manlow was assessed a questionable five minute major for charging and a game misconduct taking the feisty forward out of the entire third period. With the five minute major just over halfway killed off, Justin Fillion was assessed a two minute minor for a blow to the head that comes with an automatic ten minute misconduct.

The penalty proved to be too costly for the Spruce Kings who were know without their arguably best penalty killer and offensive defenceman for over twelve minutes. Leading 3-1 at that point in the game, the Spruce Kings could no longer hold off the powerplay of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The visitors scored on the two man advantage and then added one more on the remaining penalty time to tie the game at three.

It was here that the fatigue of a mentally and physically exhausting week caught up with the Spruce Kings. It started on Wednesday with the announcement of a new coach, the next day the team went on the road for a Thursday night game in Westside, Friday night in Merritt and then a return trip to Prince George for the home game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

After a day off to recover on Sunday, the team reconvened Monday morning for their first practice with Dave Dupas directing traffic. The first few minutes of the practice saw a group of players tentatively getting into the new drills. As the practice rolled on, a symmetry was achieved and the players started moving at a quicker pace.

The thoughts of the entire team are on tomorrow and looking forward, not on what happened yesterday. Tomorrow is game number 34 and the third of the season against the Quesnel Millionaires and it won't be an easy one being played in the Vault. The Millionaires find themselves one point in front of the Spruce Kings with three games in hand.

The Spruce Kings have called upon the assistance of the Cariboo Cougars Major Midget squad with a request for AP's (affiliate players) to help fill up the roster. No matter who is in the lineup, the Spruce Kings expect themselves to be ready for this game and are looking at some of the positives from their two most recent games to spark themselves on Tuesday night.

On Saturday night there was the two period lead over the best team in the Division and in both Friday and Saturday games the team worked hard and got shots through and created many scoring chances for themselves. On Friday night, when the team was a lot fresher heading into the game against the Merritt Centennials, they were able to hold off the Cents on their six powerplay chances.

Although lines have not been set for Tuesday's game in Quesnel, the line combination of Lyndon Martell, Nic DeSousa and RJay Berra looked very good on Friday night. Those three along with the rest of the team will be looking to start clicking on Tuesday night when they face the Millionaires for the third time this season.

The most recent meeting between these two teams was a Saturday night affair on October 16 in Quesnel with the Millionaires coming away with a 4-2 victory. On opening night back on September 11, the Millionaires ruined the first game of the season for the Spruce Kings with a 4-3 overtime win. In those games Clayton Chessa proved to be the difference for the Millionaires with a three goals and an assist. Also adding his mark on the games was Darryl DeVries, the younger brother of former Spruce Kings defenceman and team captain, Ryan DeVries.

Chessa is no longer with the Quesnel Millionaires having been traded to the Cowichan Valley Capitals. That only prolongs the Spruce Kings seeing him by one game as the Capitals will be in Prince George Friday night ... but that is a story line for another blog. DeVries has seven goals and five assists (two goals were against Prince George) shares ice time with a family relative in Derek Huisman who also has ties to a former member of the Spruce Kings - Darcy Huisman - who played in Prince George during the RBC Royal Bank Cup season.

Perhaps surprisingly this is only the third meeting of the season between these two long time hockey rivals that are only an hour and bit away from each other. That just leaves more meetings between the two in the second half. Tuesday's game is the first of four in a month and first of five in eleven games for the Spruce Kings. The opportunity is definitely there with that many head-to-head matchups for the Spruce Kings to take over seventh spot in the Interior Division and start climbing from there.

Game time on Tuesday is 7:00pm from the Quesnel Twin Arenas in Quesnel. The game will be broadcast live on the internet only available from the Spruce Kings website and also from the BCHL Fan Zone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Changes Behind the Bench

It was a tough start to the day as word started getting out that there was a big change in the works around the Spruce Kings. Before noon the speculation became reality with the news that Ed Dempsey was no longer the head coach and general manager of the team having been relieved of his duties. After the initial shock the next question was who would take over behind the bench, the answer - Dave Dupas.

With playing experience in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, NCAA Division I and semi-pro, Dupas also brings coaching experience from Major Midget, Junior 'B' and Junior 'A' levels. His most recent Junior 'A' experience was behind the bench of the Williams Lake Timberwolves during the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

I was in the Spruce Kings office when the new coach arrived and it didn't take long for him to start getting acclimated with his new team. First up was the introductions with Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel - Mike Hawes and the assistant coaches - Jason Garneau and Tom Bohmer.

After a short meeting with those three, Dupas met with all the players individually and then as a group to evaluate where everybody was and to start laying out the plan moving forward. It was shortly after these meetings that I had my chance to talk to the new coach and ask him a few questions. What follows is my first interview with the new head coach of the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Click here to download

After speaking with Dave Dupas I was also able to talk to the president of the Prince George Spruce Kings, Darcy Buryn. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy to be the man standing behind this decision and after a long day of answering questions I hit him with a few tough ones as well.

Click here to download

I haven't had time to properly reflect back on my experiences with Ed Dempsey in the almost seven years that he spent with the Spruce Kings. I hope to be able to do just that as he has been a big influence on me and spent a great deal of time teaching me some of the intricacies of the game of hockey. Without that input over the years, I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now with the team.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alumni Signs with NHL Philadelphia Flyers

Congratulations to Brandon Manning who recently signed a three year entry level contract with the NHL Philadelphia Flyers. Brandon played with the Spruce Kings for just one season, but in that one season he showed a poise and understanding of the game that saw him become a respected defenceman in the BCHL.

In his rookie season spent with his hometown team, Manning suited up for the Spruce Kings in 58 games scoring 7 goals while setting up 19 others. Manning was a fierce competitor that battled hard and served his fair share of penalty minutes for his hard work picking up 107 minutes in penalities. At the end of season, Manning had an opportunity to play with the Chilliwack Bruins for the final six games and that turned into another three seasons.

Overlooked in the NHL Entry Draft, Manning has become a shining example of what hard work and determination can do for a player. This past training camp season, Manning skated with the New York Rangers but opted out of signing a contract to return to his Major Junior team for his twenty year old season.

*NOTE* Just wanted to throw out there that I stumbled upon an online player bio for another Spruce Kings alumni ... Jeff Forsythe is listed with the University of Wisconsin Superior ... with another alumni - Kyle Leahy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lyndon Martell On His Way Back

One day after announcing the first winner in the Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery, the Spruce Kings might be feeling like they just won an early bird prize themselves. On Monday, the Spruce Kings learned of the Kamloops Blazers wish to reassign seventeen year old forward Lyndon Martell from the Western Hockey League to his former Junior 'A' team.

Martell played in 44 games last year with the Spruce Kings as a sixteen year old finishing the year with 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) and 18 penalty minutes. Prior to his first tour of duty with the Spruce Kings, Martell was setting the Major Midget League on fire with a better than two point a game average.

This season Martell wasn't finding the ice time he was used to and that wasn't lost on his new team. In a press release announcing the reassignment of the Prince George forward to his home town team, Matt Recchi recognized that in the best interests of Martell's development he should be given an opportunity to play a more enhanced role.

That opportunity rests with the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Spruce Kings are excited to have the talented player back in the lineup to add even more depth up front for the team. Until he has an opportunity to suit up and start practicing with the Spruce Kings, it isn't known which line Martell is going to be playing on.

Here are the two press releases issued by the Kamloops Blazers and the Prince George Spruce Kings

Kamloops, BC - The Kamloops Blazers announced this morning that they have re-assigned 17-year-old forward Lyndon Martell to the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL.

"Lyndon needs more playing time to continue to develop," Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi commented. "He struggled to get in the line-up here and we believe he needs to play in a more enhanced role to continue to advance his skill set," Recchi concluded.

Martell played in 8 games with the Blazers this season collecting 1 assist. He has played only 1 out of the last 8 games.

The Kamloops Blazers current roster now sits at 22 players including 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.

PRINCE GEORGE, BC – The Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) today announced that the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League have reassigned 17 year old forward Lyndon Martell to the Spruce Kings Junior 'A' Hockey Club.

Lyndon Martell (6-foot-1, 175 pound, 1993 born left handed forward from Prince George) played 44 games last season with the Spruce Kings finishing with a record of 13 goals and 18 assists. This season Lyndon played in eight games with the Kamloops Blazers before being reassigned to his former team.

"Lyndon needs more playing time to continue to develop," said Kamloops Blazers Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi, in a press release. "We believe he needs to play in a more enhanced role to continue to advance his skill set."
"We're very happy that the Kamloops Blazers have made it possible for Lyndon to play for us," said Spruce Kings General Manager and Head Coach, Ed Dempsey. "Lyndon is the type of player that can excel in this game with more ice time and we know what he can do for us."

Lyndon Martell is expected to join the Spruce Kings during the week and be in the lineup for the team's next game when they host the Westside Warriors on Thursday night, November 11 at 7:00pm in the Prince George Coliseum.

For more information, please contact the Spruce Kings office at 250.564.1747.