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.