Monday, February 21, 2011

Battle to the End

It is the unfortunate end of the season for the Prince George Spruce Kings. It came right down to the end to but they came up two shots short of squeezing out the required two points in that last game of the season. What a treat to watch and what a treat to call as the players put everything they could into that final twenty minutes in West Kelowna and in fact it wasn't until the final ten seconds that reality started to set in.

It started out well for the Spruce Kings with a goal early after Matt Kronin broke his stick on a point shot that led to a three-on-one break out set up by the quick thinking of Ben Woodley. One of the latest acquisitions to the team, Big Ben spotted Dustin Beairsto on the right wing and quickly Beairsto was away to the races with Jujhar Khaira coming down the middle and Todd Skirving joining the rush on the left side.

After gaining the blue line, Beairsto dished to Khaira who faked shot pulling the goaltender out to the top of the crease before giving back to Beairsto who made no mistake in finding the open net. The Spruce Kings led that final game of the regular season 1-0 with the opening goal just 1:12 into the first period. That tally would stand up as the only goal until the mid-way mark of the second when Quinn Gould was able to force a turnover in the Spruce Kings end and get the puck to Kyle Singleton for his first of three on the night.

After Singleton scored a similar goal that was the result of Gould forced turnover, the eventual game winner came off the stick of a Prince George minor hockey product - Michael King. Committing to Colorado College earlier in the year, King showed off some of the assets that got him the NCAA Div I scholarship when his big shot from under the blue line was tipped in off the stick of Singleton to give the Warriors a 3-1 lead early in the third period.

The Spruce Kings still didn't go away and got the game to within one with lots of time remaining in the third period. Connor Teichko spotted and sprung Kyle Manlow for a breakaway from the top of the Westside Warriors zone. Manlow moved in with speed right down the slot and made a couple of moves in tight before sliding the puck along the ice and under Cole Holewenko to pull the Spruce Kings to within one with the 3-2 tally.

The back breaker was the result of perhaps the only miscue the Spruce Kings made the entire night. After defending their own zone for an extended period of time, the Spruce Kings thought they had cleared the zone and got it far enough down the ice to allow for a line change. Brayden Sherbinin knocked the puck down at centre ice and moved it back into the Spruce Kings zone with speed. In all alone on Kirk Thompson, Sherbinin made a couple of nice moves before lifting the puck high off the backhand making the score 4-2.

The Spruce Kings still didn't go away and for the rest of the game had the Warriors hemmed inside their own zone getting shot after shot on Holewenko but unable to complete the miracle come-back. When all the shots were tallied up, the Spruce Kings were credited with 21 shots in that third period and that didn't take into account the three goal posts or numerous blocked shots in front of the net.

For three nights in a row and for the fifth straight game, the Spruce Kings battled with a fierce tenacity and would not give up on the dream of getting to the post season easily. That warrior attitude that was shown on the ice was clearly publicly recognized by the Penticton Vees - the team that the stood a good chance of meeting the Spruce Kings in the first round. Fred Harbinson, the Vees head coach and general manager, said in the post game show on Friday night that he didn't want to have to play Prince George in the first round that they were that tough of an opponent.

Unfortunately the Spruce Kings could not realize the dream of making the post season. Following Saturday night's game a dejected group of players packed up their bags and proceeded to enjoy one last post-game meal together. Perhaps adding a little more sting to the wound, less than twenty four hours later the Spruce Kings learned that the Quesnel Millionaires were shut out by the Vernon Vipers and had failed to pick up even a single point in their final weekend - a point that would have eliminated the Spruce Kings even if they had beaten Westside.

No comments: