It is game number sixty of sixty marking the end of the regular season for the Prince George Spruce Kings, but will this be the final hurdle before heading into the "second season?"
It is cliche, but so true of the playoffs that whatever happened in the regular season doesn't mean anything when all teams start the post season with a clean slate. The Spruce Kings are hoping the hockey gods have taken a shine to them since the Christmas Break and will see them through to the second season when the dust settles after Sunday's final games in the BCHL.
The Spruce Kings have worked hard to get to where they are today and that is the opportunity to play a game that means something to them and their season - a win and they will immediately turn their attention to the Quesnel Millionaires and what they are doing in their final two games.
The Spruce Kings started the weekend with their magic number sitting at 11 and only able to pick up a maximum of six points and the understanding that anything less than five and the season would be over. On Thursday night they rolled into Merritt, after giving up the game's first goal they built up a lead on the strength of a pair of powerplay goals and defeated the Centennials 4-2.
That win brought the Spruce Kings magic number down to 9 and the requirement to pick up at least three points in their final two games. On Friday night the Spruce Kings registered one of those required points after tying the game late in the third period and getting the game to overtime where nothing was settled in a 2-2 tie.
In West Kelowna the Westside Warriors shutout the Quesnel Millionaires which brought the Spruce Kings magic number down to 6 where it currently sits heading into Saturday night's games. The Millionaires and Spruce Kings swap opponents tonight with Quesnel in Penticton and Prince George in Westside.
Looking at the games, obviously the Millionaires have something to play for as they need at least a single point to officially eliminate the Spruce Kings on their own. The Penticton Vees will be reeling after giving up the chance to catch Vernon for top spot in the Interior Conference, but still up for grabs is second place with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks two points back and with a game in hand on Penticton.
On the other hand, the Westside Warriors locked up home ice advantage heading into the playoffs. It would make sense that the pressure for the Warriors to come up with points is diminished and instead the notion of "resting" some key players is of more importance to them.
Maybe that is wishful thinking or maybe that is how I am hoping the hockey gods are working this scenario for the Spruce Kings. Either way tonight's games are very important to the Spruce Kings and so is Sunday afternoon's game with the Quesnel Millionaires finishing off the season in the home of the first place Vernon Vipers. The Spruce Kings need two points to keep their playoff lives alive but they also need Penticton and Vernon to win in regulation time to take over that final playoff spot and get into the post season.