Friday, September 23, 2011

Season Opener Preview: Spruce Kings VS Centennials

Apologies for the delay and for the lack of posts this past week on the blog, I’ve just had a baby and understandably so, she has taken up a good chunk of my time. But it's finally here, game one of the 11/12 season, the 40th Anniversary Season of the Prince George Spruce Kings!! It's a brand new season and one that should have Spruce Kings fans excited. Seven players will be returning to Prince George for opening night; although Sam Waterfield won't be taking to the ice due to a knee injury.

To get a full history of the Prince George Spruce Kings as they head into their 40th anniversary season, click here

The Spruce Kings have a great chance to set the tone for this season as they will host an interior conference rival, the Merritt Centennials, in back to back games. Prince George had some mixed results during preseason play; against the NAHL's Dawson Creek Rage they finished in a tie after beating them at home in a two game series. They dropped games to the Westside Warriors and against tonight's opponents the Merritt Centennials to start the preseason. But, that is why they call it preseason - it is a chance to see which players will seize the opportunity and crack the roster, and who needs another year to develop.

Both teams will see players return to the organization, but the Cents have more familiar faces than the Spruce Kings do. The Centennials will dress 15 returnees to the Spruce Kings 7. So, let's take a look at what we can expect, a few trends from the past few years and preview the season opener between the Merritt Centennials and your Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Spruce Kings have 1 win and 4 losses in their last 5 opening night games and the last time Prince George hosted the Centennials in back to back games to open the season was in the 08/09, where the Spruce Kings won both games. These two teams battled 6 times last season, with Prince George coming out on top 4 of those 6 times. But, this is a completely different Spruce Kings squad this year. As we said, only seven players who grace the roster are returnees this season; which leaves fifteen new faces skating in the Castle on opening night. That though, is precisely why fans should be excited about this season. General Manager Mike Hawes brought in a lot of offensive fire power and big bodied defenseman at the end of the season and in the off season. Add in the fact that Jujhar Khaira now has a whole year under his belt, as does starting goaltender Kirk Thompson, and this is one to get excited for.

A few tidbits to watch out for tonight:

  • 13 players from both rosters will take to the ice for the first time in the BCHL. How will they handle the pressure?
  • Both teams needed to address special teams this off season as the Spruce Kings and the Centennials were in the lower end of both the Power Play and Penalty Kill categories. Did they do enough?
  • -Speaking of special teams, the Spruce Kings allowed the most short handed goals against last year with 14. Here's hoping the added bulk they have on the back end can bring that number down
  • -Both teams now have starting goaltenders that have BCHL experience under their belts.
  • The majority of players that the Spruce Kings will ice tonight and tomorrow night haven’t played together before. How long will it take to find that ever important team chemistry?

Puck drops tonight at the Coliseum at 7:00pm with the big pre game tail gate party starting at 6:00pm. If you are out of town and can’t make it to “the Castle” tonight, you can catch the full broadcast with myself and Todd Doherty here. Check back after the game tonight as we’ll have a recap of tonight’s game.

See You at the Rink Hockey Fans!

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