Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Sense of Familiarity

Perhaps it is an old story now and something best left in the past, but for Spruce Kings fans there will be a sense of familiarity for a team playing its first visit to the Coliseum. The Chilliwack Chiefs make their debut in new threads in the Castle on Wednesday night, but behind that chief head dress logo will be a few players that know the what its like to play the role of visitor and even one that knows what its like to play in front of the home town fans.

Tyler Miller was one of the few players that went with Head Coach and General Manager Harvey Smyl from the Langley to Chilliwack. Miller is a Prince George resident in the off-season and, for a quarter of the 2009-10 season, wore the crown while patrolling the blue line for the Spruce Kings. Now in his final year of junior eligibility, Miller wears the 'C' and will be looking to punish members of the 40th edition of the Prince George Spruce Kings. Kit Sitterley, Josh Hansen and Jeremy Gossard are three other former Langley Chiefs that made the move from Langley to Chilliwack.

Malcolm Gould, Derek Huisman, Spencer Grabowski, David Thompson, Michael Spring, Matthew Hutchinson and Bryton Udy all have experience playing against the Spruce Kings as members of the Quesnel Millionaires last season. This season the group of seven are enjoying life in the Fraser Valley. Huisman and Gould play on the top line along with David Bondra where the three sit atop team scoring with a combined production of 74 points (31 goals and 43 assists). Grabowski and Spring find themselves a little lower on the depth chart while Thompson and Hutchinson make up one pairing on the blue line and Udy backs up Mitch Gillam between the pipes.

The Chilliwack Chiefs are playing out of the Interior Conference this season as a result of their off season move from Quesnel to Chilliwack, but the League has indicated that there will be a realignment coming in the off season that will address this anomaly. Through 22 games thus far, the Chiefs sit just one point back of the Prince George Spruce Kings with 25 points (12-9-0-1). Coming off back-to-back losses to the Penticton Vees during the League's Celebration Weekend, the Chiefs will be looking to get back in the win column against the Spruce Kings.

Earlier in the month these two teams met at Prospera Place in Chilliwack in a game that went to double overtime and was decided on a penalty shot after a penalty call against Prince George in that second overtime period. The Spruce Kings remember that game well and believe that they had played well enough to win in regulation time but ran into penalty troubles throughout the contest. That is a bit of a sore point for the Spruce Kings this season who have a respectable penalty kill (80.15%) but find themselves sitting in the sin bin a little too often for their own good. When skating with the man-advantage the Spruce Kings powerplay proficiency has lacked the ability to put away their opponents and has been sputtering at the bottom of the League at 14.29%.

Offense shouldn't be a problem for the Spruce Kings who have their top line sitting among the League scoring leaders. Paul De Jersey leads the way with 23 goals and 22 assists good for 3rd in the League, Michael Colantone shares a spot with three others in the top ten with 11 goals and 23 assists. Jujhar Khaira missed eight games while he was away winning a gold medal with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge but is still in the top twenty with 13 goals and 18 assists. The trio have been clicking since Khaira came back and will be looking to get the job done again tonight against the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Defensively the two teams are almost identical allowing just under 3.60 goals against on average per game. Kirk Thompson has been coming on as of late and has earned a star in each of the Spruce Kings past three games and was arguably one the best players on the ice turning aside 42 of the 46 shots he faced. Thompson is expected to get the start for Prince George while Mitch Gillam is expected to start for the visitors at the other end of the ice. Gillam has slightly better numbers in his fifteen games with a 3.02 GAA and 90.50 save percentage.

This midweek game was incorrectly listed on the pocket schedule as being a road game for the Spruce Kings; it is very much a home game with the puck set to hit the ice at 7pm at the Prince George Coliseum. If you are unable to attend the game in person, you can still catch the action on the BCHL Pay-per-View feed or the free audio only feed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Centennials Take Down Prince George In a Rough One

Round 1 goes to the Centennials! It was the first of a home and home series, and the Centennials were the better team tonight. They were able to capitalize on key mistakes, as all three goals came from break downs int heir own end. Kirk Thompson played a great hockey game, stopping 28 shots, many of which were stellar saves, but his team couldn't add enough insurance to capture the win at home. Round 2 goes tomorrow night, but let's recap tonight’s match up between the Merritt Centennials and your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Break Down:

The first period started out well for the Spruce Kings, and through the first ten minutes, they controlled the action. But the Centennials were able to turn things around after that, and grab hold of the momentum. Merritt would make good on their second power play of the game, which turned out to be the second half of a four minute penalty to Trevor Esau, as Silvan Harper put home a wrap around attempt. It didn't take to much longer for the Centennials to add to their lead, as Harper potted his second of the evening, a one timer out front, at 16:29 of the first. The period would end this way, But not before Paul De Jersey and Peyton Schaefer would drop the mits. Although the fight ended with both men crashing to the ice before landing a punch, the scrap seemed to pump up both squads

The big play to remember from the second period, was an elbow that lead to the games first ejection. Myles Fitzgerald hit his man with what the referee called an elbow to the head. The call lead to Myles getting the gate early, and leaving his team with the task of killing a 5 minute major. Kirk Thompson made multiple incredible saves to help his team eventual kill off the major, leaving many to believe that this could be a potential turning point. The Spruce Kings forwards rewarded their goaltenders play with a goal 4 minutes afterwards as Paul De Jersey ripped home his 22nd of the season. Ben Woodley and Michael Colantone added the helpers on the Spruce Kings first tally. It was a 2-1 hockey game in favour of Merritt heading into the third, and momentum was starting to tilt in favour of Prince George.

Although the Spruce Kings had lots of good things to work off of starting the third, it as Merritt who once again capitalized on another Prince George mistake behind their own net. Reece Wilcox found puck that squirted out of a pack, and wrap one past the sprawling Thompson. The goal would be the eventual game winner for the Centennials. Chase Golightly would make things interesting late, firing one home form the point, but it became to much to over come for the Spruce Kings. The end of the game saw things start to turn ugly as Ben Woodley and Jakob Reichert fought, as did both teams coaching staffs. Emotions boiled over on ice, leading to a few more shoving matches, and setting the stage for an intense rematch tomorrow night. Tyler Steel received the win tonight, making 26 saves

It should also be noted just how short handed the Spruce Kings became as the game went on. Prince George started the game with just 11 starting forwards as Sean Landrey and Michael Klonarakis sat with injuries. Myles FItzgerald was the next to go, getting ejected for an elbow to the head. Stefan Bazar then left the game with an undisclosed injury, with Ben Woodley getting the gate for a fighting major late in the game. When it was all sad and done, with 8 minutes to play, the Spruce Kings had 9 forwards and 5 defenseman on the bench.

To get a check out the full recap and box score of tonight's match up, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (PG) Gerry Fitzgerald

2) (MER) Silvan Harper – 2 Goals

1) (PG) Kirk Thompson – 28 Saves

The Next Game:

These two teams will do it again tomorrow night in Merritt. This is exactly what the BCHL had in mind when they scheduled this BCHL 50th anniversary celebration weekend. It was a great game tonight between division rivals, and one that neither team wanted to lose. The emotions ran high, and boiled over on the ice and on the benches. The stage for tomorrow's game has been set, and this one is going to be a rough hard fought battle. Be sure to not miss this one tomorrow night in Merritt. The puck will drop at 7:30 and you can watch the web cast here

Spruce Kings and Cents Meet Again

It is the BCHL's 5oth Anniversary Celebration weekend, and with it comes your chance to relive the history of this great league. The celebration weekend also brings us a fantastic match up division rivals, and they are games that will mean big things in the standings. These two squads have met a few times this season, and every game has been a good one. The Spruce Kings are riding a nice four game winning streak into tonight's match up, so let's preview the game to see their chances of making it 5. It's the Merritt Centennials taking on your Prince George Spruce Kings:

The Set Up:

As mentioned, these two teams are very familiar with one another this season, having met four times already. The Spruce Kings have gotten the better of things early, but their last game took until double overtime to find a winner. Before that game last week, it was Merritt who was finally able to figure out Prince George, topping them 7-4 in their own barn.

The last time we were able to see Merritt live in action was way back during the opening weekend of the season. Prince George won both of those games, but Merritt is a much different team since those games. Merritt has since gone on a run that has them currently sitting in second place in the interior conference. They are 6-1-0-3 in their past ten, having lost their past 2, with one of those coming at the hands of Westside in overtime on Wednesday.

The Spruce Kings are currently riding a four game win streak, with one of those wins coming against the Centennials. The Spruce Kings continue to house one of the top lines in the league with Khaira, De Jersey and Colantone. These three, along with a hulking blue line and some stellar goal tending performances have helped Prince George step into a tie for fourth, but they also sit just 3 points out of second place. A couple of wins in this weekends match up will go a long way to helping this team get back to the post season.

Who's Hot:

Paul De Jersey continues to be a factor for the Spruce Kings, sitting in 4th for league scoring and 2nd in the goals scored category. The trio that has really come into their own over the past few games has been the line of Tyson Witala, Stefan Bazar and Jeff Earnest. These three have combined for goals in the past three games. Look for them to be factors once again come game time tonight and Saturday.

Merritt as a whole have been hot as of late, but Regan Soquila has lead the charge for the Cents all season. Soquila has 29 points this season, good for 19th in league scoring.

Game Time:

Once again, this weekend is the BCHL’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Head down to the Coliseum tonight for your chance to win prizes and relive the rich history of the BCHL. The puck drops tonight at 7pm and then tomorrow in Merritt at 7:30pm. Tonight’s game will be broadcast a few different ways as usual. You can catch the web cast here and the FREE audio broadcast here.

Hope to see you at the rink

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dustin's View of the Weekend Double Header

With a poise and delivery that could easily be considered that of seasoned broadcaster, Dustin Scafe came in from Fort St. John to put on the headset and provide the play-by-play of both games in this past weekend's double header. Scafe is working in Fort St. John at Moose FM and like so many other young broadcaster was very excited when given the opportunity to call the games from the Spruce Kings press box. Working with Todd Doherty, Scafe was well prepared and possessed accurate and indepth knowledge of players on both sides of the puck. After the games he provided his take for the blog, here is his post for Sunday's 3-0 Spruce Kings shutout victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

For the second time in as many nights, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks were victims of the Prince George Spruce Kings quick and vicious attack. During Saturday’s meeting between the two teams, the Spruce Kings scored goals inside of the 5 minute mark to take a 2 goal lead over the ‘Backs, and Sunday afternoon was no different as Myles Fitzgerald put the Spruce Kings up 2 goals at 3:13 of the second period with a beauty power play goal that beat Salmon Arm net minder Adam Clark with a cross crease pass. Tyson Witala sealed the deal with 16:35 remaining in the third period, with the assists going to Stefan Bazar and Ben Woodley; who had two A’s in the victory. Bazar also continued his hot play since coming over from Canmore, racking up his 10th point in just 5 games.

Opening the scoring in the first period on the power play, Ben Matthews had a goal and an assist in his better game of the home-at-home series. The goal came midway through the opening frame after Brett Knowles took an undisciplined slashing penalty. In fact, undisciplined is a good word to define the play of the Silverbacks in this game, as late in the game Ben Woodley would be forced to drop the mitts with a frustrated Knowles. Jeff Kennedy also got in to the party after Jeff Earnest and he collided in front of the net, Kennedy then proceeded to antagonize Earnest before picking up the lone penalty in the mix of things, a cross checking call. During that same stoppage, Salmon Arm coach Colin O’Hara seemed to be having some unpleasant words with the officials, resulting in his ejection from the contest.

Overall, it was a fans game. The pace was very quick, the emotions were running high, the goaltenders were hot and best of all, the home team finished with a shutout - thanks in no small part to Kirk Thompson. The 19 year old made 31 saves for his first career BCHL shutout, something I am shocked to be saying. This goaltender has the potential to lead the Kings deep in the Fred Page Cup playoffs this season. In a losing effort, Adam Clark made 38 saves in his best performance of his fresh BCHL career, Clark made several big stops and did everything in his power to keep his team in it.

As far as players who made an impression go, Connor Fynn, an AP call up from the Sicamous Eagles, came in to the Silverbacks lineup for the first time on Saturday and played one or two shifts the entire evening, but Sunday afternoon would prove to be his big chance. Fynn played each of his shifts at 200% and it resulted in his team gaining momentum from his play. He forced Thompson out of his net and he proved that even with a small body, he is capable of ripping a big league shot. The Spruce King that impressed me the most, other than the obvious Kirk Thompson, would easily be Chase Golightly. Here’s a 19 year old sophomore in the league, leading his time on the back end. The Kings have so much depth at the point, that Chase could be playing 3rd unit and still be considered a top 2 d-man on several BCHL squads. He moves the puck with such ease and has the speed to go end to end, which he did several times on Sunday afternoon.

I would like to extend a thank you to the Prince George Spruce Kings for this opportunity to step in as the play by play broadcaster for the weekend. I have never had so much fun calling a game, and I owe it to the organization for making it all happen. I hope to do it again in the near future, and I look forward to continuing chats with everyone I talked with at the Castle over the weekend. I also want to send out a personal thanks to Ron Gallo, Matt Anthony and Todd Doherty for going out of their ways to accommodate me. These things never go unnoticed and they are greatly appreciated. Also thanks to Scott Campbell, the voice of the Silverbacks, as we had some nice discussions and I feel he helped me to better my broadcast.

My name is Dustin Scafe and I hope to see you at the rink again soon!

As I mention, this young man did a very good job providing the play-by-play and recaps of both games. Thank you Dustin from everyone with the Spruce Kings. We all hope there another opportunity to get your voice on our broadcast.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spruce Kings Post 'W' in First Half of Double Header

With the civic election on this night, Matt Anthony was unavailable for the broadcast but an eager replacement found himself in Prince George and looking for the opportunity to fill in. A big thank you has to go out to Dustin Scafe, who works in Fort St. John for Moose FM. Scafe made himself available for this weekend's double header between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Prince George Spruce Kings. I must say, the youngster did a great job ... he was well prepared, provided insightful comments and delivered a very polished call of the game. To top it all off, he even provided a recap of the game and a preview of Sunday's matinee repeat between these same two teams.

The Prince George Spruce Kings came out quickly Saturday night against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks with Paul De Jersey netting his league leading 21st goal of the season just 3 minutes into the opening frame on route to a 3-2 victory over the 'Backs. It was one of those games where both teams went nose to the grindstone, and there was no shortage of board battles and traffic in front of the net. Tyson Witala scored the winner 7 minutes in to the third period after Salmon Arm net minder Kurt Williams struggled to contain the puck in his pads following a Spruce Kings point shot. Witala also picked up an assist on Jeff Earnest's first of the season, which put the Spruce Kings up 2-0 just 1:33 in to the 2nd period.

Brett Knowles made the game interesting with a short handed goal midway through the 2nd after he left the Spruce Kings defenders in his dust with a fancy toe drag. Half a minute before the goal, Brendan Kennedy was caught with a kneeing penalty on Jujhar Khaira, the Canada West gold medalist caught the short end of an awkward hit but was none the worse for the hit. Shane Hanna would tie the game with the Silverbacks enjoying a two man advantage late in the second period. Hanna's hard shot beat Kirk Thompson down low to giving Salmon Arm momentum to start the third. Several stellar saves by Thompson would give the Spruce Kings their confidence back in the third. A strong performer tonight for the Silverbacks was #9 Morgan Zulinick, the 17 year old Kamloops native picked up 2 assists, tying his point total from 2010-2011.

Kurt Williams made 25 saves for the Apes, who dressed a short bench for the second straight night. Last night against Penticton, Colin O'Hara dressed 15 players, while tonight, a 16th body was added as AP Connor Fynn made his BCHL debut. The Spruce Kings, meanwhile, dressed a full roster for just the second time this season after injuries plagued them early on in the year.

Following the game, two Spruce Kings were named the games top 2 stars, with Morgan Zulinick of Salmon Arm being named the games third star. Leo Fitzgerald, who played a very strong game using his speed and small frame to his advantage, picked up second star, while new comer Stefan Bazar picked up the game's first star honor with his exceptional performance, which included his 7th assist, giving him 9 points in just 4 games since coming to the Kings from the Canmore Eagles of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He had 15 points in his first 16 games with the Eagles. Perhaps left out of the three star selections was Spruce Kings goaltender, Kirk Thompson who had to be sharp this night. On more than one occasion the nineteen year old robbed the Silverbacks of a sure goal with a quick leg save or glove that came from out of nowhere.

Both teams battled hard in the offensive zone, but misplayed neutral zone passes caused several turnovers, two of which led to goals. Prince George went 0 for 5 on the man advantage, while special teams played a big role for Salmon Arm, as they scored a short handed goal, and went 1 for 8 on the power play. The 'Backs currently sit 4th in BCHL power plays on the road and will look to improve on that stat Sunday afternoon. Puck drop will be at 3pm in the Prince George Coliseum and you can watch the pay-per-view feed live on BCHL website or listen for free online from the Spruce Kings Ustream channel with Dustin Scafe and Todd Doherty.

With the win on Saturday night, the Spruce Kings improve to 10-8-1-2 but continue to be 2 points back of Chilliwack for the 4th and final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. The Silverbacks continue to struggle near the bottom and now have a 6-11-0-5 record, good for 17 points. A win for the Spruce Kings tomorrow would move them in to a tie with Chilliwack, while a win for Salmon Arm would pull them in to 6th, leaving them 4 points back of the Spruce Kings ... a big game for both teams on Sunday afternoon.

Again, a great job by Dustin Scafe on everything he has done to contribute to his first BCHL game and now for his game two and the second half of the double header between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Spruce Kings. We hope you can make it to the rink for the 3pm faceoff. Along with the exciting action that has become the norm for the Spruce Kings will be the first installment of this season's Elementary School Cheeroff with Cedar's Christian School, Glenview Elementary and Sacred Heart School all vying for a chance to win a day with the Spruce Kings at their school. Good luck to all and enjoy the game.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Big Weekend Series

It's another big set of divisional games this weekend as the Spruce Kings will look to build off of their win in Merritt. Last year Prince George was only able to defeat the Silverbacks once, but it was inside the Castle. This will be the first time this season Prince George will host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. These two squads are not separated by much in the standings, combine that with the new playoff format and that makes this weekend's games a can't miss experience. With that in mind let's preview the match up between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and your Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Set Up:

These two Interior Division rivals have met just once this season, in Salmon Arm, and it was a game that was dominated by the Spruce Kings. Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone were in on 4 of the 6 goals and combined for 9 points. The Silverbacks are coming into this weekend's contest on a high note, having won 3 of their past 4. The Spruce Kings will also ride a nice wave of momentum into Saturday's first game of the double header after posting a double overtime 3-2 win in Merritt on Thursday. Kirk Thompson was stellar in the win, stopping 39 pucks on route to victory. The Silverbacks suffered a disappointing loss last night to the Penticton Vees and then had to board the bus for the two game set in Prince George.

Who’s Hot:

The Spruce Kings continue to get superb play from their new forward and former Silverback, Paul De Jersey. De Jersey sits just one point back in the league scoring race and still leads the BCHL in goals scored with 20. Jujhar Khaira is another Spruce King who comes in on a hot streak, but for a few different reasons. Khaira returned to Prince George with gold around his neck having helped Canada West win it all at the World Junior A Challenge. Khaira also scored a goal in his first game back since the tournament.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have 3 different players who sit above the 20 point threshold this season, but it's their Switzerland product who leads the charge. Devin Muller has 26 points this season through 18 games. Brett Knowles and Morgan Zulinick round out the Silverback top three in scoring with 25 and 24 points each.

Bumps and Bruises:

The Spruce Kings were able to ice a full roster for the first time since the start of the season on Thursday; only Sean Landrey sits on the shelf. The Spruce Kings will once again be able to ice a full line up tonight. As Prince George gets healthy, the same can't be said for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks who currently list five players out with an injury.

Game Time:

The puck will drop in the Castle tonight at 7pm and then tomorrow afternoon at 3pm. You can catch the web cast on the BCHL website here. Or you can listen to the FREE audio broadcast here

Go Spruce Kings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feels Like The First Time

Another Thursday trip to Merritt for a one and done game with the Centennials. With the relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires to Chilliwack this season, the Spruce Kings knew before the schedule was drafted that there would be some tough road trips to deal with. Tonight's game in Merritt is the second time in as many weeks that the Spruce Kings have to travel 6 hours south for a single game and then return home for their next opponent. It's something that does leave the team a little perplexed, but something that they know they will deal with and expect different results this time around.

Last week when the Spruce Kings boarded the bus and headed down to the Nicola Valley Arena for their third game of the season against the Merritt Centennials they were left licking their wounds all the way back after suffering a 7-4 loss. That loss seemed to inspire the team who recorded a 5-2 victory over the Victoria Grizzlies. That win along with the return of some previously missing players has injected a new level of confidence for their second appearance in Merritt.

Through the first 19 games of the season the Spruce Kings had to enlist the assistance of affiliate players (AP's) in their line up to fill the holes created by injuries and absences for players skating for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. In all the Spruce Kings saw a total of 35 slots filled by APs over the course of those 19 games with a total of four APs appearing at a time in five games.

Tonight's game will see a full roster of players in the game with Jujhar Khaira playing in his first game back after winning gold with Team Canada West. Jeff Earnest is also back after dealing with an upper body injury that has kept him out of the lineup since just after the season's opening weekend series against these same Merritt Centennials. But the team is not 100% healthy with some players dealing with minor issues and Sean Landrey still sidelined with his lower body injury.

I mentioned "these same Merritt Centennials" and they really are the same team they were at the beginning of the season ... at least in personnel, but in the game they seem to be so much different. After suffering an opening night 6-3 loss to the Spruce Kings, the Centennials have responded with two victories (4-3 on September 24 and 7-4 November 11) against Prince George. In their last twelve games, Merritt has picked up points in 11 of those games (10-1-0-2) and have an overall record of 10-5-1-3, good for third in the Interior Division.

There is only one Merritt Centennial in the top twenty among the League's scoring leaders and nobody on the team has reached double digits for goals scored yet. In fact the Centennials are only sixth best in the Interior Division for average goals scored in a game with 3.32 ... so where does their success come from? Regan Soguila is their leading points getter with 6 goals and 19 assists, 10 points better than Chad Brears who has the team's lead in goals scored with 7 and 8 assists.

Defensively the Merritt Centennials don't have impressive numbers here either giving up an average of 3.47 goals against per game, which is only .5 better than Prince George who has a 3.95 goals against average per game. The difference appears to be in the actual goal spread. The Centennials have been in eight overtime games so far and two more that were decided by a single goal with a record of 6 wins, 3 overtime losses and 1 tie. Of the other games that were decided by two or more goals, they have been in three two-goal games (2-1), five three-goal games (2-3) and one loss in a game that was decided with a five goal spread.

Close games seem to go the way of the Merritt Centennials, especially on home ice where they will dump and chase the puck all night long looking for a turnover that they can capitalize on. The Spruce Kings are aware of this and will have to be prepared for it if they hope to even up the season series with the Merritt Centennials. Prince George has had its own roller coaster ride already this season having been on a five game winning streak high and recently coming out of a five game winless stretch that saw them pick up only two points in some hard fought battles prior to the 5-2 win their last time out.

Game number 20 against the Merritt Centennials marks the one-third mark in the season and the Spruce Kings would love nothing more than to be one game above .500 coming back home for a double header against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday and Sunday. Before they can look ahead to the home dates, they will have to deal with the Merritt Centennials and there is certainly a lot of optimism heading into that game with the return of Khaira and Earnest.

Both players are NCAA Division I committed players that have the ability to open up a game offensively while punishing the other team with their physical play. When Jujhar Khaira last skated with the Spruce Kings, he was sitting in second place among the League's leaders; he comes back still in the top 15 and wanting to start climbing back up the list. Jeff Earnest only has two games under his belt this season and wants to get back in the game and start climbing the ladder himself as he is the only player on the Spruce Kings roster without a point.

Khaira will return to his left wing position on the top line with Michael Colantone at centre and Paul De Jersey on the right side. Earnest will play left wing on a line centred by Tyson Witala and right winder Stefan Bazar. The other lines will remain the same with the Fitzgerald triplets (Myles, Leo and Gerry) skating together and the McHaffie twins (Spencer and Scott) with Michael Klonarakis. Defensively there has been very little movement with Ben Woodley, Chase Golightly, Trevor Esau, Ben Matthews, Skylar Pacheco and Cody Bardock patrolling the blue line. Kirk Thompson is expected to get the start with Marcus Beesley the backup.

I had a chance to catch up with coach Dave Dupas and talk about all of this and a few other things before the team boarded the bus to head to Merritt. I started by asking him about getting to full regular roster for the first time this season.

download audio file

I did talk to Coach Dupas about a few other things including being a .500 team, scheduling nightmares and what the team has been working on during the weekend for these next few games coming up.

download audio file

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bringing Home the Gold and a Whole Lot More

Jujhar Khaira proudly displays his gold medal he won with
Team Canada West at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge

Jujhar Khaira arrived back in Prince George earlier today sporting a little something around his neck but it was the pride that beamed through loud and clear for this Spruce Kings forward. Khaira spent the last couple of weeks in Langley, BC with Team Canada West sharing a common goal of winning gold and now the hard work hangs off a black ribbon around his neck and lingers deep inside his memory bank.

Into his second season with the Spruce Kings and Junior A hockey career, Khaira has been one of those players that has turned heads, left scouts scribbling notes and broadcasters scratching their heads on how to pronounce this still relatively unknown sensation's name (for the record it is Ja_jar Care_ah). For those that know him, it is a mystery how this skilled, physical forward could have gone unnoticed previously.

At the age of 15, when other hockey players his age were hearing their names called in the Bantam Draft, Khaira did not. It left him wondering if hockey was really the sport for him. He was playing for the Cloverdale Colts and his loyalty to the team kept on the ice and in the game to the end of the season. It was during these late season games that he was spotted by a Spruce Kings scout who sat down with the teenager and encouraged him to come to Prince George.

He came as an unknown and quickly had the attention of the Spruce Kings coaching and scouting staff at the main camp who wasted no time in asking Khaira if he would like to stay and try and make the team through the preseason schedule. He made the team as a 16 year old player and began playing above his age almost immediately, looking more like an 18 or 19 year old on the ice. He had the ability to win puck battles along the board, move the puck through traffic and feather a pass to an open player at will.

These abilities earned him a NCAA Division I scholarship with the Michigan Tech Huskies as his stock continued to rise in the BCHL. In the off season, Jujhar knew that he wanted to come back for his second season as the best 17 year old possible. He worked out hard and had a growth spurt that saw him grow two inches taller and put on 20 pounds of pure muscle. His work ethic and attitude towards the game gave him a spot on the top line which he embraced.

Although he has missed six games with his time away playing for Team Canada West, Jujhar Khaira's name still sits in the top fifteen among the League leading scorers with 11 goals and 16 assists in just 13 games. That puts him on a 2.1 points per game pace which is tops in the League alongside his line mate, Paul De Jersey. With the experience that he has gained playing in the World Junior A Challenge, he certainly hopes he won't be missing a beat when he gets back into the Spruce Kings roster.

Juhar Khaira was the youngest on the 22 player Team Canada West roster having only turned 17 exactly 3 months before the gold medal game was played. Khaira found himself in more of a checking role providing a physical presence with more of a defensive assignment in the games. Spruce Kings Head Coach, Dave Dupas thinks that the experience will make Khaira more of an all-around good player and in the process make the Spruce Kings that much better as well.

I had a chance to sit down with Jujhar after he arrived back in Prince George and got his thoughts on the whole experience.

download audio file

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Spruce Kings Get Back Into The Win Column

The Spruce Kings were finally able to bump the slump, taking down the Grizzlies by a score of 5-2. It was a great game from top to bottom for the home team as they created the better scoring chances and answered the bell when needed. Let’s recap the big match up today from the Coliseum between the Victoria Grizzlies and your Prince George Spruce Kings

The Look Back:

This afternoons matinee was an entertaining one, and not just because Prince George came away with the win. It was a back and forth affair that saw both teams and both goaltenders keeping their teams in the game from the start. Jamie Tucker and Kirk Thompson each made some stellar stops for their squads, but it was Thompson who received the most help. Paul De Jersey scored his first of two goals on the afternoon at the 17 minute mark of the 1st period. Michael Colantone and Chase Golightly would add the helpers on what really was a highlight reel goal. The Spruce Kings would head into the dressing room with the all important lead after one period of play.

The second period is where we saw the offence explode, mostly in favour of the Spruce Kings. Paul De jersey would tally the games second goal, his second of the game and 20th of the season at the 8 minute mark. Michael Colantone would add another assist with newcomer Stefan Bazar getting in on the fun as well.  After Gerry Fitzgerald scored to make it 3-0, the Victoria Grizzlies decided that they had had enough. Cam Lawson worked his way into the Spruce Kings zone with speed, and fired a wrist shot past Thompson to put his team on the board.  But, Prince George wasn’t about to become yet another team to fall to the Grizzlies after owning a sizeable lead. Myles Fitzgerald would score just 27 seconds later to re-establish the three goal lead, and help his team head into the dressing room up 4-1.

The third period saw the Grizzlies come out determined as Brad Gehl put home a one timer from Cam Lawson. The goal came at the four minute mark, leaving Victoria with lots of time left to tie the game up. Skylar Pacheco was going to have none of that on his watch though, as he scored his first ever BCHL goal just 1 minute and 18 seconds later. The rookie fired a point shot past a screened Tucker to ice the game for his squad.

The Spruce Kings played a very tight game today, and besides a few lapses in judgement in their own end, this was a fantastic performance. Kirk Thompson rallied back from a tough game against Merritt, making 28 saves in the win. Paul De Jersey continued to add to his point totals, bringing him within a point of the league lead in scoring.

To get a full box score recap of tonight’s contests, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (VIC) Cameron Lawson - 1 Goal 1 Assist

2) (PG) Michael Colantone - 2 Assists

1) (PG) Paul De Jersey - 2 Goals 1 Assist

Next Up:

Prince George will now look to carry this momentum into next weekends set of games against interior conference rivals, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Silverbacks come into next weekends match up on a high note, having scooped up 7 of a possible 8 points in there past four games. It will be a good weekend battle of division rivals, be sure to head to the Coliseum to check it out, or listen in to the broadcast.

Birthday Wishes and a Homecoming

Michael Colantone (26) gets to play against
his former team on his birthday

Could you pick a better day for a game than this one? Not if you're Michael Colantone. It seems that the schedule makers had a crystal ball when they were putting together dates for the inter-divisional games. With the revisited half-interlock schedule, teams only play teams outside of their conference once in the season and the kicker is that only half of those games will be played in the Castle. On this day, Michael Colantone's former and current teams will meet on his birthday in Prince George.

The speedy forward has embraced his trade to Prince George and earned his spot on the top line centering Paul De Jersey and Jujhar Khaira to the tune of 25 points (10 goals and 15 assists). Of course Khaira will not be in the lineup today, as he will be playing for a Gold medal in an all Canadian matchup at the sixth World Junior A Challenge. Khaira's spot has been filled most recently by the newest addition to the roster, Stefan Bazar.

In his first game with his new team, Bazar figured in all four Spruce Kings goals. Paul De Jersey was also in on all four of those goals while Colantone was in on two of them, although he was on the ice for all four. That chemistry is something the Spruce Kings will be banking on again as they take on an unfamiliar foe in the Victoria Grizzlies ... at least unfamiliar to most with the obvious exception being Michael Colantone.

The Victoria Grizzlies come in to the game in very similar circumstances as the Prince George Spruce Kings. Both teams had Saturday off after playing Friday night in a game both teams would rather not remember. The Spruce Kings fell into a deep hole early and found themselves down 4-1 after the first twenty minutes. They were able to stop the bleeding for the most part in the middle frame giving up only one goal before mounting a comeback that got them to within one before the Centennials finished with a pair late to win the game 7-4.

Meanwhile on the largest ice surface in the BCHL, the Grizzlies went into the South Surrey Arena to face the top team in the Coastal Division - the Surrey Eagles. The Grizzlies opened the scoring in the first period but, after giving up a pair to the Eagles, were forced to come back to tie the game twice before the end of the first period. In the second, the Eagles started pulling ahead outscoring the visitors from our province's capital 4-2 to take a 7-5 lead into the third period. In the final frame, only the Eagles would light the lamp to finish the game with an 8-5 decision.

Both teams come into today's game sitting in fifth place in their respective divisions. The Grizzlies are one point back of climbing into the top half of the Coastal Conference while the Spruce Kings require two victories to do the same after the Chilliwack Chiefs pulled out a Saturday night win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to pull four points in front of Prince George. The Spruce Kings are one point back of .500 with a record of 7-8-1-2, giving them 17 points in 18 games; the Grizzlies have 11 wins and 11 losses in their 22 games to start the season.

Looking at some more numbers a little closer, this should be a great game with lots of offensive potential. Both teams have a trio of snipers in the League's scoring race. Leading the race is Victoria Grizzlies three year vet Wade Murphy with 39 points (14 goals 25 assists), right on his heels with 35 points including a League's best 18 goals is Prince George's Paul De Jersey (18 goals 17 assists). De Jersey actually gets the better stat here with an average of 2.1 points per game having only played in 17 games to Murphy's 22. And to further sway that stat to the home team, Wade Murphy's talents were on display at the CJHL Prospects game making him unavailable for the Victoria Grizzlies.

Still with the scoring race sitting in 4th and 5th are Jarryd Ten Vaanholt (11 goals 20 assists) and Mike Moran (13 goals 17 assists). This is where the edge goes to the Victoria Grizzlies as the Spruce Kings next best include the previously mentioned and unavailable Jujhar Khaira (11 goals 16 assists) and Michael Colantone (10 goals 17 assists). Scoring depth also appears to favour the Grizzlies as they have scored 25 goals more than the Spruce Kings to this point in the season, but have also played four extra games.

Perhaps the one important stat that will ultimately determine the outcome of this game is team defence. The Spruce Kings have the edge here having given up fewer goals than the Grizzlies. The Spruce Kings have done a great job in creating a team that has the ability to shut down other teams from the blue line out and that was the key for the early season success that the team was enjoying. To get back in the win column, the Spruce Kings will need to close that door again and allow the skilled forwards to do their thing when they get the chance.

Every player wants to have a big game on their birthday and every player wants to have a big game when they play against their former team. For Michael Colantone he wants to have a big game every game so look to him to be a big factor in this game. Also look to Stefan Bazar to have a memorable game in his first game in front of his new hometown fans. Of course for Victoria, there is always the pride factor and you know that Prince George minor hockey product Victor Gervais will have his team ready to go.

Game time is 3pm in the Prince George Coliseum.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who Will Win The Battle Of The Kings?

It's game day, and tonight the Spruce Kings continue their road trip as they visit the Kings of Powell River. Prince George visits the island after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Chilliwack Chiefs, a game that was decided by a penalty shot in double overtime. The Spruce Kings have had a tough go on the road this season, winning just 1 game away form the Castle. Can they change the tide tonight, let's preview the match up and see. It's The Powell River Kings taking on the Your Prince George Spruce Kings tonight.

The Break Down:

As mentioned, the Spruce Kings have had a rough go on the road, having won just one game out of six this season. They have lost two of those in overtime, but that doesn't make it any less sour for the boys. They played a dynamite 55 minutes against Vernon early in the season, but came away on the wrong side of things. Then last night, they tied it late against Chilliwack, but a penalty in double overtime gave the Chiefs a chance to capitalize, and they did just that. The only win on the road this year for the Spruce Kings was a mid week game in Salmon Arm, where they beat the Silverbacks 6-3. Prince George haven't faired very well though against Powell River the past few years. You have to go back to the 08/09 season to find the last time that the Spruce Kings have beaten the Kings of Powell River. It's the second game in as many nights for the Spruce Kings, and the second of three in a row.

The Powell River Kings also come into tonight having just played, a game that went into overtime as well, but they came away with the win. They defeated Cowichan Valley 3-2 at home, and will look to carry that momentum into tonight's match up. The Kings are off to another stellar start, sitting in second place with a record of 10-5-1 and are just 1 point out of first. The task of knocking off the Kings at home has been a hard one for every team this season, as they are a perfect 8-0 at the Hap.

The Stats:

Paul De jersey was back in full form last night, scoring twice and adding an assist on the only other goal. De Jersey once again has a hold of the most goals title with 16 on the year. Ben Woodley added an assist to his point total in last nights loss. The Ontario native sits in second for the most assist by a Defenceman this season.

Cohen Adair leads the charge for the Kings this season, leading in both the goals and points categories. Powell River also has a very talented defenceman who has been racking up point this season. Craig Dalrymple sits in third for scoring by a D-Man this year The Kings will be without talented youngster Evan Richardson and goaltender Sean Maguire for the next few games as they are with Spruce King Jujhar Khaira at the World Junior A Challenge.

Game Time:

This will be the only time this year that these two teams will square off, meaning we will unofficially dub this "The Battle For The Crown". Kirk Thompson is likely to get the start tonight as he had a fantastic performance against the Chiefs last night, making 42 saves in the loss. It's not known who will get the start tonight with Maguire away for the time being. Jamie Phillips started last night and got the win, but the back to back games could see former Spruce King Cameron Large start between the pipes for the PR Kings. Tonight's action takes place at the Hap Parker Arena with the puck dropping at 7:30pm. Former Cariboo Cougars play by play man Alex Rawnsley will call tonight's action on 95.7 Sun Fm. You can listen to the game live and free here, just click on the listen live link.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Rivalry Renewed, With a Twist

Tonight the Spruce Kings will renew a rivalry, but with a bit of a change of scenery. Prince George has traveled to Chilliwack, as they are getting set to take on the former Quesnel Millionaires. This Chilliwack Chiefs squad is in its first year of existence since relocating, and it’s been a pretty successful start to the season. The Spruce Kings have come out of the gates flying as well, but a recent loss to Alberni Valley has let out a bit of wind from the sails. Both teams will be looking to continue to climb up the Interior Conference standings tonight, so let’s preview the match up between the Chilliwack Chiefs and your Prince George Spruce Kings

The Break Down:

For years, this was the battle of a couple of teams who lived just about an hour apart. Most teams who traveled to either Quesnel or Prince George, had a long way to go. But when these two met, having to deal with a long bus ride was not a factor. The Spruce Kings and the Millionaires met eight times last season, with Quesnel winning 5 of those match ups. Like the name change this year though, the Chiefs are a much different and better team. They have only 5 players who returned from the Millionaire days, and it shows on the ice. This organization has a new outlook and is moving in the right direction as the year rolls on. Attendance is way up compared to their Quesnel days, and right now they sit in 5th place, but having played 1 to 2 less games then most.

Speaking of new look franchises, the Spruce Kings have made a name for themselves early in the BCHL season. The top line has come flying out of the gates, establishing themselves as one of the tops in the league. Rookie goaltender Marcus Beesley has been a pleasant surprise early, and the bulking defense has showed that sized does matter. Unfortunately tonight the Kings will once again be without Jujhar Khaira as he has cracked the roster of the Junior A West Canadians. Paul De Jersey will return for his first game back since trying out for the same team. De Jersey will skate on the top line with Tyson Witala and Michael Colantone. Starting in goal tonight for the Spruce Kings will be Kirk Thompson. Thompson will be playing in his back yard, as he is from Surrey, BC.

The Stats:

As mentioned, Paul De Jersey will return to the line up tonight, as he'll look to continue to move up in the scoring race. De Jersey still sits at tie for the most goals this year. The Chiefs don't have that one player who has had a points explosion, but it really has been a score by comity approach. Every Chilliwack players has a point this season, with Malcom Gould and David Bondra leading the charge

Game Time:

The rivalry is renewed tonight as the Chilliwack Chiefs will host your Prince George Spruce Kings. The Spruce Kings sit in 5th right now with a 7-6-0-1 record while the chiefs are just 2 points behind them with a 6-6-0-1 record. It's another important match up between division rivals, and the first of eight between the two clubs. Puck drops at 7pm and you can listen to Marc Fitzgerald's broadcast of the game on he Chiefs radio station here. Go Spruce Kings