Sunday, November 13, 2011

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.

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