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.

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