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.