Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Statement, Now They Need Another One...

Last night was quite the night for the Spruce Kings, as they defeated their Interior Rivals Vernon 7-2. It was a game that was so lop-sided due to a 4 goal onslaught in the second period. It was a game that showed jut how dangerous the Spruce King can be when they are on. It was a game that could go a long way towards helping them get back into the post season. The Spruce Kings came into this match up 4 points ahead of the Vipers. They had just beaten the Vipers a few weeks earlier, and needed to make a statement in front of the Prince George Faithful.

They started the contest exactly how you would hope if you were Coach Dave Dupas. The Spruce Kings took advantage of a defensive break down on the Vipers part as Tyson Witala put home a Cody Bardock rebound. It was long after though that Ben Matthews took a penalty that would cost his team their first lead. Vernon has the 3rd ranked power play in the league, and it showed as Patrick Macgillis scored 12 seconds in to tie the game up.

The second period was the breakout frame for the Spruce Kings, and as Todd and myself said in the broadcast, maybe the best second period this team has played all season. Jujhar Khiara scored 39 seconds in to light the crowd up. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt, Paul De Jersey and Zach Rassell would all adds goals in the 2nd to take complete control o fthe hockey game. The period was a fast and furious one, but it was a definite statement from a team that was looking to prove that they desereved to be where they are.

The third period saw the Vipers add a goal from Ben Gamache, but it was sandwiched in between Gerry Fitzgerald's 1st of the game and Khaira's 2nd. Ty Swabb would skate away with the win, making 33 saves in the victory.

A couple of key thoughts that I took away from this game. Sean Landrey has really found his stride with the Spruce Kings. The youngster struggled a bit out of the gate this season, but he has found a way to use his size in a postive and violent manner. Landrey has dropped the mitts and thrown his weight around quite a bit in the past few games, and it has worked well for the Prince George native. The Fitzgerald's didn't play one shift together tonight as Coach Dupas had they split up with a different variety of lines all night. Nobody is sure if this is going to be a recurring thing, but it seemed to work for tonight. And, Paul De Jersey and Jujhar Khaira continued to have success against the Vernon Vipers. Through 5 games against the Vipers, De Jersey has 6 goals and 6 assists while Khaira has 4 goals and 6 assists.

To read the full box score, click here

Next Up:

These two teams will reunite this afternoon at the Castle for another tilt. The Spruce Kings need to build off of last night's win and continue to push Chilliwack below them in the standings. Last weekend we saw they squander a chance to send Chilliwack home with 2 losses and they can let the same thing happen today. Puck drops at the Prince George Coliseum today at 3pm. If you cannot make it to the rink, you catch the game here

Go Spruce Kings!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Who Wants It More? Game Preview for January 28th

After sitting and watching the BCHL scoreboard, the Spruce Kings finally get to see action tonight and take matters into their own hands. Over the past few nights the Spruce Kings have seen the Chilliwack Chiefs take over third place in the Interior Division and watched as the Vernon Vipers have inched closer to that fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Division.

The Spruce Kings are as close to 100% as they have ever been this season with the lone exception being Skylar Pacheco who will miss his seventh game since January 6th. Last weekend, many of the players were battling a winter bug and were shorthanded five players for their last game; a valiant effort against the Penticton Vees.

The playoff push is on the forefront of everyone’s mind tonight as the final quarter of the regular season approaches. The Spruce Kings sit in fourth place with 47 points and the Vernon Vipers right behind them with 43 points and a game in hand. For Prince George, coming up with a pair of wins in this double header will help to cushion their playoff spot but the Vipers know that wins in both games will put them inside the playoff race.

Paul De Jersey will also get tonight to put some more offensive numbers with his name as he sits one point up for top spot among the League’s leading scorers. Michael Colantone (who missed one game last weekend) and Jujhar Khaira are also looking for the chance to add to their offensive output this season and get back in to the Top Ten.

The Vernon Vipers are coming off a 4-1 win last night over the Westside Warriors and looking for their first two game winning streak in the month of January. Danny Todosychuk (5-2) gets the start Friday night for the Vipers while Ty Swabb (4-3-1) gets the nod for Prince George. This is the first time since October 28 that these two teams have met in the Castle; in that game the Spruce Kings were victorious 3-2. In fact three of the previous four meetings have all been won by the home team except for the last time the Spruce Kings were in Vernon and came away big with a 5-1 win.

Neither team is thinking this is going to be an easy game and will really come down to the cliche of who wants it more. There's a lot here to excite any hockey fan and the expectation is for a good sized crowd on hand to witness this BCHL matchup. If you can't make it to the game, you can still catch all the action on BCHL Pay Per View or listen for free on the Spruce Kings Ustream feed beginning at 6:40pm.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Looking To Knock Down The Beast

This afternoon the Spruce Kings will look to accomplish something that hasn't happen since November 5th of last year. That thing, is beating the high flying Penticton Vees. The Vees have been almost untouchable this season, using their success to become the top Junior A team in all of Canada. With a balanced set of forwards, a solid back end and a goaltender that has been playing outstanding, the Vees don't seem to have a weakness. To beat Penticton, you must play a solid, full 60 minutes, and even then you may not come out on top.

But stats and places in the standings won't scare away a determined Spruce Kings squad that is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 2 years. After all, Prince George is one of five teams to defeat Penticton this season. It was a win that could b called most important win this season as Michael Colantone scored the double overtime winner with .2 seconds left on the clock. It was a win that propelled them to 5 straight victories and 20-13-2-2 record afterward. The Spruce Kings and the Vees have played just once since that moment, a 4-0 win for Penticton last Saturday.

The bad for the Spruce Kings today, they will play yet again with a short roster. Prince George will dress just 9 forwards and 5 defencemen due to injuries. Every player will be required to double shift throughout the game, making it that much harder to stop the speedy Vees. Stellar goal tending will be essential to come away with a win tonight, it's not known who sill start at the moment, but both men best be mentally prepared.

An interesting stat to go forward with, this afternoons meeting will feature 9 of the top 10 leading scorers in the league. The Spruce Kings own only two of them, but one of those men, Paul De Jersey, leads it.

The Season Series:

Prince George: 1-3-0-0

Penticton: 3-0-0-1

Click here to check the Interior Conference Standings

Game Time:

These two will meet three more times this season, February 26th, March 11th and 12th. The question is though, will the Vees have made history by then, breaking the record for most consecutive wins, or will Prince George be able to stop the runaway train that is Penticton. It should also be noted, that the Spruce Kings are able to get back into the playofs, the Vees are a team they could meet in the first round. Today, they find themselves down 4 players, but sometimes, that's the way it goes. It's how you stand up to that adversity that people will remember. Go Spruce Kings

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Spruce Kings Explode in The Third...

We expected a close, entertaining contest and we received nothing less. Prince George and Chilliwack have played 5 one goal game's this season (counting the 4-2 game due to an empty netter) with a couple of those going into overtime. It's obvious that these two squads are very evenly matched and it showed once again tonight. Thankfully for the home town fans, the Spruce Kings stepped their game up when they needed to, and skated away with the victory. It was their second win in a row, as they avenged a loss just six days earlier to the Chiefs.

The first period didn't start out so well for the Spruce Kings though, as Jeremy Gossard put a weak one past Kirk Thompson at 5:21. It was a momentum killer for the Spruce Kings as they were leading in the shots department 10-2 before the opening score. Prince George didn't wait long to answer as Leo Fitzgerald potted his 7th of the season on the power play. Both teams would trade chances, but head into the intermission tied at one.

After an intermission that featured the always entertaining youngsters fall over for five minutes, we were back at it with more of the same. 5:38 into the second Malcolm Gould put home a puck that Kirk Thompson yet again would have liked back. It was another good start for the visiting team, but ultimately it would be their last one of the game. The newest Spruce King Jarryd Ten Vaanholt would get his first with his new team after taking a nice feed from Paul De Jersey. It was his second point of the game for Ten Vannholt, as coach Dave Dupas line shake up was proving to benefit him greatly.

The third period looked like it was going to produce yet another one goal game, but the Spruce kings had other plans as Paul De Jersey fired one five hole on Mitch Gillam just 1 minute in. 15 minutes later Paul De Jersey would split two Chief defenders and put home a beautiful goal to seal the deal. Michael Colantone would add salt to the wound late as the Spruce Kings took home the victory with a 5-2 decision.

It was a great third period for Prince George, which included a couple of fabulous saves from Kirk Thompson to either keep the game tied, or to hold onto the lead. Paul De Jersey continued to prove he has some of the best hands in the league while netting 4 points. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt would have a very nice home debut as well, grabbing 3 points of his own. This was the Spruce Kings first win over Chilliwack at The Castle. It brings the season series to a 3-3 tie

To read the official box score, click here

The Three Stars:

3) (PG) Jarryd Ten Vaanholt - 1 Goal 2 Assists
2) (PG) Ben Matthews
1) (PG) Paul De Jersey 2 - Goals 2 Assists

Next Up:

These two teams will renew the rivalry tomorrow night at the Coliseum. The puck will drop at 7pm as the Spruce Kings look to grab a firm hold of third place in the interior conference. To listen to the FREE audio broadcast tomorrow night, click here

Rivalry Intensifies Tonight

If the BCHL had just one objective of creating intense rivalries when they decided to do away with the first round of the playoffs, then their goal was achieved; especially when these two teams play each other. Not even this cold spell can cool the intensity caused by having the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Prince George Spruce Kings separated by a single point in the standings when they start their double header.

In the five games, four of which have been played in Chilliwack, both teams have an overtime victory and only the Spruce Kings can lay claim to a victory with more than a one goal differential (4-2 December 28). There have been no more than seven goals scored in any game between the two nor have there been less than five. Every game has featured at least one lead change with the teams usually swapping leads twice.

The two teams have fought each other hard and it shows in the penalties with the teams combining for a total of 116 minutes of infractions not counting any misconducts. Total odd man situations have been 46 with Chilliwack having six extra power play chances. On the power play the Spruce Kings are 6/20 while the Chiefs are 7/26.

At the trade deadline, the Chiefs brought back their big defenceman Anderson White while the Spruce Kings added offensive depth with Jarryd Ten Vaanholt and Zack Rassell. Rassell started contributing almost immediately and was rewarded for his hard work with a pair of assists in Sunday's 5-1 win over the Vernon Vipers. Ten Vaanholt is looking for his first point(s) with his new team and came a goal post away from doing just that in Penticton.

The Spruce Kings are getting their offense from the top line of Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone. The trio combined for 11 points in that December 28th 4-2 victory over the Chiefs and continue to roll along at the top of the BCHL leader board. Combined, the trio has 177 points (74 goals and 103 assists) in 113 games.

De Jersey is leading the league with his 70 points (33 goals and 37 assists) and has a chance to take the number one spot with goals as well making him the true scoring leader in the premier junior league in Canada. Khaira is the leading 17 year old player in the league with his point production of 19 goals and 35 assists. Colantone, who had two hat tricks in three games, is looking to carry himself into the top ten with a good outing this weekend.

Defensively, the Spruce Kings have been steady with both Ben Woodley and Chase Golightly contributing at almost a point a game pace offensively as well. In the nets, both Ty Swabb and Kirk Thompson find themselves near the top for both goals against average and save percentage. Swabb has the slight edge in both those categories with a 2.65 GAA and 91.6 SV% while Thompson comes in with a 2.74 GAA and 91.0 SV% good for 2nd and 4th in the Interior Division respectfully.

An area of concern and an area that needs improving though for the Spruce Kings remains with special teams, especially the powerplay that currently languishes near the bottom of the league with less than 20% effectiveness. The penalty kill is much better keeping the opposition off the board 81 percent of the time. Still, you have to know that the Chilliwack Chiefs will be looking at this stat as perhaps a way of getting to the Spruce Kings and trying to take advantage making this another one of those games that fits right in with the ongoing rivalry.

Perhaps best left for closer to February 17th, when these two teams will play their final regular season game against each other, we will lament the loss of such a storied rivalry with the BCHL set to realign the league and separating the Quesnel Millionaires (yeah I know they're the Chilliwack Chiefs, but they're still the Millionaires to me for this season) and the Prince George Spruce Kings.

With both teams fighting to stay ahead of the cut for a playoff berth, this is a pair of must-see games for Prince George hockey fans. Puck drop is set for 7pm both Thursday and Friday night at the Prince George Coliseum. Dress in layers, but prepare to peel those layers off as the action on the ice is sure to heat up the place. If you can't make it to the game, you can listen online for free from the Spruce Kings Ustream Feed or catch the BCHL Pay Per View Feed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

3 Game Road Trip Begins Tonight...

The Spruce Kings have a big three game road trip ahead of them, and it all starts tonight in Chilliwack. The Kings have won their last four games, with one of the “W's” coming against the Chiefs. That meeting was on December 28th as Prince George skated to a 4-2 victory. These two squads have been very evenly matched all season, with their first three games being decided by just 1 goal.

January will be a busy month between these two teams, as they will play twice more after tonight, both being in Prince George. As it sits right now, the Spruce Kings are 3 points up on Chilliwack in the standings, although the Chiefs do have 2 games in hand. With the new playoff format set to be broken out this season, wins over division opponents are crucial. Vernon, who sits in 5th and is on the outside looking in, are 3 points back of Chilliwack and 6 back of Prince George for those final playoff spots. With Penticton running away with 1st place, the battle for 2nd, 3rd and 4th will likely be decided in the final week of the season, so teams are going to want to have an advantage in the season series going forward.

The battle between the goaltenders is one of the key match ups tonight. For the Spruce Kings, both goalies have seen action against the Chiefs this season, but only Ty Swabb owns a victory. Look for Kirk Thompson to still get the start tonight as he is coming off of a two win performance last weekend against Westside.

Bryton Udy and Mitch Gillam have split starts against the Spruce Kings, both winning one and losing one. The Chiefs come in having lost their last five games, with both Udy and Gillam receiving work. It's not known who the Chiefs will send to battle tonight in hopes of stopping the slide, but with Udy taking the last loss, I’d guess we'll see Gillam get the start at Prospera tonight.

Who's hot:

The Spruce Kings top line continues to tear it up in the BCHL. Paul De Jersey is riding a 20 game point scoring streak. Michael Colantone has 7 goals in his past four games, including two sets of hat tricks. Not to be outdone, Jujhar Khaira was just ranked as the 80th best North American in the mid season Central Scouting Rankings. You can read all about the rankings here.

New Acquisitions:

The Spruce Kings picked up two new forwards at the trade deadline in hopes of going on a run in to the post season after missing out in the two previous tries.

Game Time:

The puck drops at the Prospera Centre tonight at 7pm. You can get the web cast or the FREE audio of the game here. The Spruce Kings will then travel to Penticton tomorrow and Vernon on Sunday.

Go Spruce Kings

Welcome the New Kids

With the trade deadline behind them as well as the hours and miles to get to Prince George, Jarryd Ten Vaanholt and Zack Rassell are officially Spruce Kings. The pair don't know each other but they share the same excitement to put on the jersey with the Crown emblem and represent Prince George in a series of tough battles this weekend.

I caught up with the pair shortly after a morning skate and just before the team headed out on the road for games this weekend against the Chilliwack Chiefs (Friday), Penticton Vees (Saturday) and Vernon Vipers (Sunday). For one of them, the rivalry is a familiar one and for the other, well he just wants to be a part of it as soon as possible.

Jarryd Ten Vaanholt was the first to arrive in Prince George, getting in late Wednesday night. Ten Vaanholt was able to get in two practices with the Prince George Spruce Kings and is very much looking forward to rejoining a teammate from last season and long time friend Paul De Jersey. The two are both from West Vancouver and have basically played hockey together since Jarryd was six years old.

My apologies for the quality of the audio file as the wind did create an interference with the recording that I didn't know about when I was standing outside the bus asking Jarryd his thoughts on being traded to Prince George.

download audio file

I also had a chance to talk with Zack Rassell who I can tell you has already impressed with his first practice. Having driven all day Wednesday and getting in to Prince George late the night before a morning skate, there was a sense that he would be a little sluggish, but that didn't seem to be the case at all. Zack felt he was a little rusty and wasn't afraid to admit it when I asked him his thoughts on leaving the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

download audio file

For their first game with the Prince George Spruce Kings, Jarryd Ten Vaanholt has been placed on the left side of the line with Tyson Witala at centre and Michael Betz on right wing. Look for Zack Rassell to take the draws from centre with Patrick Chore and Sean Landrey on either side. With Skylar Pacheco currently an injured scratch, Latrell Charleson will see a regular shift on the blue line paired up with Cody Bardock.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fillion Ready to go with Michigan Tech Huskies

What follows is an excerpt from the Mining Gazette, an online newspaper that covers the Michigan Tech Huskies NCAA Division I hockey program among other things. In this article - Husky Hockey Gets Reinforcements - Prince George Spruce Kings alumni Justin Fillion is featured as he prepares for the potential of playing in his first collegiate hockey game.

January 10, 2012
by Stephen Anderson - DMG Sports Writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

Defenseman Justin Fillion moves the puck during Michigan Tech
hockey practice Monday at MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
(photo by Stephen Anderson)

HOUGHTON - The 2011-12 Michigan Tech hockey team has a problem that the injury-riddled 2010-11 Huskies would have loved to have: too much depth. Consistent playing time has already been tough to come by for some players, but now the addition of junior forward Chad Pietila and freshman defenseman Justin Fillion to the active roster gives Tech 31 healthy players - 18 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders.

"We've got so many guys and they've all handled it well," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "It'll stiffen the competition and competition is good."

But nobody on the Huskies will face as quick of a transition as freshman Justin Fillion, who was originally slated to join the team in the fall with Tech's six other true freshmen.

Complications arose with the departure of most of last year's coaching staff and some academic issues that have since been resolved, and now Fillion faces the unenviable task of joining the team mid-season.

"There was a big kerfuffle ... so it's just one of those things that didn't work out, but I'm here now," Fillion said. "It's a great school, and a great hockey program."

While the Prince George, British Columbia native is a recruit from the previous coaching staff, his style as an offensive defenseman fits well with what Pearson wants on his team.

"He looks good and it looks like he'll add some things that we don't have a lot of on the team, which is puck handling and offensive ability from the back end," Pearson said. "We're happy to have him here - he skates well, thinks the game well and he can put up some numbers."

He totaled 56 points in 62 games during the 2010-11 season, which was split between the Prince George Spruce Kings and Victoria Grizzlies. The 21-year-old freshman tallied 123 points in 178 career games in the BCHL, and he spent last fall working out at home.

"I skated with my local junior-A team back home and hitting the gym every day, and working out in that sense, but it was definitely tough mentally not being here with the guys, but ever since I've been here, all the guys have been welcoming," Fillion said. "It's going to be really tough adjusting. I don't expect to play all that much - I just want to come in here and play my best."

Ultimately, the coaching staff will play the lineup they think will give Tech the best chance to win, but the decision won't be easy entering a key Western Collegiate Hockey Association home series against Alaska Anchorage this weekend.

On a bit of a sour side note, another Spruce Kings alumni that started his junior season with Alaska Anchorage will not be in the lineup for the Seawolves. Wes McLeod, who played with the Spruce Kings for three seasons (2007-2010) and finished out the 2009-10 season with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, is no longer listed on the team's roster with no explanation offered.

Kevin Genoe, another Spruce Kings alumni (2007-2009), is in to his third season with the Michigan Tech Huskies and has seen his numbers improve this year. Sitting with a record of 1-2 in his four games played so far, Genoe has a save percentage of .872 and goals against average of 2.74.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spruce Kings Find Offense For Playoff Push

Now that the BCHL Trade Deadline has come and gone I can tell you what the Spruce Kings did on this day; although there was a reasonable expectation as to what would happen, I can say that the Spruce Kings met their objective and were able to fill the vacancies in the roster. As the day started Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes had an idea of what type of player he was looking for and in the end was quite happy to announce the acquisitions of Jarryd Ten Vaanholt and Zack Rassell to the team.

Through a relatively quiet start to the trade deadline, Hawes stuck to his plan and weighed options and offers and, in his opinion, got the players that take an already good team and make them better. As the Spruce Kings head into the final third of the regular season, it is clear to see that Hawes has his eyes firmly fixed on the post season. In order to get there the Spruce Kings will have a number of key matchups to test their character and fortitude and with a full 21 man roster, the feeling is that the team will rise up to the challenge.

For the Spruce Kings the day started by acquiring Jarryd Ten Vaanholt from the Victoria Grizzlies out of the Coastal Conference of the BCHL. Ten Vaanholt played his first season in the BCHL out of the Interior Division with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks right alongside current scoring leader, Paul De Jersey. From West Vancouver, Ten Vaanholt is a 6' 2" 205lbs twenty year old left handed forward that adds some more size and skill up front. In 38 games he has picked up 41 points (17 goals and 24 assists) to go along with his rookie season record of 22 goals and 28 assists in 58 games.

Before the 6pm inter-league deadline the Spruce Kings had also finalized the deal that brings a 19 year old 6' 1" 192 lbs right handed forward and 3 year vet of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Canmore Eagles. Third among team scoring with 30 points (9 goals and 21 assists), Rassell has a AJHL career record of 20 goals and 57 assists in 123 games played.

After the deals were done, I had a chance to sit down with Mike Hawes and ask him about the players and about the game plan heading into the trade deadline.

download audio file

As Mike Hawes mentioned, Jarryd Ten Vaanholt is already here at the time of this posting and Zack Rassell is expected to be in later on Wednesday. At the earliest convenience I will sit down and talk to both players about the trade and coming to Prince George and joining the Spruce Kings as they push hard to secure and prepare for a playoff spot.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Latrell Charleson Added to Spruce Kings Roster

In Monday's edition of the Prince George Citizen, Sheri Lamb has an excellent article on this past weekend's roster change. I have posted the entire article here and added a picture taken by Les Gagnon of LG Photography to ensure that everybody has a chance to read it. Thanks to Sheri and the Prince George Citizen for your coverage of this and other Spruce Kings related stories ...

Latrell Charleson will stand out on the Prince George Spruce Kings' blueline.

The six-foot-four, 220-pound 16 year old signed with the Kings after competing in his final game Sunday with the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League.

"Last year I learned a lot from my [Hawks] coaches especially playing with a lot of the older guys," said Charleson. "I'm looking forward to jumping up even higher now, playing at a faster pace and learning more."

Charleson led the Hawks defencemen in goals with seven this season and added seven assists in 23 games. He played in three British Columbia Hockey League games with the Kings as an affiliate player, including a pair of wins over the Westside Warriors last week, which extended the team's win streak to four. He also suited up for the Kings in a pre-Christmas game in Chilliwack.

Jesse Leung, Hawks assistant coach, said the team is going to miss the big defenceman.

"You can't replace a player like Latrell," said Leung. "All you've got to do is look at the faces of his teammates to know the impact he has - he's irreplaceable. He'll be missed."

Kings general manager Mike Hawes said it's nice to know Charleson had as good an impact off the ice as he did on it with the Hawks.

"It's good to know that Latrell is going to be missed," said Hawes.

"He did well within the peer group here with his midget team and we expect that he's going to get along well with all our players and be an easy transition for him.

"He's a very physical player and has some great size," added the Kings' GM. "He's going to come in and provide that physical presence for us on the back end. He's young so it's going to be a steep learning curve for him, but he's definitely going to be a good player for us in the next few years."

At the same time the Kings were welcoming Charleson to the fold, they said goodbye to 16-year-old forward Michael Klonarakis.

The rookie parted ways with the Kings after Friday's 5-2 win over the Warriors and will head back to his midget club, Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna to finish the season. In 30 games with the Kings, Klonarakis had one goal, four assists and four penalty minutes.

"It was just a situation where Michael needed some more playing time to get his confidence back up and as we move down to the last one-third of our season here Michael's playing time probably would've been a little bit less," said Hawes. "For his development it's a good fit for him right now."

Klonarakis' departure frees up a second spot at forward and with the BCHL trade deadline on Tuesday, Hawes expects to fill those roster spots soon.

"Yes, there will be some moves before Tuesday for sure," said Hawes. "The phone's been ringing off the hook and I've been communicating with lots of different teams. I definitely anticipate there being some roster moves."

The Kings (19-13-2-3) have an important weekend ahead as they try to catch the Merritt Centennials (21-10-2-5) for second place in the Interior Conference with games in Chilliwack, Penticton and Vernon from Friday to Sunday. Prince George has posted a pair of wins over the Chiefs (19-14-0-2) in their last two trips to Chilliwack, while Penticton leads the league and Vernon is always dangerous.

"Those are the types of challenges I want our group to go through," said Hawes. "It's going to be a really good test for us and a good gage to see where we're at going up against the No. 1 team in the league."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Make That Four in a Row..

The Spruce Kings are officially on a roll as they downed the Warriors 5-2 tonight at the Castle. It was the second win in as many nights over Westside, and a game that featured a lot of similarities to their Thursday match up. There were big hits, lead changes and even a couple of tilts featuring the Spruce Kings top players. But in the end, it was Prince George who would continue to climb up the standings, pushing Westside further down into the basement of the Interior Conference.

It did start out well for the Warriors though, as like last night, they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and were out playing the Kings. Prince George was firing a ton of shots, but many of them were easy saves for Dwayne Rodrigue as the Westside did a good job of boxing out the Kings, allowing their goaltender to see most shots. The First period also featured our two fights for the night, as Michael Colantone dropped the mits with Izaak Berglund. A Colantone slash started the tussle, but neither man landed anything significant, leading to the bout being declared a draw. Minutes later Jujhar Khaira decided he wanted to test his punching power with Max French. This fight was more of a glorified wrestling match as both men grabbed on, attempted to throw, before crashing to the ice. The two fights from Colantone and Khaira were unrealistic, but they seemed to fire up the bench moving forward.

The Spruce Kings used that momentum to their advantage early, as 2 minutes into the second frame Paul De Jersey stick handled his way through the Warriors before dekeing out Rodgrigue to tie the game up. 10 minutes later Ben Matthews helped Prince George take the lead as hr walked in and fired a wrister home on the power play. Paul De Jersey would round out the scoring in the second after tipping a nice feed from Patrick Chore. It was De Jersey's second of the game, and 30th of the season.

The Third period started of great for Prince George, as Leo Fitzgerald snipe a shot top corner to make it 4-1. The highlight of the third period came when Cody Bardock took a shot from the point, that missed everyone, including the goaltender, giving him his first ever BCHL goal. The crowd gave him a nice salute, while Ben Matthews made sure to scoop up the puck for him. The Warriors would add a goal from Marcus Basara, but that is as close as they'd get, and have to head back to Kelowna after dropping two straight in Prince George.

The win gives Prince George 43 points on the season, which is good for 3rd place at the moment. They sit 3 points up on 4th place Chilliwack, but the Chiefs do have three games in hand. They also sit 6 points up on 5th place Vernon, who have two games in hand.

For tonight's box scores, click here

The Spruce Kings are flying high right now, having won their last 4 games. This is a team that can make some real noise going forward, as long as they stick to their game. The big three up front continue to score big goals, and they'll need to continue to do so. The secondary scoring is coming together, as the Fitzgerald are adding points at the right time, while the Defence has scored some big goals lately. The goaltending has been very strong as well, and will need to get even better as they try to get back to the playoffs for the first time in two years. Also don't forget that the trade deadline is on January 10th, and with the Spruce Kings down 2 forwards, they will likely be big players from now, until then. Stay tuned to the blog for all the updates.

The Three Stars:

3) (PG )Leo Fitzgerald – 1 Goal
2) (PG) Cody Bardock – First BCHL Goal
1) (PG) Paul De Jersey – 2 Goals

Next Up:

The Spruce Kings are getting set for a huge three game weekend. Next Friday they will battle Chilliwack. The following night they will travel to Penticton to take on the high flying Vees. Then they will head to Vernon to face off against a team that they are fighting against for the 3rd and 4th playoff spot. Be sure to head to the BCHL website to catch all the action.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The First Win of 2012

The Spruce Kings have come out of the Christmas break flying, including getting their first win of 2012. The game tonight played out at the Coliseum against a feisty Westside Warriors side, one that was in desperate need of a win. Prince George though, needed a win for a different reason, and that reason was to stay in a playoff spot. They did just that, disposing of the Warriors, posting a 4-1 victory in front of the PG faithful.

It didn't start very well for the Spruce Kings though, as they found themselves badly out played in the first 10 minutes of the hockey game. The Warriors struck first as Reid Simmonds walked in and fired a beautiful wrister past Kirk Thompson. The play was opened up after Charleson laid out a big open ice hit, but unfortunately it left the Warriors on an odd man rush, and they capitalized. At this point, Westside was out shooting the Spruce Kings 9-1. It only took 5 minutes though for the Spruce Kings to get out of their funk, as Michael Colantone put home a one timer on the power play. The Warriors powered through the rest of the period, and headed into the intermission up on the shot clock 14-8.

Sean Landrey (18) provided the spark that extinguished both
Dustin Cave (22) and the Westside Warriors on this night.
Photo courtesy Les Gagnon.

The second period was a complete 180 for the Spruce Kings, as they fired chance after chance at Dwayne Rodrigue. This period also saw our one and only tilt on the night as Sean Landrey and Dustin Cave dropped the mits 3 minutes in. The fight started out with both men landing a shot, but Landrey soon got Cave's jersey over his head and landed a couple clean upper cuts that rocked the Warrior defenceman. The two men went crashing to the ice, and that's when it was notice that Landrey did indeed land a few shots on the button, because Cave's nose was broken and bent to the side. After the ice was briefly cleaned, play resumed and we saw the Spruce Kings press the action for most of the second before finally taking their first lead of the game, another power play goal, and another one form Michael Colantone. The goal came with just 10 seconds left in period, and would prove to be a huge momentum grabber going forward.

Three minutes into the third period, Ben Matthews put the icing on the cake with a shot form the point that made it's way by a screened Rodrigue. This game could have been drastically different though had it not been for Kirk Thompson, who was very good between the pipes for Prince George. Our game changing play came at the hands of Thompson, who stoned Max French of a breakaway with about 5 minutes remaining in the game. A goal would have pulled the Warriors within 1 goal, giving them considerable momentum. But the Prince George goaltender was up to the task, and eventually finished with 26 fine saves and a “W”. Colantone would eventually add a fourth goal, and finish off his second hat trick in eight days. The Spruce Kings happily skated away tonight with a 4-1 win over a division rival.

A couple of big points to add about tonight's effort, and both of them involve special teams. The Spruce Kings power play had not been good throughout the first half of the season, as they had the 16th ranked power play coming into tonight. But there is a good chance that after tonight, they will finally be out of the basement as they went 2-4 on the PP. Their penalty kill was just as good, as they killed off all 3 of their penalties tonight. In today's game, Special Teams is often the difference maker, and with all the fire power Prince George has 5 on 5, imagine what kind of team they can be if their power play becomes an effective machine. It should also be noted that Paul De Jersey got an assist tonight, meaning he now has a 17 game point streak going.

The Three Stars:

3) (PG) Chase Golightly – 1 Assist
2) (PG) Kirk Thompson – 26 Saves in the Win
1) (PG) Michael Colantone – 3 Goals 1 Assist

Next Up:

These two teams will do it all over again tomorrow night at the Castle. Puck will drop once again at 7pm, but as always if you can't make the trip, you can always listen to the FREE audio broadcast here

It Begins Tonight...

It's a new year, and it's time for the Spruce Kings to take control of their own destiny. With a 2 point lead over Vernon in the standings, and 1 point back of the Chilliwack Chiefs, beating division rivals has never become more important. Prince George has missed the playoffs the past two years, and with the new playoff format, this year isn't going to be any easier for them. But if they up their game, even just a pinch, they can make a splash going forward and maybe, just maybe they can bring themselves and their fans back into the post season. They can start that up hill climb to the promise land with two huge wins tonight and tomorrow as they will host the Westside Warriors. Westside skates into January after a rough last couple of months, having only nabbed 3 wins in the month of December.

One of those wins though, came at the hands of the Spruce Kings, as they marched into the Castle and stole a “W” away. The very next night Prince George was able to settle the score before the teams played to a draw in Westside the next weekend. Including the game between these two in October, Westside actually leads the season series with a record of 2-1-1. They will play 3 more times this season, with two of those games being played at the Castle this weekend.

As mentioned above, the Spruce Kings control their own destiny from here on out, as they currently sit in a playoff spot. So with that in mind, they need not worry about what other teams are doing, they just need to win. Watching the scoreboard for Chilliwack and Vernon scores isn't going to help their cause, but winning will. This two game home stand against Westside will be a big tell for how the rest of the season could play out for Prince George. Taking nothing away from Westside, but these are two games the Spruce Kings need and should win. When you host a team, you usually become the favourite to win, but when you host a team that is below you in the standings, you are expected to win. Now that is not meant to take anything away from the Warriors as they are a very talented team who could turn it on at any given moment, and most likely will before the end of this season. Every team and player is in this league for a reason, and can win on any given night. But if you are the Spruce Kings, and are looking to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, you need to win the games you are “suppose” to, and that starts with tonight.

Who's Hot?:

The Spruce Kings top line continues to score big goals, and score them often. Colantone and Khaira have moved into the top ten in scoring as De Jersey continues to lead all scorers. But it's Jujhar Khaira who is getting the most praise at the moment as he was honoured with the “player of the week” this past week. Colantone also received an honourable mention as he had a hat trick in last week's game versus Chilliwack. Not to be out done though, the BCHL's leading scorer Paul De Jersey is currently riding a 16 game point streak.

For the Westside Warriors, Connor Dempsey is leading the charge, having notched 35 points so far this season. Dempsey had the tying goal in the Warriors last game, as his team eventually won it in overtime over the Centennials.

Game Time:

Kirk Thompson will get the start tonight, as both teams will be playing for the first time in 2012. The puck drops at 7pm at The Coliseum, with tomorrow night’s game happening at the same time and place. If you can't make it to the Castle tonight, you can listen to the game for FREE here. If you would like to watch the web cast, you can do so here. We hope to see you there, as the Spruce Kings march towards a return to the playoffs begins tonight

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Countdown to the Trade Deadline

It can be the toughest time of the year or it can be the best time of the year. I'm talking of the player trade deadline that every team and really every player must consider in their season. As always, the trade deadline across Canada falls on January 10th and with teams just getting back to business after the Christmas break. The first order of business is for teams to identify deficiencies and potential assets in their own lineup and in other teams.

Already you can hear the phones ringing a little more often and pickup that the conversations are a little more serious. On Tuesday afternoon I sat down with the Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes to discuss the upcoming trade deadline and how he sees it shaping up for the Spruce Kings. I did have to wait through a couple of phone calls that did fit inside the category of trade talks.

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