Thursday, January 19, 2012

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.

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