Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clean Sweep

The Prince George Spruce Kings headed out on the road for three games this weekend starting with a double header in Trail and then a Sunday afternoon game in Salmon Arm. Before the first puck dropped the Spruce Kings knew they were five points back of the Merritt Centennials for 2nd place in the Interior Division with two games in hand. When the final buzzer sounded, the Spruce Kings had completed the weekend sweep playing both of their games in hand on Merritt and taking over second place in the Interior Division.

Gerry Fitzgerald scored two game winners and set up the third
as the Spruce Kings swept their weekend set

The weekend started out in Trail against the Smoke Eaters. Zack Rassell had the Spruce Kings on the board first; the Smoke Eaters were able to tie it up before the end of the first but that would be as close as they would come. Gerry Fitzgerald scored the eventual game winning goal 47 seconds into the second period. Jujhar Khaira scored both of Prince George's goals in the third period including an empty netter to get the Spruce Kings a 4-1 win.

On night number two and with the Merritt Centennials sitting idle scoreboard watching, the Trail Smoke Eaters opened the scoring on the powerplay. It would take almost five minutes before the Spruce Kings would tie it up, but they did exactly that with Gerry Fitzgerald's first of two in the opening period at the 9:00 mark. Myles Fitzgerald gave the Spruce Kings the lead with an unassisted tally at 13:12 and Gerry Fitzgerald scored the game winner at 17:49.

The Trail Smoke Eaters would not go away and would not let the Spruce Kings nurse their lead. After a scoreless second period, the Smokies scored a short handed tally in the first minute of the third period. Jujhar Khaira answered that goal back to re-establish the two goal lead and the eventual 4-2 win for the sweep of the double header in Trail.

After the game, the Spruce Kings hit the road for Vernon getting in just after 3 in the morning. With a long bus ride behind them, the players got as much sleep as they could before heading to Salmon Arm for their third game in as many days. Over the years in the BCHL, three game road trips are not uncommon for the Spruce Kings but coming home with a winning record is. In their 17 season history in the premiere junior league in Canada, the Spruce Kings have brought home 5 points out of a possible 6 only twice before - in 2004 and 2006.

The Spruce Kings wouldn't start writing their own history until after they found themselves down 1-0 at 6:47 of the first period. Sixteen seconds later the player that wears jersey 16 for Prince George led his team's top line down the ice and completed the play that tied the game at 1. Jujhar Khaira scored his 27th goal of the season with assists to Paul De Jersey and Michael Colantone. Less than a minute later a pair of former Silverbacks combined to give the Spruce Kings a lead they would not relinquish when Jarryd Ten Vaanholt scored the first of his three on the night off a Paul De Jersey rebound.

Before the first period was done the Fitzgerald triplets put themselves on the score sheet with the goal that would stand up as the game winner from Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald. It was more of the same in the second period as the Spruce Kings converted on back to back powerplay chances to open a 5-1 lead on goals from Paul De Jersey and Gerry Fitzgerald. For De Jersey the goal was his BCHL leading 40th of the season. Myles Fitzgerald would complete the Fitzgerald hat trick as all three brothers scored in the game, Myles goal coming at 9:55 of the second period. That gave the Spruce Kings a 6-1 lead after two periods of play.

Jarryd Ten Vaanholt ended a goal scoring lull that lasted over 13 minutes when he scored an unassisted goal at 3:08 of the third period and would complete the hat trick for himself with his third of the night at 7:56. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who had opened the scoring, would also score the game's last goal but that would be as close as they would come.

The Spruce Kings 8-2 win, their fifth in a row and their 27th on the season, propelled the team past the Merritt centennials in to second place in the Interior Division with 60 points (27-17-2.4). The Spruce Kings, with ten games remaining in the regular season, return home for a pair this weekend against the Chilliwack Chiefs Friday night and the Nanaimo Clippers Saturday night. Both games are expected to be well attended with the game Saturday expected to draw the largest crowd the Coliseum has seen in recent years.

The BCHL Championship trophy, the Fred Page Cup, will be on display at the Coliseum for both games and on Saturday night there will be a chance for two fans to win a pickup truck each in a promotion put on by Save On Foods, Northland Dodge and Hub International. For more information, contact the Spruce Kings office at 250.564.1747.

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