Building on the success of last season won't be an easy task for Spruce Kings General Manager Mike Hawes, but it is a challenge that he is looking forward to. This past season saw the Spruce Kings enjoying success both on and off the ice. The team maintained a top four positioning in the Interior Division throughout the year and saw a number of players find personal success as well.
From scholarships and individual league awards to a NHL Draft pick, there are many highlights to the 2011-12 season. As a team, the fondest memory may be of the March 10, 2012 game played in front of a sold out crowd in the Coliseum. On this night the Spruce Kings did what so many before could not do - end the Penticton Vees epic winning streak that spanned the previous 42 games. That one win became the exclamation mark on a season that brought back the passion of the game to the hockey fans of Prince George.
|Spruce Kings celebrated a 5-2 win over the Penticton Vees|
on March 10, 2012 in front of a sold out Coliseum
(photo courtesy LG Photography)
When the season started there wasn't huge expectations but rather a lot of hope and wishful thinking. As the season wore on and the wins continued to be tallied up, the Spruce Kings fans became a lot more vocal and started rallying behind their team. The excitement and anticipation of a game could be felt all over the city. Appreciation of the hard working lunch bucket ethic could be heard in the appreciative sounds of fans sitting on the edge of their seats in the friendly confines of the Coliseum.
Only one player had a NCAA Division I scholarship when the season started and that was Jujhar Khaira who had committed to Michigan Tech for the 2012-13 season when he was just a sixteen year rookie. As the season progressed others started getting their calls to collegiate hockey starting with Khaira's linemates - Paul De Jersey (Providence College 2012-13) and Michael Colantone (University of Massachusetts-Lowell 2012-13).
After the season came to an end on the ice, three more players committed to NCAA hockey programs for the 2012-13 season including Chase Golightly (Robert Morris University) who still had a year of eligibility with the Spruce Kings. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt went with Elmira College and Ben Matthews to the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
The turnaround on the ice led to some noteable achievements off the ice. Perhaps none more significant than the BCHL scoring title being won by the stellar if not shocking offensive numbers put up by Paul De Jersey. Maintaining well over a point a game average after kicking around the BCHL in previous years also led De Jersey being named the Interior Conference MVP.
The Spruce Kings had four players in the top 20 among the League leading scorers led by De Jersey (41G, 57A, 98Pts). Jujhar Khaira was the top 17 year old player and 10th overall in the League with 79 points (29G, 50A). Michael Colantone was only a few spots behind at 14th with 74 points (33G, 41A). Rounding out the top twenty was Jarryd Ten Vaanholt (31G, 36A, 67Pts).
Of course the highlight for personal achievement had to be the third round selection of Jujhar Khaira by the Edmonton Oilers as the 63rd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Khaira becomes the second Spruce Kings player to be drafted directly from the club after Brad Fast held the honour from 1999 when he was selected 84th overall in the 3rd round by the Carolina Hurricanes.
So who now will fill those vacancies and lead the Spruce Kings offensively, defensively and even off the ice during the 2012-13 season? That is a question that only a full season can answer but one thing is for sure, there are a number of candidates already preparing to make an impact while wearing the crown. Their first chance comes up at the August during the team's main camp that runs August 24-26th at the Coliseum.