Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Preseason Game #1

Liam McLeod gets a little breather in his first
BCHL preseason game and first BCHL preseason win

The Prince George Spruce Kings opened up their preseason schedule with a 2-1 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday night in Chase, BC. The two teams started their preseason schedule by driving some eight hours each to meet in a central location for a pair of games. The first one on Tuesday night and a second one Wednesday night at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase, BC ... home to the Chase Heat of the KIJHL.

Following the team's training camp, the Spruce Kings preseason roster was cut down to 28 players with twenty getting the nod for Tuesday night's game. All of the young prospects were a given their first taste of hockey in the BCHL and didn't disappoint with the chance to leave an impression. (preseason roster at the end of this post)

Early in the contest the Spruce Kings were generating offensive zone chances and getting the puck to the net but it would be the Trail Smoke Eaters that opened the scoring at 5:47 when Brent Baltus converted on an odd man rush that was started by his teammate Scott Davidson. After getting the pass from Davidson, Baltus found the sweet spot above the right arm of Liam McLeod.

As the game played out that would be the only blemish on the 16 year old's debut in his BCHL preseason debut. In fact as the game went on, Liam McLeod looked to be gaining confidence, playing with poise and focus. In the early goings of the game, McLeod wasn't tested much as the team kept the puck on the opposite side of center much of the time and were finally rewarded for their work.

At 14:26 of the first period the Trail Smoke Eaters found themselves down a man when Dan Holland was called for holding in the offensive zone. Less than a minute later Kody Disher's hard work at the side of the net looking for a loose puck resulted in another Smokie penalty when Wayland Williams was called for roughing for a tackle on Disher.

That penalty gave the Spruce Kings a 1:13 to work with on the two man advantage. Early on in the power play Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley tried to convert on a cross crease pass only to have Lyndon Stanwood come across and rob Staley of a sure goal with a kick safe. On the next shift it was Bryant Christian that got the play started from the left corner carrying the puck behind the net before getting it to Spencer Schoech. Once Schoech had the puck he made no mistake getting it to Kody Disher in front who was able to tap home the tying goal at 15:51.

Not for a lack of trying but that would be it for the goal scoring in the first period and also in the second period despite the number of shots and chances being created. After the first period of play the Spruce Kings led on the shot clock 21-10 and at the mid way mark of the second period when Trail opted to change out netminders, the shots were still well in favour of Prince George 27-14. The total shots after two periods were 31-17 Prince George but the score remained tied at a goal a-piece.

For much of the third period not much changed until the late stages of the game. While on a power play with about 5 minutes remaining, the Smoke Eaters were that close to taking back the lead with Bryce Knapp standing on the top of the crease with a wide open net. Liam McLeod was able to swing around and coral the puck with his left hand and keep the score tied ... easily the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game.

The save of the game by the sixteen year old sparked the Spruce Kings and just as the broadcast crew was contemplating what would happen if the game remained tied through sixty minutes, the Spruce Kings turned something out of nothing. With the top line on the ice, Chad Staley and Alec Butcher both had a couple of chances at a loose puck in skates that was too far away for Boeckman to grab and was also too much of a hot potatoe for the Trail Smoke Eaters defenders to get a stick on and clear.

Jeremiah Luedtke was finally the person to find the puck and got two chances at stuffing it in the net which is where it finally ended up giving the Spruce Kings their first lead of the game with 1:22 remaining in the third period. On the next rush up the ice by the Smoke Eaters they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker but just couldn't find the equalizer although their best chance came after a Spruce Kings miss on the empty net.

One thing players learn and learn quickly about the BCHL is that everything happens a little faster. Just when you think you have lots of time and space, someone from the opposition is on you and taking the puck away. That is basically what happened to Liam Board when he found himself staring down an empty net while cruising through the neutral zone with the puck. Opting to go in for the sure insurance marker, Board was caught from the side and had the puck checked off his stick into the corner, allowing the Smokies to head up the ice the other direction.

Unfortunately for Trail, time would run out on their night allowing the Spruce Kings to lay claim to their first win of the preseason. At the end of the game Trevor Esau was seen collecting the puck presumably to give to Liam McLeod to commemorate his first win in the BCHL. The rookie goaltender ended up making 23 of 24 saves for the win while the team in front of him scored twice on the 39 shots they had on goal.

The Spruce Kings will practice tomorrow morning at the arena before playing the Trail Smoke Eaters in a preseason rematch at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase. Game time is scheduled for 7:00pm and is expected to be broadcasted on the Spruce Kings Ustream channel.

It should be noted that there were some technical issues with the broadcast on Tuesday, the biggest being the lack of internet to allow for two broadcasts of the game. Instead Ron Gallo and Chris Wahl of the Trail Smoke Eaters shared the duties on a tandem broadcast. It is not known at this time if the internet issue or any of the other technical issues can be resolved prior to the drop of the puck but here's hoping as the broadcasters need the preseason tuneup as well as the players.

Preseason Roster

G - Liam McLeod (96)
G - Kirk Thompson (92)
D - Keith Bendall (94)
D - Latrell Charleson (95)
D - Robson Cramer (94)
D - Mitch Eden (94)
D - Trevor Esau (92)
D - David London (93)
D - Skylar Pacehco (94)
D - Brad Ryan (92)
D - Spencer Schoech (93)
D - Karan Toor (94)
F - Liam Board (93)
F - Alec Butcher (94)
F - Bryant Christian (93)
F - Kody Disher (95)
F - Tanner Fjellstrom (94)
F - Coltyn Hansen (92)
F - Kirk Hards (95)
F - Ryan Keis (94)
F - Sean Landrey (93)
F - Cam Lawson (93)
F - Jake LeBrun (95)
F - Jeremiah Luedtke (94)
F - Lyndon Martell (93)
F - Rourke O'Briain (95)
F - Chad Staley (94)
F - Tyson Witala (93)

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