Friday, September 14, 2012

Hawes Keeps Spruce Kings Worthy

The following article was written by Jason Peters and appeared in the Prince George Citizen on Friday September 14, 2012. Please note that anything appearing in brackets has been added by Ron Gallo and does not appear in the Citizen article.

It's time to throw a little praise at Mike Hawes, general manager of the Prince George Spruce Kings. The (Spruce) Kings are off to a 2-0 start in the B.C. Hockey League and will look to go 3-0 when they play their home-opening game tonight at the Coliseum against the Trail Smoke Eaters. Hawes appears to have assembled a club that will score a pile of goals and win a lot of games this season, impressive considering that the team's top 10 point-getters from last season are gone.

That's right, the top ten from 2011-12 are no longer with the club.

Paul De Jersey, Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone - No. 1, 2 and 3 in team scoring last season - are all playing NCAA Division I hockey this year. Jarryd Ten Vaanholt, fourth on the points list in 2011-12, is skating in Division III of the NCAA and, like Colantone, would have been too old for the junior game this year. Defenceman Ben Woodley, fifth in (Spruce) Kings point production last season, has also aged out of junior hockey. Another blueliner, Chase Golightly, had one more year of junior eligibility left but has also moved on to the NCAA Division I level.

Then there are the triplets - Myles, Gerry and Leo Fitzgerald. They could have been in Spruce Kings colours as 20-year-olds this season but asked for a trade so they could be closer to their hometown of Port Alberni. The Fitzgeralds, who formed a dynamic second line for the (Spruce) Kings last year, are now doing their damage for the Victoria Grizzlies.

The 10th man on last season's scoring list, defenceman and captain Ben Matthews, is now a 21-year-old playing for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. With the mass exodus, Hawes had to do a complete rebuild on the (Spruce) Kings.

Specifically with the Fitzgeralds - knowing how many players he was already going to lose - Hawes must have had a minor panic attack when they approached him with their trade request. But the GM managed to engineer a deal that benefited the triplets and the team.

In the transaction with the Grizzlies, Hawes brought 19-year-olds Coltyn Hansen and Cam Lawson north and they have meshed beautifully with P.G. minor hockey product and former WHLer Lyndon Martell on the top line. Through two games - a 4-1 win against Merritt and a 6-5 overtime decision against Langley - Hansen , Lawson and Martell have combined for 11 points.

Defenceman David London was also part of the (Spruce) Kings-Grizzlies trade but is recovering from a broken collarbone and is still waiting to make his regular-season debut.

Other impact newcomers added by Hawes include (20-year-old defenceman Brad Ryan,) 19-year-old forward Liam Board and 17-year-old blueliner Mitch Eden, (all three) from Ontario. Gone, it seems, are the days when players didn't want to skate for the (Spruce) Kings and that say a lot about the new and positive culture that has been fostered by Hawes and head coach Dave Dupas.

Hawes also hasn't been shy about dipping into the local talent pool. Along with Martell, he has P.G. minor hockey products Tyson Witala, Sean Landrey, Jake LeBrun and Tanner Fjellstrom in uniform, not to mention Quesnel boy Ryan Keis. In past years, junior hockey teams in this town were often guilty of overlooking local players because, well, somebody from outside city limits had to be better. Credit to Hawes for getting out of that mindset and utilizing homegrown skill, much of which has come through the Cariboo Cougars major midget program.

fans of the (Spruce) Kings have reason to be excited. They may need some time to figure out who's who in the home jerseys, but they'll have an entertaining and highly-skilled club to watch.

If they see Hawes wandering around the building between periods, they should give him a pat on the back.

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