Saturday, September 1, 2012

Inter-League Preseason Loss

Jake LeBrun (on the ice behind the Storm goalie) was causing
all kinds of grieve for Grande Prairie on Friday night

It didn't go according to plan for the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday night when they made the hop over to the Alberta Junior Hockey League, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Grande Prairie Storm in the first half of a home-and-home series. The Spruce Kings started out strong getting a number of shots and at least twice as many scoring chances than their opponents, but a three minute lapse in the first period was just too much to overcome on this night.

With Liam McLeod getting his second preseason start after collecting the win on a 2-1 score Tuesday night, the Spruce Kings may have been guilty of leaving too much for the youngster to take care of himself. With an early flurry, the Spruce Kings looked to have picked up where they left off on Wednesday night when they skated away with a 4-0 win.

The Spruce Kings got early scoring chances and even had Liam McLeod make an early spectacular save that kept the game scoreless. Unfortunately that wouldn't last as the Storm opened the scoring at 8:31 on a nice shot by Marc Drapeau that finished off a two on one play setup by Jeremy Barriault and Dylan Thudium.

The Spruce Kings then took a penalty shortly after putting their perfect penalty kill record to the test. That perfection would only last a minute when Jeremy Barriault stepped into a shot from the high slot and found a deflection on the way to the net to make it a 2-0 game in favour of the Alberta hosts. One play after the goal was scored, the team's were given their one minute League timeout which the Spruce Kings used to try and settle everybody down.

The plan didn't work when again Marc Drapeau was sent in on a pass from Gus Correale to make it a 3-0 game at the 12:06 mark of the opening period. The Spruce Kings would try to rally after this goal and had a few chances offensively and defensively they were able to come back and allow McLeod to get a feel for the puck again.

Mitch Eden then started to carry the play for the visitors and was seen heading up the ice leading a rush a couple of times trying to get something going for the Spruce Kings on the score board. On one particular rush, Eden carried the puck from his own zone along the left boards and after gaining the Storm zone, cut hard to the net. He was able to execute the toe drag taking the defenceman out of the play. The ensuing back hand attempt was stopped but not corralled by the Storm goaltender allowing Liam Board to lift his first of the preseason into the back of the net.

The first period would end with the Spruce Kings trailing 3-1 on the score board but leading on the shot clock by a 9-8 margin. In the second period Drapeau was able to complete his hat trick at 4:58 again setup by Prince George hockey product, Gus Correale. Five minutes later it was Sean Landrey's turn to make things happen with a play that he started with a bit of a cross check to knock his man off the puck.

Landrey was seen looking back at the referee who let the play continue so Landrey took the puck up to the right point and then across the middle before being hooked down and finally the referee's arm came up signally a Storm penalty. Still with possession of the puck, Landrey was able to get it over to Karan Toor on the left point who stepped into a bullet of a shot that rang off the iron and fell into the back of the net.

That made it a 4-2 game at 10:48 of the second period but that was as close as the Spruce Kings would be held off the scoresheet the rest of the way by a goaltender with ties to Prince George. David Readman came in for the second half of the game after the Toor goal and only faced 7 shots the rest of the way. A result of some Spruce Kings misses and lots of blocked shots by Storm players.

Despite the loss, the Spruce Kings carried the majority of the play and had the better of the chances throughout the game. They never quit right to the end and one player in particular shone throughout the game. Jake LeBrun who was celebrating his 17th birthday was arguably the best player on the ice for the Spruce Kings. He worked hard down low and drew at least a couple of powerplay chances by just going hard to the net.

The Spruce Kings will now play their final preseason game and they'll play it at home after being in Chase on Tuesday and Wednesday and also in Grande Prairie for the Friday night game. The Storm will roll into the Castle for the 7:00pm game. Admission for the game is $5 per person at the door only. The game is expected to be available on as the new system for delivery of the games on the internet is put to work.

Due to a few bumps and bruises, Kirk Hards will work himself back into the lineup and Spencer Schoech who is listed as a defenceman will again play the wing up front for the Spruce Kings. Kirk Thompson is expected to get the start in net for Prince George while it is expected that David Readman will get the start for the Grande Prairie Storm and will be in until the midway mark of the second period.

Following the game, the Spruce Kings management and coaching team will have the tough task of making the final two cuts to the 24 man roster that the team is down to now. That decision is being made more difficult by the play of a number of the younger players. BCHL rules regarding roster sizes and limits state that the teams must be down to a 22 man roster for the start of the regular season.

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