Friday, September 14, 2012

Smoke Eaters hand Spruce Kings first loss

Spruce Kings came that close a number of times,
but close didn't count on this night

The Prince George Spruce Kings were unable to make a two-goal lead after 40 minutes stick on Friday night at the Coliseum, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Trail captain Garrett McMullen scored the winner 3:56 into the first overtime period, his bouncing shot from the high slot beating Prince George rookie goaltender Liam McLeod. McMullen, who also opened the scoring for Trail, knocked down a clearing attempt by Bryant Christian at the blue-line and bounced one through traffic and into the back of the next as the Smoke Eaters snapped a two-game season-opening losing streak.

The Spruce Kings led 3-1 after two periods and had a great chance to put Trail away with a series of power plays late in the second and early in the third. Despite having a two-man advantage for over two minutes, the Spruce Kings were unable to solve Trail goalie Lyndon Stanwood and the Smoke Eaters made them pay.

Tanner Clarkson was johnny on the spot when a puck took an odd bounce in the Spruce Kings' end and fired the puck into an open net at 2:35 of the third to make it a one-goal game. Shane Poulson's seeing-eye shot from the blue-line evened the score at 12:03.

The Spruce Kings had a glorious chance to take the lead back late in the third when Trail was whistled for too many men with less than three minutes to play, but the Prince George power play came up empty for the eighth time in as many attempts.

Prince George did strike first as Christian opened the scoring at 15:25 of the first period, banging a wrap-around past Stanwood. The Spruce Kings extended their lead with a buzzer-beater at the very end of the first period. Cam Lawson converted a pass from Coltyn Hansen at 19:59 of the first, beating the horn by a fraction of a second.

The Spruce Kings were unable to carry that momentum into the second as Trail came out strong and McMullen cut into the lead with his first of the game at 6:49. Exactly one minute later rookie Justin Rai, who was called up due to some injuries the Spruce Kings were suffering, scored his first BCHL goal to restore the two-goal advantage.

Rai was one of the better players for the Spruce Kings and didn't look out of place in his debut.

Stanwood made 25 saves to notch his first win of the year, while McLeod made 20 stops.

McLeod left the game briefly with an injury in the third period — Kirk Thompson relieved him for all of 39 seconds, but did not face a shot.

Prince George got a point for the overtime loss and sit in second place in the BCHL's Mainland Division with five points (2-0-0-1), one behind division-leading Coquitlam. Surrey has four points and Langley and Chilliwack have three apiece. All the teams have played three games.

The Spruce Kings are back on home ice again on Saturday night when they host Penticton (3-0-0-0) at the Castle.

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