|Spruce Kings celebrate a 5-2 win over the Vernon Vipers|
The Prince George Spruce Kings started their three game roadtrip on the right foot with a big 5-2 win over the Vernon Vipers on Friday night. A pair of goals from Cam Lawson and singles from Sean Landrey, Brad Ryan and Lyndon Martell weren't even the story in this one as the defence shone and the powerplay came to life.
Before the game coach Dave Dupas said that his squad would have to find a way of containing the Vipers speed and take away their chances. The players got that message loud and clear and delivered with a solid effort that was put to the test early in the first period when the Spruce Kings ran into penalty trouble.
The first of three consecutive powerplays for Vernon came after Colton Sparrow just missed Skylar Pacheco with a hit. Latrell Charleson didn't like the intent he saw in the missed hit and immediately dropped the gloves to go with Sparrow. Charleson drew a two minute minor for being the instigator, five minutes for fighting and another ten minute misconduct for his efforts.
The Spruce Kings didn't let the Vipers set up in their zone and held the home team to a single shot on goal. The Vipers didn't go away and kept pressing, looking for any chance to opening the scoring including a few bank shot attempts from behind the net. Kirk Thompson had to be sharp to find loose pucks in the crease and keep the game scoreless robbing Adam Tambellini a couple of times in the opening period.
The Vipers would get a second powerplay chance when Brad Ryan was called for a high stick. Again the Vipers had some trouble setting up as the Spruce Kings blocked a number of shots. This would continue into a third powerplay opportunity with Tyson Witala called for a slash.
After killing off three consecutive penalties, the Spruce Kings seemed to settle down and started getting chances of their own. The best chance to open the scoring had to come off the Coltyn Hansen breakaway through the middle. As he went in on the goaltender he was caught from behind and brought down by Brett Corkey resulting in a penalty shot for Hansen.
The penalty shot didn't go well for Hansen who had the puck bobble on him just as he was about to pull it to his backhand. The fluttering puck forced Hansen to take the shot from an awkward angle and also gave Austin Smith enough time to get his left leg down to make the save and preserve the scoreless tie. Although the Spruce Kings were able to get back on even terms on the shot clock (11-11), the first period ended with goose eggs on the board.
To start the second period the Vernon Vipers came at the Spruce Kings hard and after about forty seconds of sustained pressure and a few shots the Spruce Kings were able to clear the zone. The problem being that the puck didn't go deep allowing Ryan Renz to feed TJ Dumonceaux who went in the offensive zone and let a hard shot go that beat Thompson low to the blocker side.
The Spruce Kings didn't give up the game plan and stuck with it getting a few chances of their own and finally a powerplay to work with at 4:59 of the second period. On the powerplay Brad Ryan and Mitch Eden worked the points for over 1:40 each and were able to keep the puck in the attacking zone almost that whole time for Liam Board, Coltyn Hansen and Cam Lawson to work with. After getting the puck in the slot from Board, Lawson eyed the top corner and sniped the tying goal one second after the penalty expired.
The Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game would come a little over seven minutes later when Brad Ryan was able to keep the puck in the Vipers zone. Spotting a defender without his stick, Ryan got the puck to Sean Landrey who was able to walk into the danger zone and beat Smith for his first of the season. This goal just seemed to turn the tides and spelled the end of the Vipers as they started losing their composure and started taking penalties.
Including the initial penalty at 4:59, the Vipers took a total of six straight penalties. At 18:12 Michael Roberts was called for a high stick and 43 seconds later the puck was being fished out of the back of the net following another laser beam shot from Brad Ryan just above the left side faceoff circle. To make matters worse for the Vipers, the goal came with another penalty in the works for the home team leaving the Spruce Kings on the powerplay to end the second period and start the third with.
The Spruce Kings did cash in on this one but just as it was expiring the Vipers Kevin Guiltinan was called for a blow to the head. Cam Lawson came back out on the powerplay and a minute later had his second of the game and fourth of the season with a helper to Mitch Eden and Brad Ryan.
The Vernon Vipers parade to the penalty box wasn't done there as they would take back to back penalties giving the Spruce Kings a 1:40 to work with on a two man advantage. This time it would Lyndon Martell finding the twine in the top corner on a sharp angle shot that was in and out quickly. The referee was in the right place at the right time to see Martell's third of the season and the Spruce Kings found themselves up 5-1 at this point.
They seemed to roll after that and still managed to get 19 shots in the third period on Smith to finish the game with 46 in total. The Vipers managed eight shots in the final period and were able to beat Thompson on one at 16:39 but that was as close as they would come on this night. Defensively the team was sound blocking shots, taking away chances, clearing loose pucks and keeping the top guys off the scoresheet.
Brad Ryan (1G, 3A) was named the game's first star with his biggest night since coming west to play for the Spruce Kings. Cam Lawson's two goal performance earned him second star honours while the defensive presence coupled with three assists earned Mitch Eden the nod for third star and DQ Player of the Game. Kirk Thompson was named the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game on the broadcast with his strong performance especially early on when the game was up for grabs
The Spruce Kings won't see the Vernon Vipers again now until March 1st when they come to the Castle for their one and only time this season. The win along with a Coquitlam Express loss on Friday night sees the Spruce Kings take over sole possession of top spot in the Mainland Division with a record of 4-0-1-1. The Spruce Kings next game is Saturday night at 7:30pm against the Merritt Centennials in the Nicola Valley Arena. On Friday night, the Centennials defeated the Langley Rivermen 2-1.
The game Saturday night will mark the final time this season that the Spruce Kings and the Centennials will see each other. In the season opener for both teams, the Spruce Kings defeated Merritt 4-1 and one week ago in Prince George, the Spruce Kings had to come from behind to force overtime in a game that finished in a 2-2 tie.