Sunday, October 7, 2012

Buzzer Beater Stings Spruce Kings

Kirk Thompson (1) talks to Liam McLeod (35)
during a timeout in the game against Langley

In the return to the Langley Events Centre the Spruce Kings came up .3 of a second from picking up any points suffering a 4-3 loss in regulation time to the Langley Rivermen. The game was played on Thanksgiving afternoon, the third game in as many days and the second in a row against the Rivermen.

After allowing three goals in the third period on Saturday night, the Spruce Kings found themselves in the same hole in the first period Sunday afternoon. Going with Liam McLeod between the pipes wasn't a bad decision as the youngster has earned his time between the pipes for the Spruce Kings, but a trio of unfortunate goals made it a short outing for the rookie.

The Rivermen picked up where they left off on Saturday night, coming hard at the Spruce Kings. Early on the visitors seemed to be okay, playing defensively good positional hockey and forcing their opponents to take low percentage shots while making sure their netminder could see the puck.

Coming up with three big glove saves, Liam McLeod was seen with a big smile on his face, but an unfortunate bounce on the very next play would take that smile away and change the complexion of the game. The faceoff would come to the left of the goaltender, Langley would win the draw back to the defenceman on the right point.

Logan Smith fired the point shot in on goal, McLeod made the initial save and as the bodies moved across the top of the crease the puck would come loose. Trevor Cope poked it through the top of the crease sliding it past McLeod where it deflected off the inside of Brad Ryan's skate and into the net. The Rivermen were credited with a fifth shot on goal and a 1-0 lead 2:01 into the first period.

To try and find some chemistry, the Spruce Kings had changed up some of the lines heading into the game. As luck would have it, a miscommunication at the Spruce Kings bench would lead to an extra player on the ice and a bench minor for too many men. The Langley Rivermen would make short order of the man advantage and open a 2-0 lead at 6:16, just 13 seconds after the powerplay started.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Jakob Reichert would work the puck back to the right point for Logan Smith. Again the point man would take a big shot on goal and again McLeod would come up with the save while looking around the screen setup in front. The puck bounced off the netminder landing on Matt Ustaski's stick who wasted no time putting it back into McLeod finding the five hole in the process.

The Spruce Kings called a time out to settle down the troops and it looked like it may have worked with Tyson Witala finding Coltyn Hansen in the middle sending the Spruce Kings leading scorer in on a break away. Logan Smith upended Hansen leading to a penalty shot opportunity.

Hansen picked up the puck at centre ice and carried it in on Hogg and try to pull it away from the goaltender only to have slip off the stick. Hogg got a piece of it before Hansen could recover and even though the puck went into the net the score remained 2-0 in favour of the Langley Rivermen.

The Spruce Kings would get more chances starting with a powerplay when Ustaski was called for charging. The man advantage turned into a two man advantage when Jeremiah Luedtke was caught with a high stick sending Troy Nitsche to the penalty box with a double minor. The two man advantage would be a short one of only 19 seconds with the Spruce Kings getting two shots through on Hogg before the first penalty expired.

The Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game on Saturday night came at the 39 second mark of the third period when Austin Azurdia picked up a puck and broke in all alone while shorthanded. On this night that moment would contain many of the same elements being Azurdia and shorthanded goal as a result of an aggressive penalty kill leading to a break down the ice.

After a Mitch Eden shot from the high slot and a Brad Ryan shot from the top of the faceoff circle, the Rivermen recovered the puck getting it to Austin Azurdia as he moved through the middle of the ice. Azurdia was able to gain the Spruce Kings zone with only one man back. Eden did a good job of taking away the far side of the net, but Azurdia saw just enough daylight on the short side and whistled his fifth of the season past McLeod from the faceoff dot.

The goal put the Spruce Kings down 3-0 with the Rivermen's eleventh shot on McLeod spelling the end of netminder's third start in the BCHL. The Spruce Kings still had 3:30 to work with on the double minor and would end up with yet another two man advantage after Trevor Esau was slashed. The Spruce Kings would work the puck around the Rivermen zone for a full thirty seconds without a shot before the whistle.

It would take a little more patience but finally the Spruce Kings would be able to tee one up and get a shot through on Darren Hogg. From the corner Bryant Christian was able to win a puck battle along the boards getting the puck to Mitch Eden on the top of the right side faceoff circle. Faking the shot and then dishing off to Brad Ryan on the left faceoff circle, the play saw Hogg slide too far off the back post giving Ryan the room he needed for his third of the season.

The goal came at 14:59 of the first period with 37 seconds still remaining in the two man advantage. Unfortunately the Spruce Kings would not get another shot on goal and neither would the Rivermen with both teams finishing the first period with 11 shots each. The second period was more of the same defensive battle with teams struggling for shots early in the period.

In that second period, the Spruce Kings looked to have cut the lead to one with a shot from Tyson Witala that turned on the goal light but left the referee signalling no goal. Collecting a pass from Justin Rai off the boards, Witala was able to skate through the faceoff circle before wristing one on net that deflected off a stick and looked to hit the netting just inside the goal post and fall in the blue paint behind Hogg before being cleared out of the crease.

With the goal light on, the play was allowed to carry on for almost a minute until the next whistle. During that time the Rivermen had a glorious scoring opportunity only to be robbed by the glove of Kirk Thompson who swatted the puck out of mid-air before it could cross the goal line. After the whistle the referee went talk to everybody but the goal judge sticking to his original call of no-goal.

In the third period the Spruce Kings seemed to be gaining momentum in large part from the play from the line combination of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Shayne Morrissey. Add in a high flying Justin Rai, hard working effort from Jake LeBrun and the chances created by Cameron Lawson and the Spruce Kings would find the recipe for a comeback.

From a neutral zone faceoff win, the Spruce Kings would gain the offensive zone on a bit of a broken play that started with Hansen having to fish the puck out of a sticks at the top of the left faceoff circle. The puck would come back to Esau on the left point who would dump it in for Cameron Lawson. The puck would then come to Justin Rai who skated straight to the net.

After an outstanding few games as an AP with the Spruce Kings that earned the Surrey hockey product a full roster spot, Rai had struggled to find his touch around the net. And on his first shot, Hogg was able to get enough of it to deflect behind the net. Rai stayed with the puck and with speed picked it up intent on finding the back of the net which he did with the wrap around attempt at 17:55 of the third period.

Dave Dupas would stay with the line that just scored for the next shift and that move would pay off less than a minute later. On another broken play, Esau was finally able to settle down the puck and carry it in just onside. The Spruce Kings captain would get the puck to Lawson who would take it to the net. This time the puck would come out in front of the crease where Rai was waiting for it to poke it under Hogg.

The Spruce Kings had finally erased that two goal deficit that had been haunting them since the first period. With two minutes remaining and time ticking down fast, it certainly seemed like these two teams were destined for overtime but that would not be the case.

In a bizarre sequence of events with less than twenty seconds remaining, Austin Azurdia and James Robinson would collide with each other just inside the Rivermen's blue line with the puck rolling out into centre ice. The Spruce Kings would fire it deep inside the zone as if resigned to the notion that this game was headed to overtime.

With eleven seconds showing on the clock, Bo Pellah would find the puck behind his own goal line feeding a stretch pass up to Azurdia going through the middle again. With 3.7 seconds showing on the clock, Azurdia crossed the blue line heading down the right side lane. with a flick of the wrist, he was able to sneak the puck through the legs of the Spruce Kings defender picking it up on the other side with time running out.

The Spruce King killer this weekend would have just enough time to collect the puck, regain his balance and flip a snap shot up and over Kirk Thompson's shoulder below the cross bar. The puck would actually cross the plane of the goal line with 1.1 seconds showing on the clock but reaction time from the off ice officials brought the clock down to 0.3 seconds.

Either way the damage was done and the Spruce Kings were robbed of even a single point. Perhaps even more unfortunate for Kirk Thompson was the fact that he gets saddled with the loss allowing one goal against on 19 shots. The Spruce Kings will now head back home to finish out the Thanksgiving weekend before getting back on the ice to prepare for the other royalty in the BCHL - the Powell River Kings - on Friday night and rematch on Saturday with the Surrey Eagles.

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