Friday, October 5, 2012

Spruce Kings Keep Eagles Grounded

Tyson Witala (9) celebrates his fifth goal of the season
in a 4-1 win over the Surrey Eagles

In the first of eight meetings against the Surrey Eagles, the Spruce Kings went into the South Surrey Arena and came away with a big two points in a 4-1 win. The first game of a three game was a close game until the third period when the Spruce Kings added an insurance marker after killing off an extended two man penalty.

The Spruce Kings rolled into Surrey with a little fan fare as family and friends of a number of players from the area came out in force. With four players from Surrey itself, another three from the surrounding area and a pair from Washington State brought in close to a hundred fans to cheer on the Spruce Kings.

And they would have plenty to cheer about as the game progressed with the Spruce Kings sticking to their game plan and capitalizing on the chances. From the opening faceoff, the Spruce Kings started generating chances. Prince George built up a 5-1 shot lead before getting themselves into a little bit of penalty trouble.

The first penalty of the game was assessed to Brad Ryan for high sticking. On the ensuing powerplay, the Spruce Kings kept the Eagles to the outside with low percentage shots and also blocked a lot of those coming through. The Eagles powerplay relies heavily on Devon Toews from the high slot with his powerful shot. Just ask Trevor Esau about that shot, he'll know after blocking one that stung the big defenceman.

After trading chances and powerplays with nothing to show for either team's efforts it would be the Spruce Kings that opened the scoring. On a play that was a result of some hard work down low by Cam Lawson who fought off two defenders, cycling it with Shayne Morrissey before getting it Liam Board and the back of the net. The fourth goal of the season for Board came in the last minute of the first period at 19:18.

The second period was when the Spruce Kings started to turn things around and the line of Bryant Christian, Sean Landrey and Jake LeBrun started to shine. A line known more for its grit and physical presence started creating time and space for themselves. The pay off would come some eight minutes in with Bryant Christian battling hard for the puck down in the corner.

After coming up with the puck, Christian spotted Jake LeBrun standing all alone on the other side of the crease. A perfect pass to the open forward was finished off with a neat little tap in one timer giving LeBrun his second on the season and the Spruce Kings a 2-0 lead at 8:15 of the second period.

With four penalties already against the Spruce Kings, the fifth one would see the Surrey Eagles get on the scoreboard. The play started with Brandon Morley busting into the Spruce Kings zone trying to go right through Skylar Pacheco. Trying to maintain inside position on Morley, Pacheco got caught up with his check and drew up the official's arm and an interference call.

The Eagles powerplay tried to get a couple of back door passes going but it would be the bread and butter shot of Toews that would get through on Kirk Thompson. The bullet shot appeared to go off a stick as it rose on Thompson and found its way to the back of the net. The goal at 17:20 of the second period cut the Spruce Kings lead in half and game the Eagles and their fans some much needed life.

The second period would come to a premature end with 51.8 seconds still showing on the clock after a pane of glass came loose. After a heavy collision along the boards deep in the corner the glass came out of its stanchion forcing the referee to call a halt to the play. Once it became apparent that the rink staff would need some time to make the repairs, the officials sent the teams to their dressing rooms.

The final 52 seconds of the second period was played out normally with neither team able to get a shot on goal. After two periods of play the Spruce Kings had doubled their shot total to 26 while cutting the Eagles first period total in half with Kirk Thompson credited with 20 saves on 21 shots. The teams were given a two minute time out before the third period officially started.

Already with five penalties, the Spruce Kings will be penalized one more time when Coltyn Hansen was called for a retaliatory tripping penalty. Twenty five seconds later Brad Ryan was called for a cross check giving the Eagles a two man advantage for 1:25 just over five minutes gone in the third period.

In the Surrey Eagles pregame blog, it was pointed out that the Eagles powerplay needed some improvement with Matt Erhart quoted as saying that the team was guilty of helping opponents to kill of their penalties. Erhart called a timeout to draw up a play or two and to remind his players to attack and go for the all important tying goal. Meanwhile Dupas told his players to just keep doing what they were doing - blocking shots and preventing the high percentage chances.

The Eagles went on the attack quickly working the puck around but were just as quickly denied and frustrated by the whole team effort at blocking shots. One shot that did get through rang iron with some people believing that the shot did hit the inside crossbar and come out just as quickly. The officials didn't see it that way and the play was able to continue with the Spruce Kings successfully killing off the extended two man disadvantage.

You can call that the Spruce Kings Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game as Prince George would get an insurance marker from Bryant Christian. Christian had his best game of the season on this night setting up Jake LeBrun and also getting a shorthanded chance before getting his second of the season on a solo effort. The younger brother of Spruce Kings alumni, Jordy Christian did all the work behind the Eagles net to come up with the puck.

In a premeditated and duplicated move that came up empty in the second period, Bryant came out from behind the net with the puck on his back hand lifting it up over the shoulder of Glenn Ferguson. The goal came 1:07 after the two man advantage for the Eagles all but putting the team out of the game.

The Spruce Kings would get their third powerplay at the 15:29 mark of the third period. Tyson Witala would get his fifth of the season after having a couple of chances turned aside earlier. Witala came off the half wall, left the puck for Martell and then got it back as he went to the net. With little options available for the Prince George forward, Witala forced a back hander in on the goalie that found daylight at 16:53 of the third period.

The final three minutes turned ugly on this night and leaves one wondering what might transpire when these two teams meet up in the Castle on Saturday night October 13th. It started with Latrell Charleson being submarined, something the usually quiet and demur defenceman didn't appreciate at all. Charleson went after Craig Wyszomirski finding him just under the blue line. The two went down in a heap with both players throwing punches that never found their target.

Both players would be given fighting majors and game misconducts with Charleson getting a two minute minor for instigating and Wyszomirski two minutes for being the aggressor after trying to a punch well after the linesman had stepped in to separate the two big men. The altercation came at the 19:30 mark of the third period.

The ugliest moment of the night came 24 seconds later when Demico Hannoun's frustration manifested itself in a dangerous knee on Karan Toor away from the play bringing Toor down in obvious discomfort. Sean Landrey immediately went after Hannoun with the two dropping the gloves. Hannoun was given a major for kneeing, fighting and game misconduct while Landrey drew an instigator minor to go along with his fighting major and game misconduct.

The final five plus seconds played out without any further incidents as both teams basically skated away off the faceoff with neither team touching the puck. The Spruce Kings will now await their fate with the new rules cracking down on fighting and instigator penalties with suspensions.

The Spruce Kings next game is Saturday night at 7:15pm in the Langley Events Centre in another Mainland Divisional matchup against the Langley Rivermen. It will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams after the Spruce Kings posted a come-from-behind overtime win in the last game of the BCHL Showcase.

No comments: