Friday, November 30, 2012

Game Preview: vs Chilliwack Chiefs

Mr. Movember, Sean Landrey and the Spruce Kings will be
looking to get a "handle" on the Chilliwack Chiefs tonight

After a tough one last night the Prince George Spruce Kings will be looking to even up the season series with the Chilliwack Chiefs tonight. The home team took one on the chin on the scoreboard last night but like any good fighter, is prepared to get back up, dust themselves off and go another round tonight.

The Spruce Kings started out strong with a couple of good shots on their first shift but it was the Chiefs first shot on goal from Austin Plevy that set the tone for the night. Plevy’s shot turned into the eventual game winner with Mitch Gillam turning aside all 31 shots he faced.

As for the Prince George netminders, Liam McLeod did start the game between the pipes but had to be helped off the ice early in the second period after making a huge stop on the penalty kill. McLeod was checked out immediately after and has since been cleared to play and will be dressed tonight as the backup goaltender.

With a few injuries still nagging the team tonight, the Spruce Kings have called up another player from the Cariboo Cougars Major Midget team. One night after Liam Blackburn made an impression on the fans and coaching staff, Braiden Epp will get his turn to wear the crown and show what he is capable of.

Looking at the players in the system for the Spruce Kings lets everybody know that the future is bright for the team as all APs have come in and had good to great showings. Recently those APs have included Kody Disher and Spencer Schoech who were both late cuts from the pre-season roster.

Fans of old time hockey will have appreciated the hard hitting physical style of play that both teams put on last night and there is no reason not to expect the same thing tonight. It was a little surprising to see that much emotion from two teams that hadn’t played each other since last season.

Tonight's game is a 7pm start in the Coliseum with the game broadcast on 93.1 CFIS-FM. It can also be heard online with the free audio broadcast on and the pay-per-view broadcast on

On a side note, with the December 1st Hockey Canada roster deadline, there is an expectation of player movement throughout the entire league. On December 1st all teams have to be down to 25 player cards for the remainder of the season. This means that teams will be making moves to solidify their 22 man roster leaving three cards to make player transactions up to the January 10th trade deadline.

BCHL rules and regulations state that all player trades made on Saturday December 1st must be approved by the League and will not be made public until 10am Sunday December 2nd. Any player trades involving other leagues through the country must be completed by 6pm Pacific time and all trades inside the BCHL must be completed by 8pm.

With the rules and regulations, please note that there will be no rumours, speculation or any kind of trade discussion on the Spruce Kings Crusader, Facebook or Twitter feeds until after 10am Sunday December 2nd.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Game Preview: vs Chilliwack Chiefs

Liam McLeod (35) will get the start tonight vs the Chiefs

It's hard to believe that it has taken twenty five games before these two mainland divisional opponents play each other, but that is the case for the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Prince George Spruce Kings. Last year both teams played out of the Interior Conference after the Quesnel Millionaires folded and essentially relocated to Chilliwack.

Last season these two met a total of eight times in the regular season with both teams claiming four wins, the slight advantage did go to Prince George with two of the three overtime victories. All of those games were close with the Spruce Kings outscoring the Chiefs 26-24 on the season.

The similarities between the two teams didn’t end with just head-to-head stats. Both teams finished the season with 33 wins and were separated by a single point in the standings. The Spruce Kings finished third (33-21-2-4) with 72 points while the Chilliwack Chiefs had 71 points finishing fourth (33-22-2-3).

This season both teams are searching for spots in the top half of the division and have found success through the first twenty five games. Both teams have had six game winning streaks and have sat in top spot of the Mainland Division. The Chiefs are the latest to hold that spot and have amassed 36 points (17-6-1-1) while the Spruce Kings are currently third (12-7-1-5).

The Chilliwack Chiefs are rolling on the strength of one line in particular. Luke Esposito is the centre and setup man for Austin Plevy and Josh Hansen. Between the three of them, they have scored 40 goals and have a combined point total nearing the century mark.

After the top line, players to watch for tonight are David Thompson (4G, 11A), Trevor Hills (5G, 9A) and Jaret Babych (7G, 3A). Also in that watch list are Cooper Rush, Austin Plevy and Luke Esposito who have all been ranked in the most recent NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in New Jersey.

The Spruce Kings are into their second of three consecutive weekends at home and are coming off a pair of disappointing overtime losses to the Surrey Eagles. With Lyndon Martell, Latrell Charleson and Justin Rai all scratched tonight, Liam Blackburn has been given the call up from the Cariboo Cougars of the BC Major Midget League. Blackburn will be wearing jersey 24 and is set to play on a line with Tanner Fjellstrom and Jake LeBrun.

Tonight's game is a 7pm start in the Coliseum with the game broadcast on 93.1 CFIS-FM. It can also be heard online with the free audio broadcast on and the pay-per-view broadcast on

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Eagles Nip Spruce Kings in OT

Shayne Morrissey (12) scored both goals for Prince George,
but that wasn't enough for the Spruce Kings Saturday night

Overtime has not been friendly to the Prince George Spruce Kings lately and the extra session bit them again Saturday night as the Surrey Eagles skated to a 3-2 win at the Coliseum.

Devon Toews did the damage in overtime as the Eagles swept the two-game set this weekend, taking both their victories in overtime and opening up a two-point lead over the Spruce Kings for second place in the Mainland Division.

The Spruce Kings have gone into overtime four times in the month of November and have yet to pull out an extra-time win, with three of the four losses coming at the hands of the Eagles.

Two goals by Shayne Morrissey helped the Spruce Kings get to overtime and the team has recorded at least one point in four of its last five outings.

Morrissey, who was named the Treasure Trove Casino first star, opened the scoring for Prince George at 7:21 of the first period on a nice set up from Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley. The Spruce Kings generated a turnover in the high slot in the Surrey end and with some nifty passing were able to beat Eagles goalie Michael Santaguida.

The home side's only lead of the night was short lived as on the very next shift the Eagles top line sliced through the Spruce Kings defences with Brady Shaw finishing off the play set up by Drew Best and Brett Mulcahy at 7:42.

The teams went into the locker-room tied 1-1 after 20 minutes and the Eagles appeared to be the fresher team in the second taking the play to Prince George and taking the lead as well. Best had the lone goal in the middle stanza, taking a feed from Mulchay on the power play at 8:30 and beating Spruce Kings netminder Kirk Thompson. Mulchay was named the game's third star.

The Eagles scored a power-play goal in each of their wins this weekend, while the Spruce Kings power play was shut out.

Morrissey got the Spruce Kings back on even terms at 2:35 of the third, scoring his eighth of the season once again set up by Staley and Luedtke. With his two assists, Staley earned second-star honours.

Neither team was able to find the go-ahead marker in regulation, but Toews did have a few chances for the Eagles. He finally found the back of the net in overtime with a rocket from the point which beat Thompson.

Santaguida made 29 saves to earn his second win in as many nights, while Thompson blocked 22 shots - many of them of the difficult variety - in a losing cause.

Spruce Kings forward Ryan Keis earned the Fortis Energy player of the game, while speedy Prince George winger Coltyn Hansen was named the Dairy Queen player of the game.

The Spruce Kings will continue their seven-game homestand on Thursday night when the division-leading Chilliwack Chiefs make their first visit to the Castle. Chilliwack is in town for a pair of games.

Game Preview: vs Surrey Eagles

Tyson Witala (9) and the rest of the Spruce Kings
will have to put last night behind them

Twenty four hours later the same two teams will hit the ice again in what is shaping up to be an intense if not nerve wracking Mainland Divisional rivalry. For the second consecutive game these two teams needed overtime to sort out the extra point.

Last night after a lengthy discussion and a decision that saw an apparent goal by Tyson Witala waved off, the Surrey Eagles were able to make their tally count and secured two points with a 2-1 double overtime win.

Tanner Fjellstrom scored the only Spruce Kings goal on a play initiated by Coltyn Hansen and setup by Ryan Keis. That lead lasted three minutes before Michael Stenerson scored on a bank shot while the Eagles were on their first powerplay of the game. Stenerson would also get the eventual game winner.

In the head-to-head series so far, Prince George does have 6 points to the Eagles 4 but as far as wins and losses go – these teams are tied 2-2. That sets up an interesting deciding game tonight in the Castle against two teams that have shown they are pretty evenly matched. In fact the Mainland Division has shown to be a tough but fairly even division this season with all but one team maintaining a better than .500 rating through twenty three games.

In games involving Mainland Division teams last night, the Chilliwack Chiefs win streak ended in a 5-3 loss to the Merritt Centennials while the Coquitlam Express ended a five game losing streak with a 5-4 double overtime win. The Chiefs sit in top spot with 34 points followed by the Surrey Eagles with 30 points, the Prince George Spruce Kings with 29 points and the Coquitlam Express with 25. The Langley Rivermen were idle last night but will resume play tonight with 22 points in 23 games.

The Spruce Kings are into their second game in a seven game home stand leading up to the Christmas break. During that time the Spruce Kings and their fans will get to see three of the Mainland Divisional opponents with the Surrey Eagles this weekend, the Chilliwack Chiefs next weekend and the Coquitlam Express after that.

Tonight’s game will see Operation Red Nose in the Castle raising awareness about their community service to help holiday partiers get themselves and their vehicles home safely this holiday season. Driven by volunteers, Operation Red Nose will be looking to help out this year.

Game time tonight is 7pm with a full broadcast available on 93.1 CFIS-FM. For those fans tuning in from out-of-town, the free online audio will be available from and the pay-per-view on

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eagles soar over Spruce Kings in 2OT

Tanner Fjellstrom (17) was the only Spruce King
to be credited with a goal on this night

For about five minutes the Prince George Spruce Kings thought they had taken over second place in the Mainland Division on Friday night, but in the end it was the Surrey Eagles who skated away with a 2-1 double overtime win at the Coliseum.

Tyson Witala had what the Spruce Kings believed was the game-winning goal 30 seconds into the first overtime and it was initially ruled as such on the ice. The Spruce Kings' bench cleared, the celebration was underway. But after a long huddle the officials and the goal judge eventually determined the puck didn't go in.

Play resumed and at 2:57 of the second overtime Michael Stenerson scored the winner for the Eagles as they evened the season series against Prince George at two wins apiece. Stenerson was able to convert after a scramble in front of the net, getting the puck over a sprawling Kirk Thompson in the Spruce Kings' net.

Thompson, the Treasure Trove Casino first star Friday night was rock solid in the Spruce Kings net making 38 saves including a couple of big ones down the stretch in the third period of ensure the game got to the extra session.

His counterpart at the other end, Michael Santaguida was just as sharp making 35 saves to earn second-star honours. Spruce Kings forward Ryan Keis was the third star.

After a scoreless first period, Tanner Fjellstrom opened the scoring for the Spruce Kings in the second period, finishing off a nice passing play with Coltyn Hansen and Keis at 9:57. Hansen was the catalyst, breaking in on the rush, but having the awareness to wait for his teammates before setting up the play. Santaguida got a glove on Keis' shot, but Fjellstrom buried the rebound for his first BCHL goal.

The Eagles got back on even terms at 12:40 of the middle stanza as Stenerson was credited with the power-play goal off a feed from Mason Blacklock. Jordan Klimek was also given an assist on the play.

Neither team had long stretches of dominant play and that was reflected on the shot count as it went back and forth all night long, Surrey finishing with a 40-36 advantage.

The two newcomers on the Spruce Kings blue-line were strong in their debuts, Mark Begert saw plenty of ice time including long stretches in overtime. Kevin Guiltinan used his big body to push the Eagles around and was the Fortis Energy player of the game.

The Dairy Queen player of the game was Spruce Kings forward Bryant Christian who helped orchestrate some excellent scoring changes and played a strong two-way game.

The Spruce Kings and Eagles will do it all again Saturday night at the Castle, with another 7 p.m. start.

Game Preview: vs Surrey Eagles

Kirk Thompson and the rest of the Spruce Kings will be
looking to clip the Eagles wings again tonight

The Prince George Spruce Kings return to the Castle tonight to face a Mainland Divisional opponent in the Surrey Eagles. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between these two teams with the Spruce Kings holding a 2-1 edge in the season series.

The last time the Eagles flew north, they returned home with their wings clipped in a 3-0 loss and promptly made changes to their lineup bringing in Brady Shaw in a trade with the Coquitlam Express. Since joining the Eagles, Shaw has seen his points total double this season to 12 goals and 10 assists in 22 games.

The Eagles have also reaped the benefits of that trade in the standings climbing from the basement to where they sit now – tied for second in the Mainland Division with the Prince George Spruce Kings. After the loss to Prince George, the Surrey Eagles have gone on an 8-2-0-1 run with some big wins and now boast a record of 13-7-0-2.

The Spruce Kings made their own deal with the Coquitlam Express this week trading Bradley Ryan (’92) for another defenceman and a forward. Making his debut with the crown tonight will be Mark Begert, a six foot tall 185 pound defenceman from West Vancouver that shoots right. Expect to see Begert used in all situations – five-on-five, powerplay and penalty kill.

Also coming to Prince George via the Express is Jace Hennig who is a speedy 17 year old forward from Port Moody that has secured a NCAA scholarship to Merrimack College. Unfortunately fans will have to wait at least another weekend to see Hennig in a Spruce Kings jersey as the rookie forward is listed day-to-day with an upper body injury. Hennig did take the morning skate and can’t wait to play in his first game for Prince George.

There was one other deal made on Thursday that will see a new player on the ice for the Spruce Kings. Another 17 year old defenceman, Kevin Guiltinan was acquired from the Vernon Vipers in exchange for Liam Board. Guiltinan is an imposing defenceman that has the ability to deliver punishing hits to those that choose to come in the zone. Guiltinan has also secured a scholarship this year and is committed to Harvard University.

The Spruce Kings are essentially healthy and will be looking to re-establish their dominance on home ice this season.

Game time is 7:00pm in the Prince George Coliseum. Bring your radios to the game and catch the live broadcast with Ron St. Clair, Todd Doherty and Peter James on 93.1 CFIS-FM. For those listening out of town, the free online audio broadcast will be available from and the pay-per-view broadcast will be on

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Two for Three Player Trades

Brad Ryan (2) and Liam Board (19)

Trades are never the fun part of the game, but they are an integral part of it. Teams make trades all season long to try and tweak and build a better team for the short term and the long term. Even so it isn't always easy on the players or those close to the team.

Earlier today the Spruce Kings finalized two separate deals that results in three new players coming to Prince George in exchange for two players that start the season in the Castle. Liam Board and Brad Ryan who played together last season with the Oakville Blades and then came to Prince George together were dealt to different teams today - Board to Vernon and Ryan to Coquitlam.

For Brad Ryan, this is a move that puts him with a team that started strong and for whatever reason fell off the pace recently. The Express were very persistent in their desire to acquire the big defenceman that came in and made an immediate impact in the BCHL. Ryan has a wicked shot from the left point that can find the top corner with precision and led to his 5 goals and 10 assists from the blue line. Those numbers make Ryan the highest ranked d-man on the Coquitlam Express squad and fifth overall.

Liam Board is an exceptional person, especially off the ice and may very well be the most missed player since Matt Shuya was traded to the Merritt Centennials at the trade deadline in the 2006-07 season. Board showed his ability to be a physical player and was able to put up some decent numbers as well with 5 goals and 9 assists. Those numbers place him fifth on the Vipers team scoring.

Coming this was are a trio of players that have shown they have the talent to excel at this level and beyond. In the mix is a pair of seventeen year old players and a nineteen year old. Acquired from Vernon, Kevin Guiltinan is a rookie defenceman from London, Ontario that has already secured a NCAA Division I scholarship to Harvard University. Even at the age of 17, Guiltinan is an imposing player on the blue line standing 6' 3" and 205 pounds who can hit.

The other two players come via the Coquitlam Express in Jace Hennig and Mark Begert. Hennig is a seventeen year old forward that has speed and a touch around the net. At 5' 10" 175 pounds, Hennig has been able to put up numbers as seen by his stats while playing with the Vancouver NE Giants of the BC Major Midget League where he scored 24 goals and finished with 52 points in 25 games. Since skating with the Express, he has picked up another 4 goals and 12 assists and also secured a NCAA Division I scholarship to Merrimack College.

The other piece of the puzzle is Mark Begert, a 19 year old 6' 185 pound defenceman. Mark is a solid two way defenseman who moves the puck well and according to Mike Hawes, Spruce Kings General Manager, will be used in all situations. In Major Midget, Begert helped the Vancouver NW Giants to consecutive championships. An academic student with high marks, Begert earned a BCHL Academic All-Star honour last season.

These three players should all add a new dynamic to the Spruce Kings and make some improvements in their key areas. Perhaps the biggest improvement is just in the numbers themselves with team now sitting with seven defenceman, a luxury that was very noticeable last weekend when the team had to skate with just four defenceman for the better part of two games.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, trades are a part of hockey player's career. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they take a little while to play out but in the end all that we can hope for is that a trade becomes the win-win for everybody involved that it was intended to be. I will miss both Ryan and Board who made a tough decision to come out west to pursue their dream of furthering their hockey careers.

Ryan secured a scholarship to the University of Vermont for next season. As for Board, well he wants a scholarship too but every time I've talked to him he mentioned about playing for a championship team and winning the RBC Royal Bank Cup Championship. Liam will get this opportunity now as a twenty year old next season with the host team of the 2014 RBC Royal Bank Cup in Vernon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Khaira Named WCHA Rookie of the Week

Jujhar Khaira (16) with the Spruce Kings last season

It should come as no surprise to anyone that saw him play in a Spruce Kings jersey the previous two seasons that Jujhar Khaira has been turning heads in his new position with the Michigan Tech Huskies. Khaira did that with ease as a 16 year old rookie in the BCHL and even more so in his second season playing for the Spruce Kings.

Khaira, an 18 year old forward this season, was drafted by the NHL Edmonton Oilers out of the Spruce Kings dressing room this past season, selected 61st overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The big powerful forward earned his selection through solid play with the Spruce Kings earning a reputation for being able to win any puck battle along the wall and find an open player in scoring position.

Playing in the NCAA, Khaira has elevated his play even higher and this past weekend he earned the prestigious Rookie of the Week honours, helping his Huskies pick up a pair of wins over Bemidji State. The following is the article from the Michigan Tech Huskies official website.

Jujhar Khaira Named WCHA Rookie of the Week

MADISON, Wis. – Michigan Tech forward Jujhar Khaira, who had a breakout weekend with four points as the visiting Huskies fashioned a pair of overtime league victories at Bemidji State last weekend, has been named the Red Baron® WCHA Rookie of the Week for Nov. 20.

A 6-3, 195-pound freshman center from Surrey, B.C., Khaira scored two power-play goals in the final eight minutes last Friday (Nov. 16) night at Sanford Center in Bemidji to tie the score at 4-4, then contributed the primary assist on teammate Alex Petan's game-winner at 2:12 of the extra session as Tech rallied for a 5-4 triumph.

Khaira then had the primary assist on the overtime game-winner in last Saturday's (Nov. 17) 2-1 win, setting up teammate Blake Pietila for the deciding marker at 4:30. Along with his four points in the series, he also totaled seven shots on goal and earned a +1 plus/minus rating.

A draftee of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, Khaira is tied for third in scoring overall among WCHA freshmen with eight points (2g, 6a) in 10 games played.

Khaira joins goaltender Pheonix Copley as Tech's second WCHA Player of the Week this season. Copley was rookie of the week Oct. 22.

Jujhar Khaira is playing in his first season with the Michigan Tech Huskies alongside a pair of Spruce Kings alumni. Defenceman Justin Fillion is in his second season with the Huskies, while goaltender Kevin Genoe is in his fourth and final year of NCAA hockey.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Game Preview: at Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Always lots of action in front of the net last night,
but defense won this one with seven players out.
photo courtesy John Hebert

Call in some reinforcements for today's early game in Salmon Arm, the Prince George Spruce Kings are coming off an improbable 4-3 win over the West Kelowna Warriors after being hit hard by the flu bug just prior and during the game. With Justin Rai out of the lineup, we learned just before departure time to the rink that Trevor Esau, Brad Ryan and Tyson Witala would not be able to go suffering from upset stomachs.

Okay, just go out there and play a strong defensive game and battle hard for every loose puck etc. etc. Well that's what they did even after they lost their starting goaltender Liam McLeod, Shayne Morrissey and Coltyn Hansen to the same bug that took out their team mates. The Spruce Kings somehow found a way to prevent a good team from ever taking the lead and scored timely goals on almost every one of their chances.

This is the type of story they make movies about and inspirational posters but today it is back to business for a depleted Spruce Kings squad looking to carry that momentum into their third game of the weekend. Today it will be against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, a squad the Spruce Kings haven't had a chance to see yet this season and a squad that is now much better than their record indicates.

To start the season the Silverbacks were a team that other teams took pleasure in kicking around. In their first four games of the season, the Silverbacks managed only two goals and in their first month managed only one win. Things did turn a little in the beginning of October but there was still lots of work to be done. Troy Mick stepped away from the bench to work solely as the General Manager and brought Scott Robinson back to the BCHL to be the head coach.

In the first two weeks of November, Salmon Arm was involved in four of the seven trade transactions in the League. First picking up Mitch Ferguson and Evan Anderson from the Penticton Vees for Brock Balson and then moving twenty year old goalie Colin Dzijacky out east and twenty year old Jason Trott to the AJHL. Not done there, the biggest move was made on Wednesday of this past week when Troy Mick moved Sean Flannagan, a twenty year old defenceman, for Alex Jewell and Steven Iacobellis from the Penticton Vees.

Last night Iacobellis was the game's second star with a goal and two helpers in a Salmon Arm Silverbacks 6-4 win over the Merritt Centennials.

The Silverbacks might be a little wore down for this matinee game having played the Penticton Vees Friday night, Merritt last night and now having to go up against the Spruce Kings squad that is pretty confident of their ability to play through adversity. You would think the edge still rests with the Silverbacks who have been home for the entire weekend while the Spruce Kings are road weary traveling to Trail, Kelowna and now Salmon Arm.

One thing is for sure and it was proven last night, this game is played on a sheet of ice, not a sheet of paper. So throw out all those odds and theories and get ready for another exciting game of hockey in the BCHL. The Spruce Kings and the Silverbacks in the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm at 3pm. The game will be broadcast live but please note the link for the free online audio feed will be through as there is no available holes in the Sunday programming on CFIS. The game will also be available as always on pay-per-view via

Saturday, November 17, 2012

True Character Win

Jeremiah Luedtke scores the game's pretties goal
and gets the game winner as the Spruce Kings overcome all odds

The term "character win" has been overused and should now be filed away after the Spruce Kings provide the definitive definition of the term in a 4-3 win over the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night. The team was ravaged by the flu just prior to and even during the game to the point they were down to 10 forwards, 4 defencemen and only 1 goaltender for the better part of the game.

Just hours before the game Trevor Esau, Brad Ryan and Tyson Witala found themselves dealing with severe upset stomach aches and pains and had to be scratched for the game along with Justin Rai who remains out of the lineup with an unrelated injury. During the pregame skate three more players felt nauseous but still started the game. Liam McLeod was given the start between the pipes and was absolutely stellar in the first period.

The youngster played a perfect game along with the rest of the team who were on a mission to keep things as simple as possible. In the first period the Spruce Kings were outshot 11-2 but nothing got past McLeod who remained square to every shot and frustrated the offensive threats for the Warriors. Unfortunately for the rookie goaltender the flu bug had other plans for McLeod, leaving him suffering from the same symptoms as the others and unable to return to finish the game.

Shayne Morrissey and Coltyn Hansen also fell to the flu bug in the first intermission staking the odds even higher against the Prince George Spruce Kings. The home town team had a full roster at their disposal and the confidence to go along with that after posting a come-from-behind win over the Merritt Centennials. The Warriors did everything but score the opening goal in the game - that honour was saved for Ryan Keis.

The rookie forward who has spent his fair share of time in the stands watching the game below made the most of his additional time in this game and scored the game's first goal from the slot. Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke had been cycling the puck below the goal line looking for an opportunity to create a scoring chance when they got it to Keis in the slot. Keis didn't hesitate and fired a harmless looking shot on net that found its way over the goal line at 5:49 of the second period for his first BCHL career goal.

The Warriors started to turn it on again and would turn to the team's leading scorer. In the first period Marcus Basara was denied three times by McLeod leaving the 19 year old forward from Port Moody wondering what he would have to do. Well he would have to be perfect and at 13:53 he was as came in off the left wing and from the top of the faceoff circle fired a high hard shot that found just enough room under the cross bar to put the Warriors on the board.

After holding off the Warriors on two man advantages, Prince George would get their first powerplay of the game in the late stages of the second period. With Dustin Cave in the penalty box, the Spruce Kings went to work with their man advantage. Mitch Eden started the play from the left point, carrying the puck down to the faceoff circle before taking a shot on goal. The rebound came back to Bryant Christian who was turned around in the slot and unable to get a shot off, so instead he passed out to Skylar Pacheco on the top of the right side faceoff circle. Pacheco scored his first of the season as he stepped into a wrister and found the hole low on the far blocker side with 8.8 seconds remaining in the period.

The Spruce Kings headed to the dressing room with their second lead of the game, a 2-1 lead built on just 12 shots while giving up twice as many through forty minutes. To start the third period, the Spruce Kings found themselves hemmed inside their own zone still trying to play it safe and protect the one goal lead.

From the right point Braxton Bilous tried to force another shot through on Thompson that was knocked down by Chad Staley who fed it off the wall for Sean Landrey. The imposing forward for the Spruce Kings won the puck battle over Bilous and broke free through the neutral zone. Skating down the left wing wall, Landrey waited until he crossed the blue line before letting go an offspeed shot that handcuffed Garrett Rockafellow. The goal, Landrey's third of the season, came against the flow of play at 7:04 of the third period.

The West Kelowna Warriors would get another two back-to-back powerplays beginning with Skylar Pacheco who was called for tripping after trying to play the puck and having a Warrior fall down after stepping on the defenceman's stick. The Spruce Kings were able to kill of the penalty clearing the zone just a second or two before Pacheco was released. As Pacheco stepped back on the ice, the puck was fired up to Marcus Basara who was able to pick it up behind the Spruce Kings defender and entered the Spruce Kings zone letting another riser that found that top corner on Thompson again.

Just a few minutes later Lyndon Martell was called for hooking as he went in on the forecheck and was called for the reach around trying to knock the puck off of the defender's stick. Without a powerplay goal in their previous three chances, the Warriors would tie the game up on this man advantage. From his own zone, Adam Plant carried the puck through the neutral zone stopping just inside the Spruce Kings blue line before giving to Basara who stopped off the half way and spotted Josh Monk in the high slot. Monk gathered in the puck and went straight down the pipe to the hash marks before letting go his shot tying the game 3-3 at 12:29 of the third.

The Spruce Kings would get one more powerplay before the end of regulation time and it would turn into the game winning goal. Simply put the prettiest goal I have seen in some time. One night early Jeremiah Luedtke was accused of scoring an ugly goal as he tried to center the puck and was able to celebrate a goal instead after it careened off the goaltender's skate and into the back of the net. This night his goal would become a thing of beauty.

With the puck on the left point, Mitch Eden got the puck down to Luedtke who stopped up on the half way and dished off to Chad Staley who was on his way around the net. With everybody heading to the opposite, Staley dropped the puck back to Luedtke who followed Staley to the net and found himself with the puck on his stick and a wide open short side of the net. Luedtke made no mistake and deposited his third of the season and second in as many nights with 4:15 remaining.

Both teams would use up their timeouts in the remaining minutes and the West Kelowna Warriors would pull their goaltender but the Spruce Kings stood tall blocking shots and forcing the Warriors to the outside. The final play saw the puck slide through the blue paint and diving Skylar Pacheco able to get the puck to the blue line and just over resulting in an offside whistle with just .9 of a second remaining.

The win was absolutely a character win with smart plays being made all around and sacrifices to keep the Spruce Kings in the lead the entire game. Following the game some emotions boiled over as a frustrated Warriors squad showed that frustration and the Spruce Kings showed their obvious emotion from the win. The Spruce Kings are expected to get some reinforcements in time for Sunday's game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

There is also a feeling that some of those players that missed out on Saturday's win will be able to play. Expect an update prior to Sunday's 3pm afternoon game in Salmon Arm. By the way the game won't be on 93.1 CFIS-FM but will be available on a new ad free website called and of course the game will be available on pay-per-view.

Game Preview: at West Kelowna Warriors

Arguably one of the best players last night,
Coltyn Hansen will need to be on his game again tonight

One night after a coming up one goal short in a goal scoring parade, the Prince George Spruce Kings find themselves up against the West Kelowna Warriors. Last night the Spruce Kings opened the scoring and built multiple one and two goal leads on the Trail Smoke Eaters only to have it all come crashing down on them in a double overtime 8-7 loss. Certainly the offense was there and just as certainly there are plenty of theories as to the goals against, but just as certainly is the mantra that the team must move on.

Following the game last night, the team boarded the bus and made the long haul out of Trail arriving in West Kelowna just after three in the morning. After a broken sleep and a late breakfast, the team made an early trip to Royal LePage Place to set up for the game tonight.

The Warriors are a team the Spruce Kings will have to be ready for. They are coming off a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Merritt Centennials last night and still recall the bitter 4-3 overtime loss they suffered in the Castle just a few weeks ago. In that game, the Warriors built up a 2-0 lead and then had to tie it up 3-3 before Tyson Witala ended it in overtime against his former team.

Last night Witala scored a beautiful goal that I could only describe as being Bobby Orr like as he went airbourne before sliding the puck on his back hand on the far side of the net. There were many beautiful goals last night from five different players - Witala and Shayne Morrissey each had two while singles came from Jeremiah Luedtke, Coltyn Hansen and Brad Ryan.

That spreading out of the offense will need to happen again tonight against a stingy Warriors squad that doesn't like to give up very many goals. West Kelowna has the fourth lowest goals against in the league with an average of less than three allowed per game at 2.62. The Spruce Kings GAA has ballooned to 3.29 while their goals for vs goals against total has dropped to a +4 in comparison to the Warriors that sits at +18 (second best in the BCHL).

Despite the Spruce Kings recent setback (0-2-0-2), they still sit firmly in third place in the BCHL's Mainland Division with 26 points (11-6-1-3). The Warriors have a similar record of 26 points in 21 games (10-5-1-5) and are also in third place in their division.

The West Kelowna Warriors possess a lot of offensive threats with four players averaging over a point a game, three players have already eclipse the 20 point threshold and half their skaters are into double digits. Leading the way is Marcus Basara (14G, 14A), who has lived up to his top billing after being actively recruited but declining an offer to play for the Prince Albert Raiders two seasons ago. Basara now has a ticket to Alaska-Fairbanks and still has another year of junior eligibility if he is so inclined.

Second in team scoring is Prince George minor hockey product Seb Llody who made his return to the Warriors lineup after suiting up for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge earlier this month. Lloyd played in his first game back last night, scoring once and setting up the game tying tally. His previous game was against the Spruce Kings in Prince George on October 27 where he also had one goal and a helper.

Other notable players up front for the opposition tonight are Brett Mckinnon (8G, 12A), David Pope (5G, 11A) and Shawn Hochhausen (3G, 13A). That doesn't even take into account four rookies that have shown an ability to set up plays. Matt Anholt, Adam Plant, Brent Lashuck and Ambrose Firkus have 31 helpers between them with Plant having ten of those as a sixteen year old rookie defenceman.

The last time these two teams met, the Spruce Kings were able to quiet down but not completely stifle the Warriors' top guns. Prince George will have to go back to their defensive style tonight with everyone blocking shots and keeping scoring chances down as the Warriors will have the chance to get the players on the ice they want with last change.

This is a game Prince George can win, but the cliches will have to be heard loud and clear and delivered on for that to happen.

Game time is 7:00pm from Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna. The game will be broadcast live on 93.1 CFIS-FM and available online from with the pay-per-view broadcast available exclusively from beginning with the Treasure Cove Casino pregame show at 6:35pm. Also tonight I will be testing a free audio link for the broadcast for Sunday's game on MIXLR.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Game Preview: at Trail Smoke Eaters

Cameron Lawson scores a buzzer beater
against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sept 14

There is a sense of deja vu for the Spruce Kings this weekend, especially those that have been around for at least the previous season. The Spruce Kings made the trip to the Interior Division outpost yesterday to face the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight. Somehow the trip just seemed different then what the team has grown accustomed to so far this season.

Playing out of the Mainland Division this year, the majority of road trips have meant a trip through the Fraser Canyon to the Lower Mainland with a stay in Langley. This time the bus turned left at Cache Creek and continued on until it reached Castlegar late last night - home base for the first night of the three game road trip.

Interestingly enough, this is the second and final trip for Prince George through the Interior having already played Vernon, Merritt and Penticton earlier in the season. This weekend the stops are Trail, West Kelowna and Salmon Arm. It will be the first meeting against the Silverbacks, second against the Warriors and also the second against the Smoke Eaters.

The first meeting between these two teams was at the home opener for the Spruce Kings two months ago on September 14th. Trail erased a 2-0 and 3-1 lead in the third period to force overtime where they came away with the 4-3 victory. Prince George goal scorers included an end of period buzzer beater from Cameron Lawson and the first BCHL goals for Bryant Christian and Justin Rai.

Unfortunately for Prince George, Rai remains on the shelf for this weekend and will not be able to relive any of his heroics tonight. Joining Rai on the injured and scratched list for the game is Ryan Keis. Sean Landrey works himself back into the lineup after missing the lone game last weekend against the Victoria Grizzlies. For Landrey and the rest of the Spruce Kings, this is the perfect time to get back on their game.

Aside for a few bright spots, the Spruce Kings last three games have all been forgettable outcomes with only a point to show against the Surrey Eagles in an overtime loss two weekends ago. The Trail Smoke Eaters have been sorting out their game as of late and are .500 for the month of November and have four wins in their previous six games.

Struggling with consistency might be their only concern right now, but head coach Bill Birks has the team believing in themselves and believing they can win any game especially those played in the Cominco Arena. At home the Smoke Eaters are 6-4 with a 2-1 record in their three most recent games played under the big smoke stacks that identify Trail.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are led offensively by Brent Baltus (14G, 9A) who is one goal away from equaling his 15 goal rookie season with the Smokies last year. Second on team scoring is Garrett McMullen with 17 points (8G, 9A) followed by Tyler Berkholtz (3G, 12A), Luke Sandler (7G, 6A) and Scott Davidson (2G, 10A). Shane Poulsen is the top contributor from the Smoke Eaters blue line with 4 goals and 7 assists with defensive partner Braden Pears (2G, 8A) rounding out the point leaders.

The Spruce Kings don't boast any players in the League's top twenty this year but have a twenty year old vet and a young stud from the blue line hoovering at the door. Coltyn Hansen, who was acquired from the Victoria Grizzlies has shown a lot of speed to get to the net and ability to finish the play with 7 goals and 11 assists in 20 games. Now 18 years old, rookie defenceman Mitch Eden has found himself using his foot speed and slick moves to open up plays and has cashed in on 18 goals as well (2G, 16A).

The rest of the team scoring is pretty well spread out with key players being Cameron Lawson, Tyson Witala, Lyndon Martell, Liam Board, Bryant Christian and Brad Ryan from the blue line. Shane Morrissey can be included in that group as well. Morrissey (3G, 5A) has been chipping in on a regular basis since coming over from his home in St. John's Newfoundland and is still hasn't hit his stride.

Using the past as a guide for tonight, it is safe to say that an early start is key for Prince George. Something to instill that confidence that brought the team national recognition. Nothing like a little deja vu and a little incentive to provide that. The team had an early skate at the arena to help shake the bus legs out and I do have my eye on a few players tonight to make a statement in the game.

I'll tell you who those are during the broadcast of the game beginning with the Treasure Cove Casino's pregame show at 7:05pm on 93.1 CFIS-FM radio. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30pm and you can listen online at or catch the full pay-per-view broadcast on

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Game Preview: vs Victoria Grizzlies

Cameron Lawson celebrates his most recent goal this season

As the Spruce Kings return to the ice for the first and only time this week, the team welcomes volunteers from MADD Canada to the game to help raise awareness and hand out red ribbons for the national Project Red Ribbon campaign. The campaign is designed to remind the entire community of the importance of planning ahead before celebrating this holiday season.

Fans will be given a red ribbon to attach to their vehicle’s antenna or car keys to serve as a constant reminder to plan ahead for a safe ride home if they’re going to be drinking. The ribbon also serves as a tribute to those who have been killed or injured in impairment related crashes.

The Spruce Kings family knows this pain all too well after an alumni lost a loved one in May of 2011. Cody Schlamb played for the Spruce Kings the year they went to the RBC Royal Bank Cup and won silver. A few years after this celebration, Cody found himself grieving the loss of his finance who was struck while waiting to make a turn through an intersection.

After the ceremonial puck drop and a moment of silence to recognize Remembrance Day, the Spruce Kings will play host to the Victoria Grizzlies in their first of two meetings this season. For Coltyn Hansen and Cameron Lawson this will be their first chance to play against their former team after being a part of the six player trade.

Last year Lawson (13G, 24A) and Hansen (19G, 17A) finished second and third in Victoria’s team scoring.

This year the pair are again at the top of the leaderboard with Coltyn Hansen leading the way – Hansen 7G, 10A and Lawson 9G, 7A. The other player in that trade has yet to play a regular season game with the Spruce Kings but David London is well on his way to a full recovery of his preseason injury.

Going the other way were arguably the fan favourites of Prince George – Leo, Myles and Gerry Fitzgerald. The trio are having a good season playing closer to their home and find themselves leading the way offensively this year with the Victoria Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies are growing accustomed to being on the road having played nearly twice as many games away from Bear Mountain and compiling a road record of 7-5-0-0 including a 5-4 loss last night to the West Kelowna Warriors. The Spruce Kings are quite comfortable at home but will have to be sharp against the 13th ranked team in the Nation to remain unbeaten in the Castle.

Tonight the Spruce Kings put their 6-0-1-1 home record to the test when the puck drops at 7pm in the Prince George Coliseum. Bring your radio to the game and catch the exciting play with Ron St. Clair on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The audio broadcast can also be found on the community radio station's website and the pay-per-view broadcast is available on

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Project Red Ribbon

This Saturday the Prince George Spruce Kings will be supporting MADD Canada and the Project Red Ribbon Campaign - a commitment to drive safe and sober. Fans to the game will be given a red ribbon as part of the national campaign to be displayed on vehicles, keychains or on personal items like purses, briefcases and backpacks.

The red ribbon is a sign of respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives or who have been injured as a result of impaired driving. The red ribbon also reinforces the message to drive sober through the holidays and throughout the year.

A little over a year ago the Spruce Kings family was touched by a "senseless act by a suspected drunk driver" leaving an alumni grieving the loss of a loved one. The incident happened on Tuesday May 3, 2011 and I first posted a blog here shortly after learning of the incident.

In recognition of this Saturday's game and the Project Red Ribbon Campaign, I have copied and pasted that original posting here again. Please wear red to the game on Saturday and get your red ribbon to be displayed prominently.

On Tuesday May 3, 2011 an alumni of the team finds himself grieving the loss of a loved one.

Cody Schlamb was one of those key acquisitions made for the Spruce Kings run in the 2007 RBC Royal Bank Cup. With four seasons in the BCHL and another in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Schlamb was known for his ability to shut down the other team's top guys.

Cody Schlamb (16) celebrates his first goal
with the Spruce Kings

A defensive asset but an overager that would be 21 early in January 2007, Schlamb became expendable in Surrey and was immediately claimed by the Spruce Kings. Schlamb made an immediate impact in his first game with his new team and quickly endeared himself to the fans and the hockey operations staff.

"I will never forget his first game," recalls Spruce Kings president, Darcy Buryn. "He scored a goal in that game and then found himself in a suit and tie watching the game from the seats after being tossed for a collision with the goaltender."

In what turned out to be a 5-0 win over the visiting Powell River Kings, Cody Schlamb scored the game winning goal at 16:27 of the second period. Two minutes and one second later, Schlamb would again be the focus around the net after colliding with the visiting goaltender and being assessed a five minute major and game misconduct.

In the years after winning a silver medal at the 2007 RBC Royal Bank Cup, Schlamb would show up at games unannounced as the Spruce Kings made stops along their Coastal Conference road trips. Calling Chilliwack home, it would not be uncommon to see Cody standing beside my broadcast location in Surrey or by the benches in Langley just to say hello and show his support for the team.

Now well away from the rink, it is my turn to tell Cody that we are there by his side to give support as he grieves the loss of his longtime girlfriend, Kassandra Marie Kaulius. Cody and Kassandra had been a couple since they met in 2004 and I can remember seeing Cody on the phone after games talking to Kassandra. As Cody puts it, he just can't imagine what his future will be like now.

In the Friday May 6, 2011 edition of The Province newspaper Elaine O'Connor published an article after speaking with Cody Schlamb ...

Cody Schlamb says his life has been ripped apart by the loss of his longtime girlfriend, Kassandra Marie Kaulius.

Kaulius, 22, of Surrey, was killed Tuesday, the victim of an apparent drunk-driver collision.

Kassandra Kaulius (Photo courtesy Les Bazso, PNG)

"She truly was my life and my future," Schlamb said Thursday.

"On Tuesday, my future was taken from me. Half of me died that night. I have the memories of our past, but when it comes to thinking of my future ... no one should have to feel the pain I am feeling right now."

Schlamb, who lives in Chilliwack, said he and Kaulius had been inseparable since they met in 2004 and they planned to get engaged this summer and move in together in the fall. They were both pursuing teaching degrees.

"We were going to become teachers and spend our summers traveling together, and have kids," said the 25 year old.

"It is crazy to think that if you asked me three days ago where my life was going, I could have told you to a 'T' and now for it to be ripped away by such a senseless act ... there are no words for it."

Kaulius was driving home westbound on 64th Avenue and waiting to turn left on to 152nd Street in Surrey when she was struck by a white panel van that raced through a red light and smashed into the driver's side of her red BMW.

Witnesses reported that the van's 34 year old female driver fled and tried to elude police. She was arrested in a nearby wooded area.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Drew Grainger said that charges against the woman are still pending approval and that they did not expect to charge the suspect or release her name before next week. She is facing charges of impaired driving causing death.

The story is being followed in depth by the media and there are many articles available online. A scholarship trust fund has been established in Kassandra's name. The most important part of this has to be getting the message out there so that this "senseless act" and loss of life doesn't have to happen.

Don't Drink and Drive!

My condolences go out to Cody Schlamb, the Kaulius family, friends of Kassandra and to those that will never have the chance to learn from her. A memorial service held on May 12th was attended by over 1,000 family, friends and RCMP members dressed in their full red serge read more

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Brutal Call

Frame of the onside play that led to the overtime winner
photo courtesy the Surrey Eagles

During Saturday night's game in Surrey, I made the over-the-top comment that a questionable onside play was a "brutal call" by the linesman. The way I saw it from the press box was Brady Shaw had both feet over the blue line ahead of the puck and that the linesman gave the onside signal before the puck even crossed the blue line.

Brady went down the ice and was able to pull the puck to his backhand and shelf the overtime winner for the Surrey Eagles. The goal was a sensational goal that gave the Eagles a clean sweep of their three game weekend set winning all three by a single goal and two of the three in overtime. My call did not let my listeners know any of this at the time, instead they were left with the impression that the Spruce Kings had been dealt a disservice.

Immediately following the game I started hearing rumblings that the play was onside. I checked with Brandon Batchelor who admitted that he thought the play was offside and when we first reviewed the video looked to be offside again. Upon further review and eventual frame by frame inspection, it became clear that the play was actually onside and that the play was called correctly by the linesman who was on top of the play.

I took a year off from broadcasting for a number of reasons and when I made the decision to come back this year, I wanted to be able to deliver a professional product. The poor display of broadcasting etiquette on November 3rd, was anything but professional and left me regretting my call of the game. I'll be honest and tell you that I contemplated leaving the microphone in the best interests of the game at the BCHL level.

The BCHL has made huge strides in recent years and this year there have been even more strides taken in the implementation of the rules and the commitment of the officials to make the right calls. Prior to my brutal call I never realized that long time NHL official, Brad Lazarowich was working with Derek Adams, Trevor Alto and the BCHL to coach and teach officials in the BCHL.

On Sunday I contacted Matt Erhart of the Surrey Eagles to apologize for my brutal call that was made in the Eagles pressbox with an assistant coach for the team standing less than three feet away from me. I let Matt know that the call wasn't directed at the Surrey Eagles or to Brady Shaw and that it was made in the heat of the moment. Matt accepted my apology and I asked him to pass it on to the assistant coach.

On Monday I contacted Trevor Alto at the BCHL and let him know that I was apologetic for my call and that I would like to pass along those apologies to Derek Adams and the entire officiating crew especially Ryan Gibbons - the linesman that made the right call. Trevor also accepted my apology and it was then that he told me about Brad Lazarowich's involvement with the BCHL.

Brad Lazarowich

On Tuesday I drafted an email and sent it to the BCHL outlining my apology to the BCHL officiating crew. To my surprise not fifteen minutes later, I received a call from Brad. He took the time to tell me how much he appreciated the letter of apology and that he understood how it can happen when dealing with a game in real time. Brad took the time to talk to me about how the League is changing the approach officials take to the game and to their calls.

A few times this season I have been made aware of calls that have been made during a game and later overturned and or clarified for the teams involved. In essence my lingering question of who polices the policemen has been answered. After every game the officials go over the game looking for calls made or missed. They look at every major penalty and every misconduct call and follow that up with a report that is filed with the League.

In addition to all of this, Brad Lazarowich will even go over games and personally contact officials to talk to them about good calls and yes bad calls made. All of this is to make all of the officials confident and accountable for their decisions made in real time. As well as the ongoing reviews, Brad has brought officiating workshop sessions to various locations around the Province.

In our conversation, Brad is trying to set up a workshop in Prince George and has asked me if I would like to be invited to it ... absolutely! I know that the officials today are great officials that take pride in the work that they do. With people like Brad Lazarowich, Derek Adams and Trevor Alto working at making the officials even better, there can be no question that the BCHL is the premier junior hockey league in Canada!

To everybody, I am sorry for making that "brutal call" on Saturday night and very much wish I had an opportunity for a do-over.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Game Preview: at Surrey Eagles

Karan Toor (4) and the Spruce Kings
will try to "Best" (13) the Surrey Eagles tonight

Today is time change day and the Spruce Kings will be looking for a change of their own tonight in Surrey when they take on the Eagles. Prince George is coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Langley Rivermen last night while the Surrey Eagles return to their nest with a pair of road wins to start their three game weekend.

On Thursday night the Eagles needed double overtime to post a 2-1 win over Langley, they followed that up last night with a 3-2 win over the Merritt Centennials in regulation time. The Spruce Kings were perhaps still a little full of the treats they were given this Halloween week and came out flat against Langley only to find themselves down 2-0 less than four minutes into the game and unable to mount a comeback this time around.

Certainly going 6-1 in seven games is still something to be proud of and where the team needs to turn their focus back to. Prince George has had good luck this season against the Eagles and have posted a pair of 3 goal victories over their Mainland Division rival in their two previous meetings. In the first meeting of the season Prince George posted a 4-1 win in Surrey and then followed that up a week later with a 3-0 win in the Castle.

The Surrey Eagles have made one significant change to their lineup since those games and the early dividends have resulted in an improvement in the standings. Brady Shaw was acquired from the Coquitlam Express and has been good for a point a game and timely goals. Third in team scoring, Shaw has a 10 goals and 5 helpers in 17 games with 4 goals coming in the five games played with Surrey.

Flying high in their last six games, the Surrey Eagles have reeled off five wins and have scored five goals in four of those games since being held off the score sheet in Prince George. The turnaround could be just the injection of some adrenaline in the form of Shaw, but is more likely due to the overall game plan coming into play and some scoring being spread around the top two lines.

Shaw shows up as the leading goal scorer with ten but as mentioned previously, six of those goals were scored while with the Coquitlam Express. Demico Hannoun, Michael Stenerson, Brett Mulcahy and Devon Toews do have six goals each and fill in leader board spots 1 - 5 with a combined total of 64 points. Craig Wyszomirski and Jordan Klimek have also contributed recently from the back end to help the Surrey Eagles climb out of the basement.

All five teams in the Mainland Division are above .500 which leaves the division the tightest in the BCHL. Only five points separating the top team (Prince George) and the bottom team (Langley) while there is a 14 point separation in the Island Division and 15 in the Interior. Suffering a setback in one game is one thing, suffering a similar setback in a second consecutive game is just something that the Spruce Kings don't want to experience at this time.

Game time tonight is 7pm in the South Surrey Arena with the game broadcast on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The free audio broadcast will be available online from the community radio station's website and the pay-per-view broadcast will be on The Treasure Cove Casino pregame show will start at 6:35pm with Ron Gallo featuring stats and conversations with players and coaches.

Following the game, don't forget to change your clocks back.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Awful Night in Langley

Langley Rivermen forward Mitch McLain (6) bowls over
Kirk Thompson (1) in the second period

It was "Awful Night" in the Langley Events Centre Friday and unfortunately the Spruce Kings played right into that theme dropping a 5-1 decision to the Langley Rivermen. The Spruce Kings could not get much of anything going right for them on this night and found themselves down 2-0 early in the first period and unable to do anything about it.

The theme played out in the awful costumes of those working the game, the awful music being played during stoppages in the play and the awful announcing with references to every other sport besides hockey. About the only thing that wasn't awful was the performance of James Barr between the pipes for the Langley Rivermen.

Just when the Spruce Kings thought they had life and scoring chances, Barr was there to shut the door and keep his team in front from start to finish. That certainly wasn't something either team could say about the previous four meetings when no lead was safe and late goals changed the outcomes of all four games.

A sign of things to come started with the Rivermen's first rush down the ice. Austin Azurdia led the rush down his familiar lane along the right side wall and cut hard to the net through the faceoff circle. Azurdia was able to get a good shot on goal that handcuffed Thompson with the rebound coming out and bouncing off Azurdia falling just wide of the net.

The next scoring chance came just one shift later when Mario Puskarich was able to centre the puck to Evan Campbell who slipped it under Thompson at 1:28 of the first period. Campbell and Trevor Esau got tangled up and both were given coincidental minors.

On the next play Jakob Reichert was called for boarding after he hammered Skylar Pacheco to the wall behind the Spruce Kings net. The power play had a couple of chances but a little over a minute into the man advantage the Spruce Kings gave up a two on one.

After Aaron Dolby got the puck up to the point, Ben Greiner carried the puck through the middle setting up Derek Sutliffe with a nice dish pass to the left winger. Sutliffe cut through the deep slot above the goal crease and waited for Thompson to go down slipping the puck under the goaltender's arm. Thompson got a good piece of the puck, but it wasn't enough as it got through the material of his jersey.

The rest of the first period was pretty even with the Spruce Kings getting back to even on the shot clock but unable to get anything past James Barr. Just when it looked like the opening period was going to end with Langley up 2-0, Reichert fought for the puck and was able to keep it in the Spruce Kings zone. After giving it to Dolby on the left point where it was given to Sutliffe along the half wall, Reichert was given it back while in the slot where he fired the one-timer past Thompson with 30.5 seconds remaining.

The second period started with a heavy tilt between Thomas Nitsche of the Rivermen and Sean Landrey of the Spruce Kings. Off a faceoff in the Prince George end, Nitsche ('92 6'03" 204 lbs) and Landrey ('93 6'04" 225 lbs) came together and the gloves came off. Nitsche got the first shot in but that would be his last as Landrey fired off a series a upper cuts jabs until Nitsche was able to get free and skate the opposite direction.

The fight was ruled a staged fight after Nitsche was seen shaking his gloves at Landrey prior to the puck drop and the two engaging in a fight within seconds of the faceoff. A staged fight in the BCHL requires a review by the League and could result in three game suspensions for both players. A ruling is expected to be made prior to the Spruce Kings game Saturday in Surrey.

The fight did ignite the Spruce Kings bench and did have a couple of good shifts including a two on one with Chad Staley trying to feed the puck to Jeremiah Luedtke. The defenceman on the play was able to knock the puck off its intended pass breaking up the odd man rush. Luedtke recovered the puck and fed it back to Staley who cut through the crease looking to stuff one in the far side but was denied by the pad of Barr.

On the next play Bryant Christian had an opportunity at the side of the net and tried to find the top shelf on Barr and he too was denied. Barr wasn't able to stop them all with Justin Rai adding to his goal total of eight - five against the Langley Rivermen. Rai was fed the puck from across the zone when Brad Ryan spotted the rookie in the faceoff circle. Rai went high on Barr to the far side and rang his shot off the inside back bar of the net with the official standing right there to see it go in and come back out.

The Rivermen didn't deviate from their game plan and continued with their physical style of play including what looked like a blatant and intentional hit on Kirk Thompson by Mitch McLain. Going hard to the net looking for a rebound, McLain ran into Thompson sending the twenty year old goaltender sprawling with his mask and blocker coming off. In the collision, McLain's stick got caught under Thompson who was down and out for a couple of seconds while McLain came back to retrieve his stick and the play went the other way.

Everybody on the Spruce Kings bench was up on their feet and the coaching staff were on the bench but the referee was unchanged in his opinion that the hit didn't warrant a penalty. The play continued on for some time and again the Spruce Kings had a couple of chances and again the Rivermen's netminder stood tall turning everything aside.

In the late stages of the second period, Tyson Witala was called for a cross check giving the Langely Rivermen their one and only powerplay of the game. This would turn out to be the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game when Puskarich came off the half wall and lifted the Rivermen's fourth goal of the game over the shoulder of Thompson.

With all of the excitement through the first two period, the third was tame in comparison with Langley registering the only tally of the frame. In a bit of a goal mouth scramble, the puck slid through the blue paint coming to rest against the far goal post where McLain found it and pushed in an easy one putting this game out of reach.

Trying to change things up in the late stages of the game, Dave Dupas gave Tanner Fjellstrom more ice time helping the rookie forward get a little more comfortable in his second game of the season. Another noticeable change was made up front with Latrell Charleson being moved up to play on the left wing with Bryant Christian and Fjellstrom in the abscence of Landrey.

In the preview post for this game I went out on a limb and called this the game of the night in the BCHL. I was wrong, the game of the night did end up benefiting the Spruce Kings but it was played in Trail. The Chilliwack Chiefs went into the Cominco Arena on Friday night and built up a 3-0 lead in the first period only to have the Smoke Eaters come all the way back to win 5-4.

That score leaves the Spruce Kings as the top team in the Mainland Division with 24 points (11-5-1-1) two points better than the Chilliwack Chiefs (10-5-1-1). The Coquitlam Express (10-5-1-0) closed the gap in third place with a 3-0 win over the Powell River Kings and the Surrey Eagles (10-6-0-1) kept pace with a 3-2 win over the Merritt Centennials. The Langley Rivermen (8-7-0-3) stays above .500 improving to 19 points in 18 games played.

Next up for the Prince George Spruce Kings is a stop in the South Surrey Arena to take on the Surrey Eagles who are 2-0 this weekend after their win tonight and double overtime victory on Thursday. This will be the third meeting of the season between the Eagles and the Spruce Kings with the Prince George Spruce Kings leading the season series 2-0 (4-1 and 3-0). Game time is 7:00pm with the broadcast available on CFIS-FM and

Game Preview: at Langley Rivermen

Kirk Thompson (1) turns aside Mario Puskarich (18)
in the game played October 19th (photo

It is becoming commonplace to play the Langley Rivermen every other weekend, but after tonight that frequency will come to an end. It is the fifth meeting of the season between these two teams since September 9th with the four previous games all being decided by a single goal.

Both teams have registered a pair of wins over the other, but the Rivermen do lead the season series with six points while the Spruce Kings have four points. The difference being Prince George's wins have both come in overtime while Langley picked up their wins in regulation time. Interestingly enough both teams have scored 16 goals on each other, which goes against their typical averages.

These two teams have engaged in some memorable battles with no lead ever being safe between the two. In the two overtime wins posted by the Spruce Kings, they never led in either game having to battle back from multiple goal deficits to force overtime. The Langley Rivermen have held leads in games they have won but are better known for their late goal heroics, scoring game winners with 2:39 and 0.3 seconds remaining.

The Langley Rivermen are coming off a low scoring 2-1 overtime loss to the Surrey Eagles on Thursday night. Through seventeen games, the Rivermen have a goals for average of 3.29 and a goals against average of 3.18. Taking the games against Prince George out of the mix, those numbers drop to 3.08 for and 2.92 against.

The Spruce Kings see a similar trend with a 3.53 goals for average through 17 games and 3.38 in the thirteen games played against teams other than Langley. Prince George has an impressive 1.88 goals against average when Langley isn't considered and a 2.71 when all games are factored into the equation.

Twice in the month of October the Langley Rivermen picked up Player of the Week honours. First it was Austin Azurdia after his highlight reel goal and that was followed up this past weekend by Mario Puskarich and his seven points (4G, 3A) in three games. In between those two POW's was one for Spruce Kings netminder, Kirk Thompson who was recently featured in the Province Newspaper for his "unrattled" performance between the pipes.

The Spruce Kings are currently riding a season high six-game win streak and are sitting in top spot in the Mainland Division with an 11-4-1-1 record and 24 points. Those stats earned the team their first ever National recognition landing in the Canadian Junior Hockey League's (CJHL) Top Twenty weekly rankings.

Certainly a feather in the cap of the Spruce Kings organization and validation of the team's hard work on the ice, coach Dave Dupas uses caution when talking about the honour and expects the players to stay hungry for more. While answering questions from the media throughout the week, the common response was to not ease up or deviate from the game plan that got the team there in the first place - rather to strive for a higher rung on the rankings' ladder.

The Spruce Kings come into the weekend as healthy as they ever have with only David London remaining on the injured reserve list; although he too has taken to the ice as of this week. Tanner Fjellstrom has been participating in team practices for over a week now and has made his first road trip with the team since an injury in the preseason sidelined the rookie forward.

Friday night's game will be the first time Lyndon Martell will have been back on the ice at the Langley Events Centre after being hit with a heavy blow to the head in the game on October 6th. Martell missed a total of five games while Evan Campbell was given a two game suspension for the hit.

Martell and Mitch Eden are the overtime heros for the Spruce Kings against the Rivermen while Austin Azurdia and Derek Sutliffe have the game winners for Langley. With the amount of goals scored between these two teams, it is anybody's guess as to who will be the game changer in this meeting. Although a strong argument can be made for Austin Azurdia and Justin Rai. Azurdia has 5 goals and an assist in four games vs PG while Rai has 4 goals and 1 assist in three games.

One thing is for sure, with the history that these two teams have created already this season, this is arguably the game of the night in the BCHL. There are seven games on the League schedule today. Chilliwack has made the long journey into Trail to take on the Smoke Eaters and Coquitlam has headed off to the other BCHL outpost to faceoff against the Powell River Kings tonight. The other Mainland Divisional opponent, the Surrey Eagles are in Merritt for a 7:30 meeting with the Centennials.

Game time for the Spruce Kings and Rivermen is 7:15pm from the LEC with a live broadcast available on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The free audio broadcast will be available online from the community radio station's website and the pay-per-view broadcast will be on The Treasure Cove Casino pregame show will start at 6:45pm with Ron Gallo featuring stats and conversations with players and coaches. During the first intermission there will be an interview with Spruce Kings alumni and NHL'er Brad Thiessen.