|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 Fasthockey.com.