Saturday, November 17, 2012

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.

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