Saturday, December 8, 2012

Morrissey, Staley lead Spruce Kings past Express

Jace Hennig (19) had a big game against his former team

It was fourth time the charm for the Prince George Spruce Kings on Saturday night.

The Spruce Kings proved capable of building a lead against the visiting Coquitlam Express, but for the first 21 minutes or so had a hard time making it stick. It wasn't until Shayne Morrissey broke a 3-3 tie that gave the Spruce Kings their fourth lead of the game that the home side was able to solidify it and skate away with a 6-4 win.

Morrissey, who scored twice in the second period, was named the Treasure Trove Casino second star. He had a few chances to complete the hat trick, missing the net on one play midway through the third and getting stopped by Coquitlam goalie Cole Huggins on a backhand attempt later in the same shift.

Chad Staley, the first star, also had a pair of goals as the Spruce Kings won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of October. The victory gives them a three-point cushion over the Express in the battle for third in the Mainland Division and it also keeps the Spruce Kings in touch with the soaring second-place Surrey Eagles. With two wins already this weekend, Prince George is only two points behind Surrey.

Morrissey notched his first 80 seconds into the second period assisted by Jace Hennig, who recorded his first point in just his second game with the Spruce Kings after being acquired in a trade from the Express. Hennig was named the Dairy Queen player of the game.

Morrissey's second came at 12:43 just after an Express penalty expired. Skylar Pacheco got the play started with a point shot and Coltyn Hansen poked the rebound to Morrissey who deposited the puck into the yawning cage at 12:43.

Staley gave the Spruce Kings a three-goal lead at 5:29 of the third. Mitch Eden charged into the zone, shot and collected his own rebound behind the net. Eden fed Jeremiah Luedtke at the side of the net, Luedtke waited for Staley to get open at the far post and found his linemate.

Philip Zielonka made it a two-goal game at 11:45, assisted by Mitch Fyffe and John Siemer and the were some tense moments for the Spruce Kings in the final minutes as Mitch Eden was whistled for interference and the Express pulled Huggins for a 6-on-4 advantage. Kirk Thompson held strong, making a handful of his 31saves to pick up his 13th win in net. Huggins made 36 saves in a losing effort.

The Spruce Kings took the lead three times in a wild first period, only to see the Express come back each time to tie the score. Both team connected for three goals on 11 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Mark Begert got things started - and unleashed an avalanche of socks, toques and other donations for the St. Vincent de Paul Society - with a power-play tally at 5:39. Begert's first goal of the season, scored against his former teammates no less, was a point shot which hit a body on it's way past Huggins. Tanner Fjellstrom and Karan Toor picked up the assists.

Will Cook got the Express back on even terms at 8:09, jamming a wrap around past Thompson at 8:09 with assists going to Brandon Morley and Justin Georgeson.

With Shayne Morrissey in the box for slashing, the Spruce Kings struck with a short-handed tally at 9:34. Bryant Christian got control of the puck in the neutral zone, fed Tyson Witala and the Spruce Kings forward gained the line, skated across the high lot and wired a shot passed Huggins.

Fans didn't have a chance to digest that goal, before the Express found the equalizer. Just 16 seconds later on the same power play, Zack Pryzbek took a feed from Cook and beat Thompson.

The prettiest goal of the first came next as the Spruce Kings broke in 3-on-2, with defenceman Mitch Eden leading the way. Eden passed it to Justin Rai on the wing and Rai patiently waited for Staley, the fourth man on the rush to gain the zone. Staley had all day to pick his spot and made no mistake, scoring at 13:27. Rai was named the Fortis BC Energy player of the game.

Mark Biega's seeing-eye point shot at 17:07 beat Thompson and sent the teams tied 3-3 heading into the locker rooms. Travis Stephens and Adam Rockwood got the helpers. Stephens was named the game's third star.

The two teams meet again Sunday at 3 p.m. as the Spruce Kings close out their seven-game homestand - through the first six games they've picked up six points. After this weekend, the Spruce Kings won't be back at the Castle until Jan. 18 when Chilliwack comes for another two-game visit.

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