|Tanner Fjellstrom (17) scores the eventual game winner|
It's only one game in, but December already appears to be much more friendly to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
Tanner Fjellstrom's second period power-play goal held up as the game winner as the Spruce Kings downed the visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-1 on Friday night to snap a five-game losing skid. The win, the 13th of the year in 28 starts, gives the Spruce Kings 32 points and sole possession of third place in the Mainland Division heading into a crucial showdown with the Coquitlam Express later this season.
After a strong start to the game, the Spruce Kings were unable to generate much offence in the first period as both teams felt each other out during their first meeting of the year.
Once the puck dropped in the second period it didn't take long for the Spruce Kings to strike. At just 1:26 of the middle stanza, Jeremiah Luedtke took a feed from Chad Staley and beat Derek Dun to open the scoring. The Staley-Luedtke-Justin Rai line was the best the Spruce Kings had to offer Friday as they controlled the play whenever they were on the ice.
Staley was rewarded with the Treasure Trove Casino first star honour, while Luedtke was named the second star. Although he wasn't honoured with a post-game award, Rai played a very strong game as he returned from injury.
Fjellstrom doubled the Spruce Kings lead at 7:31 of the second using his reach to bang in a rebound. Tyson Witala and Karan Toor picked up the assists.
The power-play tally ended an 0-for-18 dry spell for the Spruce Kings on the man advantage. Although it was the only power-play goal of the game for the home side, the Spruce Kings showed some good puck movement while up a man which could lead to more goals down the road.
Thanks to three straight power plays, the Spruce Kings dominated the game during the early and middle stages of the second, but the Capitals came on strong in the latter stages.
After a turnover at the Cowichan Valley blue-line, Capitals forward Luke Gordon took a stretch pass, stepped over the Spruce Kings blue-line and wired a shot over the shoulder of Prince George goalie Kirk Thompson to cut the lead in half. Troy Paterson and Tyler Mueller got the assists and Gordon got third-star honours.
The Spruce Kings took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission and played strong defensively in the third, limiting the Capitals ability to come back.
Coltyn Hansen added an empty net goal late for an insurance marker.
Dun was the busier of the two goaltenders, making 31 saves. Thompson made 22 stops to get the win.
Spruce Kings forward Bryant Christian was named the Fortis BC Energy player of the game, while Sean Landrey took home Dairy Queen player of the game honours.
Jace Hennig, making his debut in the lineup for the Spruce Kings, was used in all situations - power play, penalty kill and even strength - and had a strong two-way game.
The Express are in town for back-to-back games on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) as the Spruce Kings wrap up a seven-game homestand and look put more distance between themselves and Coquitlam in the battle for third place.