|Spruce Kings celebrate a short handed goal against Chilliwack|
last weekend (photo courtesy David Wilson)
HOCKEY IS BACK
That might be the slogan that the NHL is using to encourage fans to come back to their games, but it is also one that can be heard on the streets of Prince George in reference to the Spruce Kings who haven’t played a home game since December 9th. Although the team has not seen a home game in that time, they certainly haven’t been sitting idle having played eight times.
In a span of 40 days, the Spruce Kings have played 8 games in 3 road trips while wrapping and unwrapping presents and turning the calendar. Prior to the Christmas break the Spruce Kings had a three game road trip picking up two wins including a 2-0 shutout victory over the Surrey Eagles. Following the break, the team returned to Prince George on December 28th to start practicing for another long road trip on the first weekend of January.
The Spruce Kings started 2013 with a sixteen hour travel day that included two ferries to get to Powell River. The road trip and extended break over the holidays seemed to play a factor as the Spruce Kings came home with one win. Last weekend the team was back on the road with a pair against Mainland Division opponents. On the Friday night they suffered a 3-2 overtime loss and rebounded the next night with a 7-2 win.
The win over the Coquitlam Express seemed to give the team a sense of relief after a bit of lull in goal scoring. Some of that new found touch around the net can be attributed to the arrival of David Stephens. The former Cariboo Cougar is now playing on a line with another former Cariboo Cougar in Lyndon Martell and the very speedy Coltyn Hansen. In Coquitlam the three teamed up for a total of 12 points, four each.
For success tonight against the Chilliwack Chiefs, that line will have to duplicate that effort and others as well. The Chiefs do come into the game with a few healthy scratches due to some suspensions after a bench clearing melee in Victoria that resulted in the Chiefs being assessed a total of eight man games. Trevor Hills and Shay Laurent will miss both of the games in the double header this weekend after being assessed with two game suspensions each.
Four other players were given a late Christmas present from the BCHL when it was decided that the team could choose which regular season games those players would miss. The BCHL made the decision that the one game suspensions to David Thompson, Mattieu Tibbett, Jaret Babych and Tanner Cochrane would put an unnecessary strain on Junior B teams that the Chiefs would have to draw players from.
As it is the Chiefs will have three AP players in their lineup including a pair that are very familiar with the Prince George Spruce Kings team and fans. Spencer and Scott McHaffie make their first return to the Coliseum after being reassigned to the Junior B level last season. The other AP in the lineup for Chilliwack is Brandon Volpe while the Spruce Kings will be able to go with a 20 man roster although they will be without Sean Landrey (injured) and Spencer Schoech.
This should be a very entertaining game with the rivalry that has existed between these two teams, the current playoff race and another Save-On-Foods game night. The Chiefs sit in second place in the Mainland Division with 50 points, five points ahead of the Spruce Kings. In their last meeting a week ago tonight, the Spruce Kings scored a short handed goal in the third period to take a 2-1 lead over Chilliwack into the late stages of the third period.
A couple of margin calls went against the Spruce Kings putting the team in a short handed situation against the best powerplay unit in the BCHL. Needless to say, it didn't go Prince George's way as the Chiefs capitalized on a powerplay in the final minute of regulation time and another powerplay goal in overtime to win it.
These two teams will play each in three consecutive games starting with the double header tonight and then a single in Chilliwack on Wednesday night. Those six points will be huge as the teams jockey for playoff positioning and set the stage for what is shaping up to be a first round playoff preview.
Tonight is also a special night with the Save On Foods sponsored Help Hunger Disappear night. Fans are being asked to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Every fan will receive an entry form to win a three night trip for two to Las Vegas and those fans that bring food donations will be given additional entry forms to win the prize.
Last year this game was a complete sell-out with fans being turned away at the door due to the full house. Seating capacity is limited to 2112 spectators and it is expected there will be at least that many at the game tonight. If you have your ticket, remember your food donation and come early!
For those unable to be at the game, the home broadcast crew of Ron St. Clair, Todd Doherty and Peter James will have the call of the game on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The game is also available for free online through the Spruce Kings MIXLR.com channel with the pay-per-view video broadcast on FASTHOCKEY.com.