Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spruce Kings Nip Back at the Bulldogs

Kirk Thompson (1) made some unbelievable saves tonight
helping the Spruce Kings post their first win of 2013

The Prince George Spruce Kings picked up their first win in 2013 on goals from Justin Rai and Tyson Witala and more stellar goaltending from Kirk Thompson. In a much better effort from the previous night, the Spruce Kings did everything they were asked to do in a 2-1 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs to improve to 18-11-1-5 on the season.

The game was extremely close from the opening puck drop to the final buzzer as the two teams traded shots and scoring chances. The Bulldogs were first on the board after Hunter Stewart found himself on the doorstep with the puck fed out from behind the net. The Bulldogs carried that one goal lead to the dressing room with them but it didn't last for long once play resumed in the second period.

After a Bulldogs defenceman blew a tire and coughed up the puck in his zone to Justin Rai, the rookie made no mistake with a beautiful move in the deep slot. Rai found the puck with nobody around just inside the blue line and carried it right down the middle going from his backhand to his forehand on the top of the crease. As the goaltender opened up to push from one side to the other, Rai slid the puck through the five hole for his tenth of the season and the Spruce Kings first of 2013.

The goal changed the complexion of the game adding confidence to a Spruce Kings bench that had been struggling to find positives just a night ago. The Bulldogs on the ensuing shift tried to get their one goal lead back but were denied by the goaltending of Kirk Thompson which was solid again tonight. On more than one occasion players and fans were left in half cheer shaking their heads at another rob job by the twenty year old netminder.

Thompson's performance on the night earned him the number one star status and following the game a polite and respectful round of applause when his name was announced and he skated out onto the ice. Things might have been different for Thompson and the Spruce Kings had it not been for a head's up play in the neutral zone during the third period that led to the game's winning goal.

Following a series of failed attempts by either team to gain the offensive zone, Cameron Lawson dug a puck out from a pair of skates and flipped it along the boards to Coltyn Hansen who carried it into the Bulldogs end of the ice. Hansen then spotted Tyson Witala coming down the middle after getting free along the blue line. During the afternoon video session, coach Dave Dupas pointed out times where the Spruce Kings had failed to do just that and reminded them that somebody should always be going to the net.

Witala received the pass from Hansen and had time to think about his next move as he brought it in between the faceoff circles. With one quick move, Witala launched a shot that beat Jay Deo and gave the Spruce Kings their first lead of the game. The goal was Witala's 14th of the season coming with more than fourteen minutes still remaining in regulation time - more than enough time for either team to score again.

The Spruce Kings did get a few more chances but the best chance of the third was saved for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Sprung on a two-on-one Evan Tironese headed down the left side with Manny Gialedagis on the right side. A quick pass through the slot above the crease was received and fired towards the net. Diving across from one side of the net to the other, Kirk Thompson made the game saving stop off a sure goal from arguable the best player on the ice for the Bulldogs aside from their netminder.

In the dying minutes, the Spruce Kings would get a couple more chances with the Bulldogs net empty but neither long distance attempt made it leaving the score as it was since the Witala goal. The Spruce Kings posted their first victory of 2013 and completed the sweep of the Bulldogs after the 6-3 win in the Coliseum on October 26.

The scene will now shift for the Prince George Spruce Kings to Nanaimo and their first game of the season against the host team of the Western Canadian Cup - a tournament pitting the champions of the four western provinces against each other for a berth into the RBC Royal Bank Cup. The Clippers are coming off of a narrow victory of their own after downing the Powell River Kings 3-2 on Saturday night. Sunday's game is a 3pm start with the game being broadcast only online.

For the free online audio broadcast, check out the Spruce Kings channel and the pay-per-view feed will be available on Following the game the Spruce Kings will head home to get ready for their next set of game - a pair on the road against the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Coquitlam Express next weekend.

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