|The Spruce Kings found themselves under siege|
for much of the game Friday night
The Spruce Kings came up short on Friday night dropping a 5-3 decision to the Coquitlam Express. Prince George was guilty of starting out flat in the first period but were perhaps lucky to get out of the first period only down 1-0 after being outshot 8-4.
Throughout the first period, the Coquitlam Express showed just how hungry they were to get to within striking range of the Langley Rivermen for the final playoff spot in the Mainland Division. The Express came at the Prince George Spruce Kings in waves and forced turnovers creating chance after chance. Kirk Thompson did what he could to keep the door closed.
The first period featured a massive hit by Kevin Guiltinan on Travis Stephens. Stephens released the puck from the bottom of the faceoff circle and was able to just get the shot released as Guiltinan laid out the forward with a heavy check against the boards. The hit left Stephens woozy and although he skated to the bench on his own, the forward never returned to the game.
Prince George had the first real chance to open the scoring when Sean Landrey found himself streaking down the left wing and was able to blow past the Coquitlam Express defenceman who blew a tire in the neutral zone. Landrey started to cut to the middle and let go a wrist shot that was labelled for the inside of the far post only to find a piece of Cole Huggins' glove and sail wide.
The Express opened the scoring at 17:19 on a play that saw Brandon Morley feed Malcolm McKinney with a perfect pass from behind the net to the slot. McKinney didn't hesitate letting go the one-timer from in close on Kirk Thompson for his fifth of the season. Coquitlam would hold onto that 1-0 lead even while short handed to end the first period.
The Spruce Kings started the second period on the powerplay and were able to get a couple of shots on Huggins during that time. After killing off the penalty, the Express went back on the attack and were looking to go up 2-0 when the Spruce Kings seemed to gain control of the game.
It came with a play initiated by Chad Staley to get the puck deep into the Express zone. The Spruce Kings started cycling the puck and working on getting some chances of their own. Adam Conti, an AP for the Express, ended up icing the puck allowing Prince George to put out their top line for the ensuing faceoff in the Coquitlam end. For almost a full three minutes, the Spruce Kings put the pressure on looking for the equalizer only to be turned aside by some unbelievable saves by Huggins.
Just as the Coquitlam Express were able to get fresh legs out on the ice, one pair of those picked off the puck in the neutral zone and skate into the Spruce Kings zone. Zac Pryzbek gave the home team a 2-0 lead with a shot from the right side wall that got past Kirk Thompson. With the missed opportunity to take over the game and instead now down 2-0, the fear was that the Spruce Kings would not be able to get back into this game.
That wasn't the case as the top line came out and made things happen. Coltyn Hansen started the play spotting Lyndon Martell on the left wall going through the middle with speed. Martell carried the puck deep into the zone pulling Huggins out of his net exposing the far side. Martell spotted David Stephens and was able to feed his linemate a perfect pass for a backhand tap in for Stephens, his third of the season.
Less than a minute later the Spruce Kings found themselves down a man with Sean Landrey in the penalty box on a boarding call. On the penalty kill, Trevor Esau broke up a play just inside the Spruce Kings blue line, Coltyn Hansen recovered the loose puck and with a burst of speed headed down the ice. Bryant Christian jumped up on the rush creating a two-on-one and providing Hansen with an option that he took allowing Christian to tap home an easy shorthanded tally for his ninth of the season.
The goal brought the Spruce Kings even and erased all that had gone wrong previously in the game. The teams would eventually head to the dressing room tied 2-2 but not before the Coquitlam Express applied one more full court press looking to restore their lead that didn't come before the end of the period.
To start the third period, it was the Spruce Kings that started strong and were able to create a couple of scoring chance. Chad Staley kept a play alive in the neutral zone and was able to win a puck battle just inside the Express blueline. Staley carried the puck below the goal line and then wrapped a pass around the net for Justin Rai who put the puck up the middle for Shayne Morrissey who was coming down the slot. Morrissey hesitated just enough to create an opening for himself that he found with his 19th goal of the season giving the Spruce Kings their first lead of the game.
On the ensuing play, Ben Israel changed the game for good with a solo effort that saw him get the puck through a couple of Prince George players and deep into the Spruce Kings zone before firing the puck across the top of the crease to Justin Georgeson. Georgeson leaned into the pass and was able to direct the puck on net and watched it go off Thompson's skate and just inside the short side post. Forty eight seconds after Morrissey gave the Spruce Kings the lead, the game was once again tied.
The next goal was a result of one of those plays that leaves coaches pulling their hair out. With an opportunity to use the glass to clear the zone, the wrong choice was made to spring a player on the opposite of the ice. Adam Rockwood intercepted the pass just inside the blue line and then worked the puck over to Will Cook in the left side faceoff circle who found a seam to the back of the net giving the Coquitlam Express a 4-3 with over twelve minutes to play in the third period.
The Spruce Kings could not find the equalizer and resorted to pulling the goaltender. That gave the Express the chance they needed for the equalizer that came when Malcolm McKinney and Zac Pryzbek found themselves moving into the Spruce Kings zone on a two-on-one with Mitch Eden doing what he could to prevent both the shot and the pass. Ultimately the pass was made, McKinney to Pryzbek and the Express had their 5-3 lead late in the third period. They would hold onto that lead despite picking up a penalty with 36 seconds remaining.
Coquitlam held their 5-3 lead to the final buzzer and headed to their dressing room knowing that they had pulled to within three points of the Langley Rivermen and that final playoff spot. By the time they got to an internet connection to check the BCHL scoreboard, their gain was as short lived as the Spruce Kings third period lead. The Langley Rivermen posted a 5-1 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs leaving the Express still five points out of that playoff spot and pulling the Rivermen to within six of the Spruce Kings.
Saturday night the Prince George Spruce Kings will find themselves in Chilliwack to take on the Chiefs and see if they can repeat what they did the last time they were in Prospera Centre. On February 9th, the Spruce Kings registered their first win of the season against the Chiefs with a 3-1 final. Game time is 7pm and will be broadcast on all the usual sources - 93.1 CFIS-FM, MIXLR.com and FASTHOCKEY.com.