|Former Spruce Kings, Bradley Ryan with the overtime winner|
the last time these two teams met Jan. 27th in PG
The Spruce Kings start a three game road weekend - the last of the regular season - tonight in Coquitlam. The weekend will also include stops in Chilliwack in Saturday and a return visit to Coquitlam Sunday afternoon. Tonight's game is the fifthieth of the season for Prince George who head into the matchup knowing that the Express can't catch them for a playoff spot.
Althought Prince George has clinched a playoff spot at the expense of Coquitlam, that doesn't mean the Express dosen't have a chance to make a post season appearance. The host team tonight does have a chance to catch the Langley Rivermen making them hungry for the win.
Despite Prince George having the season series all locked up with five regulation time wins, the last time these two teams met it was the Coquitlam Express that came away victorious with an overtime win in Prince George. Since that game the Express have posted wins against both of the top teams in the Mainland Division (3-2 OT win vs Surrey and 3-1 win vs Chilliwack).
If the Spruce Kings are to start the weekend off on the right foot, they are going to want to get it done in regulation time. All five of the Spruce Kings wins over Coquitlam have come in the first sixty minutes. The Express have played seven overtime games and have yet to give away that extra point in the extra time. The Spruce Kings on the other hand have played eleven overtimes to this point in the season and have a record of 3-1-7.
Prince George will be a little short handed tonight dressing 19 players for the game. Kody Disher was an affiliate player called up from the Castlegar Rebels but has since been returned to his Junior B team for the start of their post season that begins tonight against the Spokane Braves in Castlegar. Jeremiah Luedtke remains sidelined with an upper body injury after being hit from behind head first into the boards in a game against the Chilliwack Chiefs. Karan Toor is the other scratch for this weekend and will miss his third consecutive game tonight with an undisclosed upper body injury.
The Coquitlam Express are as healthy as they have ever been, but that still leaves them four bodies short of a full roster. The Coquitlam Express have been running with a twenty one man roster, which is one less than the allowable limit of twenty two. On that list are two players out with season ending injuries and a player who has still to show after being traded to Coquitlam.
Alexander Kerfoot is the biggest injury for Coquitlam and one that single handedly started the team's descent into the basement of the Mainland Division. A draft pick of the New Jersey Devils and Harvard University committed player for the 2013/14 season, Kerfoot remains at home recovering from a season ending injury and surgery on his shoulder. Sam Majka is also out with a season ending knee injury while Lars Hepso is a scratch after failing to report to the Coquitlam Express after being traded by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the trade deadline.
Justin Georgeson is leading the Express with 8 goals and 22 assists. Sitting in second is the former Spruce Kings defenceman Bradley Ryan (7G, 19A) who scored the overtime winner for Coquitlam in Prince George on January 27. The OT winner for Ryan was the defenceman's second goal with the Express and seventh of the season. Ryan has a dangerous point shot as seen many times over while he played with the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The actual goal scoring leader in Coquitlam is Zachary Pryzbek with ten goals, two better than Georgeson. The Express have had difficulties scoring goals this season and have the third lowest goals for in the League with 137 in 50 games. They have also given up the second most goals against with only the Trail Smoke Eaters having fished the puck out of their own net more times this season.
Coquitlam is playing their fourth game of an eight game home stand tonight. Heading into the game, the Express are 2 wins and 1 loss in that home stand. Again a strong showing on home ice could do wonders for the team currently sitting in fifth in the Mainland division. With six games remaining in their schedule, Coquitlam is five points out of a playoff spot chasing the Langley Rivermen who have a game in hand on the Express.
Unfortunately for the Coquitlam Express, they have to count on others to help them as they have no games remaining against the Rivermen. The Spruce Kings also have the Rivermen in their sights, even though it is through the rear view mirror right now. Prince George has an eight point cushion on Langley and can make it next to impossible for the Rivermen to catch them with a win tonight and a good weekend overall.
The Spruce Kings are coming off a big 6-3 win over Langley a week ago in Prince George and will play the Rivermen twice more in the Castle next weekend. Cameron Lawson led the way with three goals including one on the powerplay, one shorthanded and one while at even strength. It was unfortunate that Lawson was overlooked for the BCHL Player of the Week honours after finishing a two game set that generated seven points including two short handed goals, a game winning goal and first star recognition.
Lawson, the Holy Cross Crusader committed player, can't let something like that bother him and instead will be a much bigger asset by trying to duplicate those efforts. It wasn't that long ago that Lawson and the rest of the Spruce Kings were struggling to find the score sheet let alone a spot light for their play.
Coltyn Hansen continues to lead the Spruce Kings charge with 17 goals and 23 assists but has given up the goal scoring lead to Lawson who now has 20 goals. Lawson also passed Mitch Eden on the team leader board and sits in second with 38 points (20G, 18A). Eden is in third with 34 points (2G, 32A). Another player making a charge for the Spruce Kings is Shayne Morrissey who has crept up into fourth spot with 16 goals and 13 assists.
Lyndon Martell, who missed a good portion of the season, sits in fifth spot with 28 points (10G, 18A) while Bryant Christian (8G, 17A) and Chad Staley (7G, 16A) are right there in the mix. A pair of defenceman have also seen their numbers inch up with good play and timely plays helping both Skylar Pacheco (2G, 20A) and Mark Begert (3G, 16A) make an impact from the blue line.
Kirk Thompson is expected to get the start tonight adding to his 2500 minutes already played this season. If Thompson plays the full game tonight, he will take over top spot among franchise goaltenders for minutes played in a single season. That title is currently held by Kevin Genoe when he played 2535 minutes in the 2008-09 season. If the Spruce Kings win the game, that too will see Thompson move to the top of the list for that single season franchise record. Tyler Euverman set a single season record of 23 wins during the 1998-99 campaign, Thompson currently has 22 wins this season.
At this time of the year, Kirk Thompson will be the first to tell you that it isn't about single player stats, but team stats. The Spruce Kings have been making their strides as of late but still have a way to go to be playoff ready. Three big wins this weekend will do wonders to get the team there before they return home for their final four regular season games, but lets do this one game at a time.
Game time tonight is 7pm from the Coquitlam Sport and Leisure Complex on Poirier Street. Ron Gallo will have the broadcast beginning with the pregame show at 6:35pm on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The game will also be available for free on the Spruce Kings MIXLR.com channel and as a pay-per-view feed on FASTHOCKEY.com. Following the game, the Spruce Kings will head back to their home base in the Lower Mainland to prepare for their final regular season matchup versus the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday.