Friday, February 8, 2013

Game Preview: at Surrey Eagles

Kirk Thompson (1) stops the Surrey Eagles Brady Shaw
on a breakaway in their last meeting January 31

It is the final regular season meeting of the year for these two teams in a season series that must have odds makers baffled. In seven games played so far, the Spruce Kings have secured at least a single point in each game with four wins and three overtime losses. Of the four wins, two of them have been by shutout and in the other two Prince George only allowed one goal against.

Surrey has been a powerhouse in the Mainland Division since early on in the season after two key player acquisitions. The Eagles saw immediate dividends after picking up Brady Shaw in a trade with the Coquitlam Express. Shaw has proven to be an offensive force in Surrey and is leading the team with 28 goals and 24 assists. In fact, Shaw would be second in team scoring with just the points he has picked up in the 31 games with Surrey (22G, 21A).

At the end of the year the Surrey Eagles will have to flip a coin to make a decision on who has been their regular season MVP because as much as Brady Shaw has done to score on the opposition, Michael Santaguida has done to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. An import that was pulled from a US High School league a few weeks into the regular season, Santaguida has secured a NCAA Division I scholarship to the University of Vermont and picked up two BCHL Player of the Week honours in his time with Surrey.

Santaguida's numbers lead all goaltenders in the Coastal Conference with a 2.31 goals against average and .933 save percentage. Tied for the most wins this season at 23, Santaguida has played fewer games then the other two goalies that he currently shares that lead with. Kirk Thompson is right there in that same race with 20 wins so far this season which is good for fifth spot on the list.

Thompson, who recently secured a long overdue NCAA Division I scholarship, is without question the Spruce Kings MVP for the season and has kept the team in games they maybe shouldn't have been in, not to mention the wins that he has single handedly given Prince George. One such win came the last time these two teams met in the Eagle Nest, that game was played on December 16 and the Spruce Kings came away with a 2-0 win. Thompson had to stop 41 shots in the game and many of those were high calibre scoring chances.

Since then the Eagles went on a bit of a tear and landed in top spot in the Mainland Division. Eight days ago, they came to Prince George looking for a little bit of redemption against their divisional rival only to be denied to the tune of a 4-1 loss to the Spruce Kings. It seems that Prince George has an undefined advantage on the Surrey Eagles no matter where those games are played and certainly tonight the Spruce Kings will be looking to keep that trend going as they look to lower their magic number to 4 to clinch a playoff spot.

Coming into the game the Spruce Kings are currently sitting in third place in the Mainland Division with 50 points, eleven back of the Eagles who have a five point lead on the second place Chilliwack Chiefs. When looking at possible playoff matchups, it would be safe to say that Surrey does not want to play Prince George in the first round. That makes tonight's game an important one for Surrey as they want to keep some distance between themselves and the Chiefs and not find themselves looking at the possibility of finishing in second place and having to deal with a third place Spruce Kings team to start the post-season.

Although not technically too soon to be looking at possible playoff matchups, the Spruce Kings have to worry about themselves tonight and start stringing some wins together. The last time Prince George had anything resembling a streak going was back in December when they had back-to-back wins against the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the Surrey Eagles before heading into the Christmas Break.

Game time tonight is 7pm with a pregame show starting it off at 6:35pm on 93.1 CFIS-FM. The broadcast is also available for free online from the Spruce Kings channel and as a pay-per-view videocast on Following the game, the team will return to their home base to get ready for Saturday's matchup versus the Chilliwack Chiefs in Prospera Centre - talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. I'll explain more in tomorrow's pre-game blog, until then, enjoy game day everyone.

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