Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rivermen Double Up Spruce Kings

Stephen Penner (20) left a lasting impression in his first
BCHL game with a goal and an assist for the Spruce Kings

The Prince George Spruce Kings dug themselves a hole too deep to get out from Thursday night, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Langley Rivermen at the Castle.

The visitors built a 3-0 lead which they extended to 6-1 by the middle of the third before the Spruce Kings clawed back to make a game of it at the end. Despite the score, Prince George actually outshot Langley 49-22 - including 28-5 in the second period alone - but couldn't get enough pucks past James Barr.

The loss means the Spruce Kings were unable to make up ground on Chiliwack for second place in the Mainland Division, still trailing them by six points. Langley has now closed within six points of the Spruce Kings for third place.

Mario Puskarich, the leading scorer in the BCHL, did the most damage scoring three goals for Langley, all on the power play.

He opened the scoring at 3:23 of the first, splitting the Spruce Kings defence and getting to a loose puck in front just before Prince George goalie Kirk Thompson could cover it up. Mark Whiteley and Tanner Johnson got the helpers.

Puskarich had a great chance to add to that three minutes later, breaking in on a 2-on-0 short-handed break but this time it was Thompson who was quick enough to get across his crease and make a big pad save.

The sniper couldn't be contained for long as he scored his second power-play goal at 15:25 of the first after a weird bounce off the face-off went to him at the side of the net. Evan Campbell and James Robinson got the assists.

Mitch McLain made it 3-0 at 16:15, banging home a rebound off a Derek Sutliffe shot. Nathan Craft also got an assist.

Down 3-0, the Spruce Kings came out hard in the second, but it was Langley who scored first. Evan Campbell took a feed from Austin Azurdia, got past a defenceman and slid a puck five-hole on Thompson. That was it for the Spruce Kings starter, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Liam McLeod came on in relief.

Prince George finally got on the board at 12:20 as Bryant Christian scored from the slot just as a Langley penalty expired to make it 4-1. Mark Begert and Cameron Lawson got the assists.

Langley extended its lead in the third, first McLain from Sutliffe and Whitely at 5:18 and then Puskarich from Jakob Reichert and Whiteley at 9:13. Puskarich was named the game's first star with his three goals and Whiteley, who had three helpers was named the third star. Barr took second star honours after making 46 saves.

The Spruce Kings did score a pair late, first Cameron Lawson breaking down the right wing short-handed was able to get one past Barr at 12:17, with assists going to Coltyn Hansen and Stephen Penner.

Then Penner, an affiliate player, scored his first BCHL goal at 15:42 with a blast from the point. Shayne Morrissey and Trevor Esau got the assists.

Penner's strong play, especially in the second half of the game as he got more ice time earned him Dairy Queen player of the game honours. Fellow blue-liner Mark Begert was named the Fortis Energy player of the game.

The Spruce Kings and Rivermen play again Friday night as the Castle at 7 p.m.

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