Friday, February 8, 2013

Spruce Kings Grounded by the Eagles

Liam McLeod (35) robs Jordan Klimek in the third period

The Prince George Spruce Kings suffered their worst loss of the regular season to the Surrey Eagles on Friday night after the Birds handed the royal ones a 5-2 decision. It was the eighth and final meeting of the two teams and the Eagles were in no mood to let the Spruce Kings leave with even a single point this time. In the previous seven meetings, Prince George held a 4-0-0-3 record but couldn't keep that trend going on this night.

It started early for the Surrey Eagles, but as it had been in the previous seven meetings, Kirk Thompson was finding ways to turn aside the Eagles allowing Prince George to open the scoring. Jeremiah Luedtke picked up the puck from Chad Staley at the side of the net and pulled it to the slot before roofing a snapshot above the shoulder of Michael Santaguida. For Luedtke it was his seventh goal of the season, bur for the Spruce Kings it was a short lived lead.

On the ensuing faceoff at centre ice, the puck made its way into the Spruce Kings zone and a strong forecheck force a turnover that Joel Gaudet jumped all over. With the puck on his stick at the top of the faceoff circle, Gaudet wasted no time directing the puck on goal and he too found the top shelf to tie the game 14 seconds after Luedtke's goal.

From there special teams would be the undoing of the Spruce Kings as they gave the Surrey Eagles three powerplays to work with in the first period. The third man advantage would lead to a spectacular goal in the final minute of the first period. After dodging the full force of a Kevin Guiltinan hit in front of the Spruce Kings bench, Brady Shaw slid into the offensive zone and was able to fire a pass from his knees across the ice to Adam Tambellini. The newest member of the Eagles tapped in his 28th of the season to give Surrey a 2-1 lead heading to the dressing room.

To start the second period the Spruce Kings came hard at the Eagles and were outshooting them 5-0 through the first seven minutes of the middle frame before things changed in a dramatic fashion. On their second powerplay of the game, the Spruce Kings saw Brent Mulcahy find the puck and head in on Kirk Thompson on a shorthanded break away. Thompson was able to make the initial save with the paddle of his stick, directing the puck behind the net. Mulcahy stayed with the puck and recovered it from behind the goal line, brought it out front and then banked it into the net off a defender's skate.

The goal gave the Surrey Eagles a 3-1 lead but weren't done there. Minutes later the Surrey Eagles found themselves two men when Tommy Stipancik was called for boarding and then less than a minute later Michael Santaguida was called for delay of game after clearing the puck over the glass. The Eagles not only killed off those penalties but stuck a dagger into the heart of the Spruce Kings. As Stipancik's penalty expired the puck was cleared out to the neutral zone and found the released player who went in on Thompson. Stipancik went forehand backhand and snuck one through the Spruce Kings veteran netminder.

In an effort to spark the bench, Kirk Thompson was pulled bringing in the youngster - Liam McLeod. It didn't take long before McLeod was being tested and it was Tambellini that tried first only to be denied by the glove hand of the rookie netminder. McLeod would end up turning aside all 18 shots that he faced in relief earning himself the DQ Player of the Game.

Karan Toor had the best chance of the second period for the Spruce Kings jumping up on a rush with David Stephens and Lyndon Martell who fed the rookie defenceman the puck who found himself all alone on top of the crease but was turned aside by a sprawling Santaguida. The second period would end with the Surrey Eagles leading 4-1 and the Spruce Kings wondering what they needed to do to claw back into this one.

Coltyn Hansen was able to solve the riddle between the pipes for Surrey but scoring with 6:49 remaining proved to be too little too late. The Surrey Eagles solidified their win with an empty net goal from Brady Shaw. A player who has gambled and been rewarded is Shaw who once again waited in the neutral zone behind the Spruce Kings defender and was given the puck by Trevor Cameron who lobbed it up and over all the players on the ice. The empty net goal came a split second before the final buzzer giving the Surrey Eagles the lopesided win on the scoresheet and relief in the dressing room that they had excised the demon that was the Spruce Kings this season.

Prince George will now look to do the same thing to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night. In six meetings so far this season, the Spruce Kings have picked up only a single point in an overtime loss to the Chiefs. Chilliwack has a six point edge on the Spruce Kings and will be looking to spread that out some more while Prince George will be looking to pull away from the Langley Rivermen who have closed to within six after defeating the Victoria Grizzlies 6-3 on Friday night.

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