Monday, March 18, 2013

Chiefs Push Spruce Kings to the Brink of Elimination

Following a 5-3 loss to Chilliwack, the Spruce Kings now
face elimination on home ice and will have to answer back

The Prince George Spruce Kings are down to their last life.

Philip Zielonka scored two first period goals and the Chilliwack Chiefs skated to a 5-3 win on Monday night at the Castle to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five BCHL Mainland Division semifinal.

The Spruce Kings and Chiefs are back on the ice at the Castle on Tuesday night and Prince George must win in order to send the game back to Chilliwack for a possible Game 5 on Wednesday.

The Chiefs scored in the opening minute in each of the first two periods, with Treasure Cove Casino first star Philip Zielonka connecting in the opening period and second star Mathieu Tibbet lighting the lamp to start the second to give the Chiefs a 4-0 lead. It took all of 62 seconds for the Chiefs to score at the start of the third, as Luke Esposito capitalized on a bad turnover in the Spruce Kings zone to restore the four-goal lead at 5-1.

The Spruce Kings did their best to claw back, with third-period goals from Fortis Energy player of the game Trevor Easu and Jake LeBrun, but they had dug themselves too deep a hole to extricate themselves from.

Esau scored the Spruce Kings' second goal of the game at 2:47 of the third, getting his team back within three at 5-2. The captain's low point shot beat Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam cleanly.

The Spruce Kings got another 5-on-3 early in the third, this time only for 11 seconds. Jace Hennig came close to making it a two-goal game, but Gillam got just enough of his one-timer and the puck trickled wide. That save by Gillam and the penalty kill as a whole were the Studio Cuts crowning moment of the game.

LeBrun did get the Spruce Kings within two with an unassisted goal at 9:43.

Despite two more power plays - their eighth and ninth of the game - the Spruce Kings weren't able to draw any closer.

Down 4-0, the Spruce Kings got on the board in the second, with third star Coltyn Hansen tipping home a Mark Begert point shot on a two-man advantage at 15:07. Skylar Pacheco also got an assist as the Spruce Kings did a great job moving the puck around before getting the shot they wanted.

Braiden Epp, playing as an affiliate player, was named the Dairy Queen player of the game.

After dropping a 10-1 decision in Game 2 on Saturday night, the Spruce Kings couldn't have ordered a worse start with Chiliwack getting on the board just 20 seconds into Monday night's game and doubling their lead 4 1/2 minutes later. The Chiefs added one more before the first period was out to take a 3-0 lead into the break.

Zielonka opened the scoring on the first shift, getting to a loose puck in front of Thompson and sliding it home at 20 seconds for an unassisted tally.

The Chiefs capitalized on an offensive zone face-off for their second goal, with Josh Hansen converting off a play set up by Austin Plevy and Luke Esposito at 4:51.

Zielonka's second of the period came off another scrambly play at 9:31. This time he grabbed a loose puck at the side of the net and stepped in front creating a two-on-one down low. With the Sprue Kings' defender tied up with another Chiefs forward, Zielonka was afforded the luxury of waiting out Thompson - which he did, lifting a shot over the goalie's glove after Thompson committed. Tibbet got the lone assist.

The Spruce Kings weren't without chances of their own in the opening stanza. Chad Staley took a lead pass as he stepped out of the penalty box and had a clear cut breakaway. The Spruce Kings forward lost the handle just as he was getting in on Gillam, but drew a slashing penalty.

Mark Begert ripped one off the post late in the period and Gillam had to reach back to prevent the Spruce Kings forwards from getting to the rebound in the blue paint.

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