Friday, March 1, 2013

Game Preview: vs Vernon Vipers

Kevin Guiltinan (27) suits up against his former team,
the Vernon Vipers tonight at 7pm in the Castle

Welcome to the month of March and the official countdown to the post season. The Spruce Kings have four games remaining and three of them will be cleared off the schedule this weekend. Saturday night and Sunday afternoon feature a double header with the Langley Rivermen while tonight brings back a rival team from the Spruce Kings first 16 seasons in the BCHL.

The Vernon Vipers are here for the first and only time of the 2012-13 regular season; the two teams last saw each other in the Snake Pit on September 28th when the Spruce Kings skated away with a 5-2 win. It’s easy to say the Vipers have pay back on their minds after giving up those two points on home ice, but there are more important things to worry about for the Vipers as they play their one and only game this weekend in Prince George.

The Vipers still have the numbers working for them, but they are operating on borrowed time right now sitting six points out of a playoff spot with four games remaining. A loss tonight and the Vipers hopes, dreams and wishes of getting in to the playoffs for the first time since appearing in the RBC Royal Bank Cup Championship in 2011 are over.

Despite not being able to play either of the two teams the Vipers are trying to catch, the door remains open with some interesting scheduling to wrap up the regular season. Favouring the Vernon Vipers right now is that the Salmon Arm Silverbacks have to play all of their remaining games on the road including one in Prince George (March 9) and the Trail Smoke Eaters have to finish out the season with three games against the Penticton Vees.

Almost a footnote now is the chance for two players to suit up against teams that brought them out to BC and a chance to play in the premiere junior hockey league in Canada. In an October trade, the Vernon Vipers and the Spruce Kings agreed to terms that saw Liam Board and Kevin Guiltinan trade jerseys. Both players are from London, Ontario and enjoying life out west.

Liam Board may very well be the nicest hockey player you will ever meet, while Kevin Guiltinan reminds fans of hockey games and players from an era that many have forgotten. Since heading to Vernon with 5 goals and 9 assists in 23 games with Prince George, Liam has added another 5 goals and 6 assists with his new team and sits fourth in team scoring. Meanwhile Kevin ’s contributions on the ice come from behind the blue line where he is known to be a heavy hitter playing with a “take no prisoners” attitude.

From the birthday boy (Kirk Thompson) out, the Spruce Kings are going to have to be prepared for the Vipers to strike with venom in their veins tonight. Prince George has been known to get up for important games as can be seen in the Spruce Kings last win - a 5-3 win over their likely first round playoff opponent, the Chilliwack Chiefs. Conversely, consistency is another matter that the team must find as they have not been able to string back-to-back wins together since prior to the Christmas break.

The Spruce Kings have the Langley Rivermen breathing down their necks and in the Castle on Saturday and Sunday. Both teams will be stretched this weekend playing three games in as many days; fortunately for the Spruce Kings, their games are all in the Castle. The Rivermen, on the other hand, find themselves at home hosting the Chilliwack Chiefs and then forced to get on the bus and make that trip north that the Spruce Kings are all too familiar with.

Looking at just the numbers, the Spruce Kings need to come up with five points to shake the Rivermen making tonight's game and both halves of the double header this weekend extremely important. Game time tonight versus the Vernon Vipers is 7pm and will be broadcast on 93.1 CFIS-FM beginning with the Treasure Cove Casino pregame show at 6:35pm. Ron St. Clair and Todd Doherty will have the call of the game on the Spruce Kings channel and pay-per-view feed through

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