Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Playoff Game Preview: Game 5 at Chilliwack Chiefs

The way this series has gone,
the opening faceoff might be the biggest play of the game!

Following an adrenaline fueled win in Game 4, the Prince George Spruce Kings accomplished their goal of forcing a fifth and deciding game in their best of five series with the Chilliwack Chiefs. The series can now be dubbed the "Midnight Run" as both teams hit the road after Tuesday's game to arrive in Chilliwack in the early morning hours.

After the rush of the win Tuesday night followed by the eight hour trip to Fraser Valley, its hard to make a prediction on the game because of course the Chilliwack Chiefs had to make the same trip after suffering the loss. For the Spruce Kings, this becomes a test as to whether or not all those regular season road trips out of Prince George has acclimatized the players for this one in particular.

Last night in the Coliseum, the home town fans were treated to a solid effort from start to finish and from top to bottom. The fans showed their appreciation with every save, shot block, scoring chance and of course goal with rousing ovations that had people hanging onto the edges of their seats when they weren't jumping off them.

Trevor Esau opened the scoring with a point shot off a faceoff win 28 seconds into the game. Early goals have proved to be very important in this series with the team scoring the first goal winning all four games. The Chiefs were looking to change that last night when Philip Zielonka tied the game on the powerplay mid way through the opening first period.

To start the second period, the Spruce Kings came up with another quick goal when Mitch Eden banked the puck off the wall to Coltyn Hansen who was in full flight down the left side wall. As Hansen crossed the offensive blue line, he snapped a shot that blew past Gillam 23 seconds after the second period faceoff.

A pair of fan favourites connected on the eventual game winning goal that came just as the Spruce Kings killed off a penalty to Skylar Pacheco. As the penalty expired, the defenceman went to the Spruce Kings bench allowing Shayne Morrissey to jump up on a play being set up by Kevin Guiltinan. Guiltinan's centering pass went off a defender's stick right to Morrissey who had a wide open net to bury his first of the post season.

From there the Spruce Kings had their hands full and were full value for their efforts of blocking shots and keeping the potent Chilliwack offense to just one more goal in the game. In the third period, Thompson saved the series when he flew backwards through the air reaching with his stick to make an incredible paddle save. As Thompson fell to the ice, he was forced to make another save with his back somehow getting the puck to stop off his jersey and elbow.

Without question that was the highlight of the night, if not the year, and the Spruce Kings fans continued to rally and grow louder in their deafening show of support for their community owned team. In the end Kirk Thompson ended up with 40 saves and the all important win to force the series to a single winner-moves-on game Wednesday night in Chilliwack.

I could look at all the stats that show the Spruce Kings have won the last three of four in Prospera Centre, but I can also show that they have lost two of their last five in spectacular fashion too. This game is one that will have the Vegas odd-makers looking at all kinds of variables including the unmeasurable one of how individual players will respond when their current season is at stake.

This series has seen a number of adjustments made by both coaching teams to try and counteract the strengths of the other guys. From Harvey Smyl breaking up his top line to stretch out the defensive abilities of the players on Dave Dupas' bench to both teams carrying APs to ensure full rosters. In all of the adjustments, one constant does remain and that is the traffic going to the net and converging in the crease after almost every whistle.

Given the travel schedule of both teams and seeing just how much was left on the ice last night, I'm not sure how that tempo can continue in the slightly larger Prospera Centre tonight. One thing is sure, if there is anything left in the tanks, these coaches and players will get it out of each other making for another highly entertaining game five.

Game time tonight is 7pm with Ron Gallo and Todd Doherty providing the call of the game and analysis beginning with a pregame show at 6:30pm on 93.1 CFIS-FM. As usual, the game will also be available with a free audio webcast on the Spruce Kings channel and as a pay-per-view broadcast on We won't know what is next for the Spruce Kings until the end of the game ... win and they move on to Surrey to face the Eagles in the second round, lose and the season comes to an end.

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