Saturday, March 16, 2013

Series Is All Tied Up At One

Series Tied After a Parade to the Penalty Box

In the end it doesn't really matter what the score was as this series now shifts to Prince George and starts fresh as a best of three with the Spruce Kings having home ice advantage. To make it official though I will say that the Chilliwack Chiefs won big finishing with a total of ten goals to the Spruce Kings lone marker that came off the stick of Bryant Christian in the third period.

Perhaps there was some complacency issues early in the game but as the game progressed it got down right ugly with some not too pretty displays of unsportsmanlike behaviour from both sides. In my opinion, this is another area where the Chilliwack Chiefs were able to best the Spruce Kings and draw Prince George into a long series of penalties that started in the first period.

It isn't easy to pull out one moment in particular that can be considered the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game as everything seemed to favour the home team on this night. Some of those moments that stand out for me include the game's opening faceoff where Spencer Graboski and Chad Staley lined up against each other. Graboski had no intention of winning that faceoff and instead used his stick to push Staley down to the ice and held him there for a few extra seconds.

Credit where credit is due and the Chiefs are full value for forcing two early turnovers that both resulted in goals and swinging the momentum of the game for sure in favour of Chilliwack. The first turnover was some hard forecheck pressure that resulted in the Spruce Kings icing the puck and, with the new rules this year, unable to make any line changes.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Prince George did get possession of the puck but again an effective forecheck prevented them from getting the puck down the ice and caught two players in no-man's land trying to make a change. Luke Esposito came up with the puck and was able to feed it over to Austin Plevy on the weak side of the ice who let go a perfect shot from the far side of the left faceoff dot that beat Kirk Thompson. The Spruce Kings found themselves down 1-0 on just the Chiefs second shot and 3:03 into the game.

The next turnover came a minute later when Philip Zielonka closed off the lane twice and then took the puck away in the high slot. He too moved over to the left side and used a Spruce Kings defender as a screen getting the puck through both the defender and the goaltender to double Chilliwack's lead to 2-0 at 4:05 of the first period. Both those goals had to be perfect and they obviously were perfect and a sign of things to come.

Dave Dupas found himself using up his timeout after that second goal to try and calm the troops and get the Spruce Kings back on track. It seemed to worked as the Spruce Kings manufactured some chances and were getting shots on Mitch Gillam. In a reversal of the night before when the Spruce Kings kept the potent Chiefs offense to the outside and allowed Thompson to see everything, the Chiefs goaltender was having no difficulties tracking the puck and making the saves.

The physical play of the Chiefs started to become effective as the plays after the whistle and behind the play were allowed to go on. The officials did warn both benches that if the extra curricular activities continued they would start taking players out of the scrums and true to their word, they did. The first penalty was to Mark Begert who was called for roughing after the whistle after pushing back on a Chiefs player who was encroaching on Thompson's crease.

The Chiefs extended their lead with just five seconds remaining in their first powerplay on a hard seeing eye shot from Alexander Perron-Fontaine from the high slot just under the blue line. It was the third goal in a row for the home team that just seemed to find the perfect line through an opening to find the back of the net.

The Spruce Kings would get their first powerplay of the game in a similar fashion after Coltyn Hansen tried to get to the a loose puck in front of Gillam. Hansen was given a shot and in the melee he and Philip Zielonka were both given roughing minors while Spencer Graboski picked up a roughing after the whistle penalty. The Spruce Kings were able to work the puck around but without much luck, coming up empty with their man advantage.

The second period started with the Chiefs players starting to key on certain Spruce Kings, in particular it seemed they were highly interested in Chad Staley and Kevin Guiltinan. Prior to the game Dave Dupas mentioned that having Guiltinan in the lineup is a benefit to the Spruce Kings as it keeps the other team wary of the NHL Central Scouting ranked defenceman.

To me it seems like there might be a hidden motive here to get Guiltinan out of the rest of the series. With the Junior A supplement there has been a two year crackdown on a number of specific type penalties including dangerous hits, blows to the head and accumulated fighting majors. Guiltinan is currently at his maximum allowed fights for the season and another one will result in additional game suspensions. If you would like to read more about the Junior A supplement and the rules around it, CLICK HERE.

Early in the middle frame, Kevin Guiltinan was assessed a two minute minor for slashing that didn't result in a powerplay as the Chiefs Josh Hansen was also assessed a two minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. While those two sat in the penalty box another turning point in the came when David Stephens was hit from behind into the corner. Not only was there no call on the play, but as the Chiefs headed up the ice the other way, all four officials followed the play with nobody looking back to see Stephens struggling to get off the ice on all fours.

To add insult to injury, Trevor Hills was able to snap a wrist shot off the glove of Kirk Thompson that fluttered into the back net while Stephens was still making his way to the bench. From there things just seemed to go from bad to worse for the Spruce Kings and it became hard to keep track of everything that was going on in the game itself.

The Chilliwack Chiefs did get the next two penalties, the first was to Ben Masella who stuck a knee out on Chad Staley up ending the forward but fortunately not seriously hurting him and the other was Ryan Donohoe who was called for charging after running Staley moments later. Frustration was setting in for the Spruce Kings and was very evident when David Stephens took another hit from behind from Austin Plevy while Prince George was on that Donohoe powerplay. Stephens went after Plevy and ended up getting a high sticking call against him.

The Chiefs would add one more goal to make it 5-0 forcing Dupas to pull the Spruce Kings number one goaltender from the game and insert the sixteen year old rookie, Liam McLeod. McLeod made a great glove save for his first save of the night in time for the BCHL timeout and when play resumed, the proverbial wheels on the bus fell off and things deteriorated with a parade to the penalty box.

It started with Spencer Schoech getting called for cross checking when he came into the fray late with his stick elevated. Shortly after that, the Spruce Kings assistant coach, Brad Rihela was ejected from the game followed by Kevin Guiltinan who was given a ten minute misconduct for something he may have said on the ice. The Chiefs would take a minor of their own before the end of the second period but would hold onto their 5-0 lead heading to the dressing room.

In the third period, Bryant Christian ended the shutout bid for Gillam with a nice shot of his own that found the far side of the net. Shortly after this Harvey Smyl decided to pull his number one goaltender, leaving people to read into that move as a precautionary measure with the game heading south in a hurry.

In the end there were a total of 34 minutes in penalties (12 minors and 2 fighting majors) 2 ten minute misconducts and 2 game misconducts in the third period alone. Nine of those minors, one major, both ten minutes misconducts and both game misconducts were assessed to the Prince George Spruce Kings. In all Prince George received 33 minutes in penalties, 3 ten minute misconducts and 3 game misconducts resulting in nine times the Spruce Kings were shorthanded and five powerplay goals for the Chilliwack Chiefs.

Although the score and the game got out of hand Saturday night, the end result is that this series is all tied up at a game a-piece making this Mainland Divisional Semi-Final a best of three with Prince George having home ice advantage. The next game is Monday March 18th with puck drop at 7pm in the Prince George Coliseum. There will also be a game Tuesday night March 19th at 7pm also in the Castle with a deciding game scheduled for Wednesday night in Chilliwack if necessary.

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