|Derek Bulmer (26) and Riley Hawes (24) were emergency callups|
from Midget Tier I Cougars saw a lot ice in their first BCHL games
The Prince George Spruce Kings fell behind early and couldn't recover in their regular season finale on Saturday night at a sold out Coliseum.
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks spoiled the party for the hosts and the 2,116 fans who packed the Castle building a 3-0 lead in the first 6 1/2 minutes and hanging on for a 5-3 win.
With six regulars out of the lineup due to illness and injury, the Spruce Kings called three affiliate players - including two making their BCHL debut.
Reece Forman took a regular shift on the blue-line, while local products Riley Hawes and Derek Bulmer played up front. Often paired together, Hawes and Bulmer generated a handful of scoring chances, with Bulmer ringing one off the cross-bar in the first.
Salmon Arm, riding high after clinching a playoff spot in Merritt on Friday night, stormed out to a three-goal lead just 6:22 into the game. First Steven Iacobellis wristed a shot over Kirk Thompson's right shoulder at 3:59; then Josh Bowes took a feed from Brayden Sherbinin, cut to the front of the net and slid one under Thompson at 5:36;then Harlan Orr lifted a rebound over Thompson's pad at 6:22.
The third goal prompted Spruce Kings head coach Dave Dupas to use his timeout and settle his team. The tactic seemed to work as a couple of shifts later Coltyn Hansen found Shayne Morrissey in front and he fired the puck past Silverbacks' goalie Angus Redmond as a pair of graduating Spruce Kings players connected at 8:17.
That score held through the rest of the first and the entire second, but it was Prince George who was beginning to take control of more and more of the play as the game went on.
Hansen got the home side within one at 13:13 of the third when he tipped home Chad Staley's shot for the prettiest goal of the game. Lyndon Martell got the play started, finding Staley with a nice pass in the high slot.
Salmon Arm snuffed any budding momentum with a goal a couple minutes later on the power play. Jordan Levesque's harmless looking point shot hit a Spruce Kings' player in front and fooled Thompson as the visitors resorted their two-goal lead.
Prince George battled back one more time, with Martell snipping a laser of a shot past Redmond at 15:58. Bryant Christian and Hansen picked up the helpers.
Ryan Schwalbe iced the game with an empty-net goal at 19:13 of the third.
The loss had no impact on the Spruce Kings final standing as they finish the regular season third in the Mainland Division and will play the second-place Chilliwack Chiefs in the first round. The best-of-five series begins Friday and Saturday in Chilliwack, with Game 3 coming back to Prince George on Monday March 18.