Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spruce Kings Clinch Third With Win Over Rivermen

This unassisted tally from Coltyn Hansen (10) was the Studio Cuts
Crowning Moment taking the wind out of the sails of the Rivermen

Write it in stone, the Prince George Spruce Kings will play the Chilliwack Chiefs in the first round of the BCHL Mainland Division playoffs later this month.

The Spruce Kings locked up third place in the division on Saturday night with a 4-1 win over the Langley Rivermen at the Coliseum.

Shayne Morrissey scored once and set up another one as the Spruce Kings took the first of a weekend double header against their division rivals.

With Prince George leading 3-1 early in the third period, Morrissey drove to the net and tried a nifty shot between his legs. Rivermen goaltender James Barr was able to make the first save but Chad Staley crashed the net and cashed in the rebound at 2:29 to give the home side a comfortable cushion. Morrissey and Justin Rai picked up the assists.

Kirk Thompson authored another brilliant performance between the pipes for Prince George, with his signature save coming in the third period off Evan Campbell. The Prince George keeper slid post-to-post then flashed the leather to make the stop on the one-timer. Thompson finished with 33 saves, while Barr stopped 25 pucks.

Despite the win, the Spruce Kings can no longer catch Chilliwack for second place and home ice advantage in the playoffs. The Chiefs were 3-0 winners against Cowichan Valley on Saturday and clinched second place. The Rivermen were unable to clinch a playoff berth Saturday, keeping the Coquitlam Express alive for the fourth and final spot in the division.

The Spruce Kings came out flying to start the game, opening up an 11-2 lead on the shot counter and a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard in the opening minutes. Mark Begert opened the scoring when his point shot snuck through traffic in front of Barr and found the back of the net.

David Stephens and Lyndon Martell picked up the helpers at 3:06. Just over five minutes later the Spruce Kings added to their lead on the power play. After breaking into the zone on a three-on-two, Cameron Lawson found Morrissey on the right wing and there was just enough room for Morrissey's sharp-angle shot to get past Barr at 8:25. Skylar Pacheco also picked up an assist.

Thompson wasn't tested much in the opening 20 minutes, but did stop Langley sniper Mario Puskarich from point blank range.

Puskarich didn't waste any time in the second period, burying a shot over Thompson's shoulder for his 39th goal of the season at 1:45. Evan Campbell and Turner Popoff picked up the assists.

The Rivermen came within inches of tying the game on a late-second period power play when Tanner Johnson rung a point shot off the post. Thompson had to be aware to cover up the rebound in the blue paint.

The Spruce Kings' goalie made a great save later in that same penalty kill off a hot shot from the slot by James Robinson.

Prince George also generated its own short-handed scoring chance when Morrissey and Coltyn Hansen broke in two-on-one, but Hansen's saucer pass bounced as Morrissey tried to bat it into the net. On his very next shift Hansen elected to shoot rather than pass on an odd-man rush and beat Barr with a nifty shot at 18:25. Hansen stripped a Langley player of the puck at the Prince George blue-line to start the rush on his unassisted goal.

Playing without Sean Landry (injury) and Jeremiah Luedtke (injury), the Spruce Kings were forced to use a pair of defencemen as forwards on the fourth line. Mitch Eden, who often acts like a fourth forward due to his puck-carrying abilities, didn't look out of place up front and neither did Spencer Schoech. Eden moved back to his traditional spot on the blue line for the third period.

The Spruce Kings and Rivermen complete their nine-game season series at the Castle on Sunday afternoon with a 3 p.m. matinee. There will be a fan skating opportunity after the game.

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