Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spruce Kings Look For Progress

The following article was written by Alistair McInnis and appeared in the electronic version of the Prince George Free Press on Tuesday March 26th and print edition on Wednesday March 27th. Throughout the season Alistair has attended practices and games getting to know the players and those around the team. Here he shares his thoughts on the 2012-13 season and makes some comparisons to last year's squad to provide a hint of what may be for the team in 2013-14.

Prince George Spruce Kings forward Coltyn Hansen battles
with the Chilliwack Chiefs Trevor Hills during B.C. Hockey
League playoff action in Chilliwack on March 20.
Alistair McINNIS/Free Press

Progress, regress or neither? It can be a matter of perspective.

The Prince George Spruce Kings recorded a .527 winning percentage in the 2012-13 regular season with 25 wins, 22 losses, one tie and eight overtime defeats (25-22-1-8) in 56 games. The previous campaign, they sported a 33-21-2-4 mark in 60 games, a .600 winning percentage.

This season, they had a harder time scoring. At 170 goals, they averaged only 3.04 goals per game. In 2011-12, the average was 3.63. They were also outscored overall (185-170) and had a higher goals against than 2011-12, when they outscored the opposition 218-185.

The 2011-12 season also saw Spruce Kings forward Paul de Jersey take the B.C. Hockey League scoring title with 98 points (41 goals and 57 assists). This season the Spruce Kings top scorer, Coltyn Hansen, recorded 50 points.

But look beyond the regular season statistics and you may say the Spruce Kings took a step forward this season.

A significant portion of the Spruce Kings 2011-12 roster didn't return this season. While they lost a chunk of players to graduation and NCAA Division 1 commitments, they also said goodbye to the Fitzgerald triplets, who requested a trade and ended up property of the Victoria Grizzlies.

While the majority of staff remained in place, the team iced a vastly different looking lineup. They also switched conferences. They didn't only survive the move from the Interior to the Mainland Division. They were competitive in the new division, ending up third in the five-team group.

Something else that indicates a sign of progress: the Spruce Kings had playoff wins this year, two more than the 2011-12 campaign.

That's right, the 2011-12 season ended in disappointment for the Spruce Kings as they were swept in Round One.

While 2012 saw the Spruce Kings make the playoffs for the first time in three years; they lost four games to zero to the Merritt Centennials. This year they pushed the Chilliwack Chiefs to the limit in their best-of-five set, losing three games to two.

The Spruce Kings also appear to be in good shape moving forward.

Ok, the losses will be noticeable. They lose a few of their top skaters in addition to goalie Kirk Thompson, who you could say was their most valuable player this past season.

But this team has a solid core of talent returning. And as they proved last year, they have an ability to attract skilled newcomers.

Long gone are the days when the Spruce Kings were among the bottom feeders in the BCHL. Despite the losses of Cariboo neighbours (Quesnel and Williams Lake), the Spruce Kings have been competitive in the BCHL the past two seasons.

But with the rise comes higher expectations. The past two years have shown they're clearly a strong BCHL team that can make the playoffs.

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