Friday, March 15, 2013

Spruce Kings Take Game One

Chad Staley (22) was able to stay in the game
after taking a blindside hit from Eric Roberts.

The Spruce Kings went in to Chilliwack and did what not very many people thought they could do ... take the first game in the Mainland Divisional Semi-Final best-of-five series. The final score was 3-1 for Prince George, but the shots told a much different story with Chilliwack outshooting their opponents 44-20. The game lived up to its billing of being a physical contest with some heavy hits, a couple of tilts and even the lights going out.

In a scoreless first period of play, with the Spruce Kings just starting to get their wits about them after being outshot 10-1 prior to the BCHL timeout, four lights went out in Prospera Centre above the Spruce Kings blue line. The outage happened just as Prince George was heading up the ice looking to cash in on some of the momentum that they had got to swing their way.

On the first shift after the BCHL timeout, Jeremiah Luedtke got the Spruce Kings first real shot on goal and first quality scoring chance after rifling a shot on goal that Mitch Gillam had difficulties containing and ended up watching slide just past the far post. On the very next shift Shayne Morrissey elected to go for the shot on a two-on-one, this time Gillam was square to the shooter but gave up a juicy rebound that just got away from Morrissey. On the next shift it was Karan Toor who danced through the top of the slot before firing a shot on Gillam.

With 3:52 remaining in a scoreless first period of play, the lights went out prompting the officials to send the teams to the dressing room for an early intermission. At the time of the early dismissal, the Chilliwack Chiefs were outshooting the Prince George Spruce Kings 15-5 and when the first period resumed, they added three more for a first period total of 18-5.

The games first penalty came in the second period to David Stephens who was called for tripping. The Spruce Kings, who had been working on their penalty kill, were successful in killing of the Chilliwack man advantage and tried to use that as leverage to get back in the game with some offense. The offense didn't come easy for the Spruce Kings on this night who found themselves being turned around at every corner and challenged to every puck. The difference was the stellar performance between the pipes of Kirk Thompson.

At the 15:31 of the second period, a bit of a scare was put into the Spruce Kings bench when Eric Roberts caught Chad Staley in an awkward position and checked him into the boards with a blindside hit. The referee's arm went up in the arm immediately. Jace Hennig took exception to the hit and went right after Roberts with the two dropping the gloves and trading a couple of blows. When the dust settled, the Spruce Kings ended up with their second man advantage of the game. Roberts received two minutes for boarding, two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a five minute major for fighting. Henning was assessed an instigating minor, fighting major and a ten minute misconduct. With the man advantage, Mark Begert was able to use some time and space from the left point to feed the puck to David Stephens standing in the left faceoff circle. Stephens shot the puck towards the net and had the puck deflect off of Cameron Lawson's skate and into the net. With very little dispute or discussion, the goal counted and the Spruce Kings found themselves up 1-0 at 16:43 of the second.

The Chiefs poured it on immediately after that looking for the equalizer and with time ticking down in the second period, everybody in the building was brought to the edge of their seat when Luke Esposito had a chance with a shot into a wide open net. The puck fluttered on Esposito and a Spruce Kings defender may have been able to get a stick on the shot as well, but either way the end result was the same with Esposito lifting the puck over the open net and firing off the glass on the back wall. The second period ended with the Spruce Kings leading the Chiefs 1-0.

The third period was a little more even with the difference coming at the 6:38 mark when David Stephens found Coltyn Hansen on the left wing. With his deceptively quick speed, Hansen found himself a stride ahead of the defender inside the Chiefs zone as he cut to the net. From the top of the blue ice and with an extra little push of the stick, Hansen was able to get the puck to go through Gillam, who had sprawled going for the poke check. After the goal Gillam was seen looking at his jersey and his equipment for a hole or at least an explanation as to how that puck got through him.

With plenty of time left in the game, the Chilliwack Chiefs sent out a steady diet of the top line trying to manufacture a goal from the combination of Luke Esposito, Austin Plevy and Philip Zielonka. The three would all have chances with Esposito actually finding the net but only after the puck was ruled to have been touched by the hand of another Chiefs player. As the time ticked away in the third period, the game remained a 2-0 lead for Prince George with Chilliwack looking to cut that lead in half. With 1:41 remaining in the third period, Gillam was pulled in favour of the extra attacker giving Prince George a chance at the empty net.

Coltyn Hansen would get two attempts to put this game out of reach and wouldn't miss on his second try. Taking a bit of a gamble by taking the shot from the Spruce Kings side of centre ice, Hansen watched as the puck bounced into the open cage with 16 seconds remaining in regulation time giving Prince George a 3-0 lead. On the ensuing faceoff, the Chiefs forced a turnover from below the goal line where Brodyn Nielsen fed the puck to an open Matthiew Tibbet in the slot. Thompson was caught out of position with the traffic in his crease giving Tibbet the easy tap in ruining the shutout bid of Thompson.

With their loan goal coming with less than 4 seconds remaining in the game, the Chilliwack Chiefs seemed content in knowing that they had found a way to beat Thompson and score on the Spruce Kings, they didn't even bother looking for another offensive chance. The win was Kirk Thompson's first post season win and something that had eluded him in his Junior A career.

The Spruce Kings went into the game with the mantra of having "attention to detail" and although they picked up the win, they know there is still room for improvement in their game. Mitch Eden was given a ten minute misconduct for not having his jersey tie down secured, which became apparent early in the second period when he was partially jerseyed in an altercation. Jace Hennig was also given a ten minute misconduct for instigating a fight after Chad Staley was hit in the boards and in the third period Kevin Guiltinan ended up with a two minute minor for checking from behind and a game misconduct for the penalty. There should be no further discipline for that call, despite what I said on the broadcast, because the penalty was only a minor and not a major.

The Spruce Kings will get a chance now to double up their lead on Chilliwack and take a stranglehold in this short series with game two on Saturday night. Certainly the Chiefs will have something to say about that as their goal will be to get a split on home ice and force a game four in Prince George. Faceoff for game two tonight is set for 7pm from Prospera Centre with the game broadcast live on 93.1 CFIS-FM as well as online from the Spruce Kings channel and pay-per-view broadcast on

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