Friday, September 27, 2013

Unlikely Hero Emerges Tonight

Defensively the Spruce Kings were solid and were
rewarded by the play of one blueliner

The Spruce Kings started a three game weekend with a come-from-behind win over the Coquitlam Express with Karan Toor getting his first BCHL career goal to seal the victory.

Ask anybody cheering for the Spruce Kings on this night what Toor's goal looked like and I'm sure they'll all remember being a bar-down snipe. In reality it was more a case of the hockey gods smiling on one of the hardest working defenceman in the BCHL, crowning Toor the hero on a play that started with a gamble and finished with a scramble at the side of the net.

Early in the game, both teams traded chances and were being stymied by a pair of goaltenders that were able to see almost everything coming there way. Two of the best chances for Prince George to open the scoring in the first period came off a pair of rushes from Bryant Christian and the AP call up, Brogan O'Brien.

Just past the midway mark of the first period, Christian was sprung from his own blue line on a break away. As he closed the gap on the Coquitlam goaltender, Christian though he saw a little daylight on the glove hand side. Gordie Defiel had other thoughts and quickly snared that shot with the big mitt.

A few shifts later it was the Cariboo Cougars call up and future Spruce Kings player, Brogan O'Brien that started a play inside his own zone after muscling the puck away from the opponent. O'Brien carried the puck down the wall and cut to the middle of the ice in the deep slot before attempting a shot. That shot snuck wide after he took a slash from the defender.

The Spruce Kings would come up empty on the ensuing powerplay; in fact both teams were 0 for with the man advantage. The Spruce Kings had just two powerplays to work with in the game while the Express ended up with four on the night.

Before the first period ended, the Coquitlam Express capitalized on a forced turnover in the neutral zone when Adam Rockwell stopped the Spruce Kings breakout attempt and then found Joey Santucci on the the right wing. Santucci came in to the top of the faceoff circle before snapping home a shot that fluttered over the glove of Jesse Jenks.

The Express kept the pressure on to start the second period and four minutes in would be rewarded with a second goal when Bo Pieper strode in on the left wing before zinging a shot to the far side high glove on Jenks.

The Spruce Kings wouldn't take much time to respond and were able to get that one back 78 seconds later when the top line of Brent Lashuk, Jake LeBrun and Bryant Christian came up with the puck and took it to the Coquitlam net. Christian's first shot was stopped but the rebound came right back to the captain who bunted in his second of the season off the side of goaltender.

There would be no more scoring in the middle frame, but the score keepers would be kept busy with a succession of six penalties starting with a quick tilt at centre ice. With Chad Staley busting into the offensive zone, Riley Hawes and Adam Smith dropped their gloves on the Coquitlam Express logo where they quickly exchanged blows before both went down heavily on the frozen canvas. Both would have to go to their respective dressing rooms for repairs.

The rest of the penalties were mostly the result of players crashing the net after saves. One such play resulted in a two minute minor to Bryant Christian for goaltender after he bumped the netminder playing the puck out of the crease area. That penalty would extend into the third period which the Spruce Kings were able to kill off.

At the 5:20 mark the Spruce Kings would tie up the game on a goal mouth scramble that saw the puck come out to the top of the crease for Brent Lashuk to pot his second of the season. On the very next shift, that top line of Lashuk, LeBrun and Christian would stay out and get in on top of the crease again. Cruising through the lower portion of the ice, Christian again bumped the goaltender drawing a second minor for goaltender interference and an automatic game misconduct for the Spruce Kings captain.

With the game tied, the penalty setup the framework for the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game. If the Coquitlam Express score a powerplay tally it would give them back their lead, but if the Spruce Kings kill it off that should lead to a momentum shift. Sure enough the Spruce Kings would kill it off with big thanks to Jesse Jenks and also Karan Toor who was blocking shots and taking away the down low options.

In a season and a bit, Toor has been one of the most consistent players night in and night out; always battling for puck possession and not giving up position to a puck carrier. In an uncharacteristic gamble, Toor read the play and showed his faith with his team mates on the ice. Toor saw Brent Lashuk challenge the rush and stepped up on the play with Lashuk chipping the puck off the wall. Toor picked up the puck and slid it over to Jake LeBrun as the two turned up the ice on an odd man break.

LeBrun fired the puck on net with the rebound coming over to Toor who looked to be giving the puck back but instead caught just enough of it to put it along the goal line. With a second effort, Toor got another touch on it and watched as the puck crossed the goal line for the defenceman's first BCHL tally in seventy games.

The Spruce Kings bench erupted for the veteran's first goal and Eden was the first to go over and make sure the puck ended up on the Prince George bench. The coaching staff left Toor out there and were rewarded with his tenacious style at protecting the puck as the Express poured it on looking for an equalizer. That even up goal would not come on this evening setting the stage for the Spruce Kings full come-from-behind win, putting the team in a three way tie for second in the Mainland Division.

Jesse Jenks was named the game's first star with Jake LeBrun picking up the honours in second place, but really Karan Toor's name should have been slotted in there. Riley Hawes earned the nod for the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game.

The Spruce Kings will now look to follow this win tonight up with another one Saturday night against a very well rested Chilliwack Chiefs squad. Surprisingly the Chiefs haven't played a game since the double header in Prince George back on September 13th and 14th. The game Saturday night will be the Chiefs home opener and only their fifth game of the season whereas the Spruce Kings will be suiting up for their eighth of the season.

Saturday's game will be the first Prince George Motors Spruce Kings Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive. Ron St. Clair will have the call of the game with Ron Gallo sliding into the colour commentary role for the big game. The game will also be on and the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

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