Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jenks to the World Junior A Challenge

Spruce Kings rookie netminder, Jesse Jenks has been selected
to Team Canada West roster for the World Junior A Challenge

It is one of the early season prestigious tournaments and Jesse Jenks is on the roster for Team Canada West. The World Junior A Challenge is entering its eighth edition and for the six time in those eight years, a Prince George Spruce Kings player will have a chance to play for gold in front of every NHL team as well as scouts from around the hockey world.

The World Junior A Challenge is an annual event that rivals others for exposure of the players looking to make an impact to further their hockey careers. With the best of the best players coming from hockey hotbeds around the world, scouts flock to the tournament with plenty of paper and ink to make notes on players that are draft eligible or better yet, diamonds in the rough waiting to be uncovered.

Jujhar Khaira was the most recent member from the Spruce Kings roster to play in the WJAC two seasons ago. Khaira ended up winning gold with Team Canada West and was drafted the following summer by the Edmonton Oilers in the 3rd round of the NHL Draft.

In 2011, Team Canada West won their third gold medal at the WJAC. In the inaugural tournament, Team Canada West won gold and followed it up with a repeat performance the following year. In year three and year four, Team Canada West had to settle for silver and missed out on any medal in 2010. Last year Team Canada West came away with their third silver to improve their medal haul to 3 golds and 3 silvers in 7 years. The United States also has six medals with four golds and a pair of bronze followed by Team Canada East with their four silvers and one bronze medal.

Jenks becomes the sixth Spruce King to be selected to the Team Canada West roster and second goaltender. Kevin Genoe won silver in net in 2008 and went on to play four years of NCAA Division I hockey with Michigan Tech. Ryan deVries (2006 - Gold), Jeff Forsythe (2007 - Gold) and Wes McLeod (Silver - 2009) were three defenceman chosen from the Prince George Spruce Kings while Jujhar Khaira (2011 - Gold) has been the only forward to be selected so far.

The 2013 World Junior A Challenge will take place from November 4 - 10 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia with Team Canada West playing an exhibition game against the Americans on November 2nd in Digby, Nova Scotia. Team Canada West will play round robin games against Switzerland and the Czech Republic on November 4th and 5th. Quarter final games will be on Thursday November 7th and the semi finals on Friday November 8th. The relegation games are scheduled for Saturday and the Gold Medal game is set for Sunday November 10th at 9am PDT.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Gift Goal Wins It

The Spruce Kings celebrate after Sean Landrey scores
the game's first goal en route to a 3-2 win

The Prince George Spruce Kings took the gift they were given and traded it in for two points in a 3-2 win over the visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night. Three highlight reel goals from Sean Landrey, Brogan O'Brien and Jeremiah Luedtke provided the Spruce Kings with their tenth win of the season and third in a row.

Although the game finished with fans holding on to the edge of their seats, the game certainly didn't start that way and was more of a yawner with no energy on the ice and no atmosphere in the stands. It took over five minutes for the first shot on goal to be registered by either team. Perhaps it was that first shot that turned the tide when Matt Painchaud worked his way underneath the Cowichan Valley Capitals defence and drove hard to the net looking to poke the puck in five-hole.

On the next shift, the Spruce Kings would get two more shots and that then seemed to ignite the road weary Capitals. The visitors applied the pressure and had good puck possession in the Spruce Kings end but were having difficulties finding the net firing pucks high and wide. Hemmed inside their own zone, things would change quickly for Prince George when Riley Hawes jumped on a loose puck at the top of the faceoff circle and spotted Sean Landrey breaking out of the zone.

Hawes fed a perfect pass through the middle that Landrey picked up on the fly. With a step on the defender, Landrey let go a snap shot that beat the Capitals goalie high to the blocker side. For Landrey it was his second goal of the season and second in as many games coming at 14:07 of the first period on the Spruce Kings fifth shot on goal. The goal would hold up as the only tally in the opening period and, for a while, looked like it was going to be the only goal of the second period too. Prince George headed to the dressing room leading 12-6 on the shot clock.

On Thursday night the Spruce Kings were put on their heels in the second period but they weren't about to let that happen to them on this night. Even with Karan Toor sitting in the penalty box with over three minutes remaining in a double minor, the Spruce Kings created chances. The best came off the stick of Chad Staley who stole the puck and was looking for the far side of the net before he was hauled down. Some fans in the building were wondering if a penalty shot would be awarded with a penalty shot again, but it was only called a two minute minor. The four on four situation only lasted for a short while before Justin Rai was called for an interference penalty giving the Capitals a 4-on-3 to work with and 12 seconds of 5-on-3.

Even with the extra ice and short two man advantage, the Cowichan Valley Capitals couldn't get anything on Alex Murray. The next three powerplays all went to the Spruce Kings, but they too struggled to get quality shots on goal with the man advantage despite controlling much of the play in the offensive zone. Before the end of the second period, the Cowichan Valley Capitals would get their third powerplay of the game and would make the most of it, scoring the tying goal at 19:10. Despite outshooting the visitors 14-8 in the middle frame, the Spruce Kings could not capitalize on any of their chances.

With the start of the third period it looked like the Capitals were on the verge of taking over the game's momentum and very well might have had it not been for a stunning play by the Spruce Kings youngest player. Coming around from behind his own net, Danny Kiraly spotted Brogan O'Brien the puck just inside the Prince George blue line. The sixteen year old took off with speed through the middle, shook off a couple of checks and stepped around two more defenders. As O'Brien made his way around the last guy, he lost his footing and fell to his knees but never gave up on the puck. From his knees, O'Brien was able to pull the puck from his backhand to his forehand and bury on Robin Gusse (pronounced goose) before sliding into the net himself.

The goal left the entire building in a buzz with people asking the same question all around the Coliseum - "did you see that?" Before the reality of the goal could sink in for the fans in the stands, the Cowichan Valley Capitals answered right back to again put the game into a tie. The tie would hold up for sixteen minutes as both teams traded chances. The Capitals had the best chance to score the go-ahead goal when Mitch Ball had the game on his stick and was robbed by a reach back glove hand save by Alex Murray.

Not a minute later a tense crowd would explode in a goal celebration that was tempered with more disbelief. In the Spruce Kings zone, the Capitals had complete control of the puck and were working it along the left side wall back to the point. The pass back got away from the defenceman and went the length of the ice. Gusse left the net and went into the corner to play it. Jeremiah Luedtke followed the puck into the Capitals end and then curled in towards the slot. Just as Luedtke was passing between the faceoff circles the unbelievable happened. In a bold maverick move to find the far side defenceman, Gusse passed the puck right to Luedtke who grabbed it and fired in to the empty net with 44 seconds remaining in the third period.

After the horror of the situation sunk in for Gusse and the Capitals, they would control the final seconds of play inside the Spruce Kings zone but couldn't find the equalizer before the final buzzer sounded. The Spruce Kings posted the 3-2 regulation time victory sending the hometown fans home happy and the visitors on the bus still shaking their heads on the one that got away on them. After the game, Alex Murray was given the hard hat after making 24 saves on the night including two huge saves in the third period.

Sean Landrey who played a strong game all night long was awarded the game's first star while Brogan O'Brien picked up the second star for his highlight reel goal and smart play all night long. With the three stars being selected a few minutes before the end of the game, the third star came as a bit of a surprise after it was awarded to the player that gave the puck away in the dying seconds of the game - Robin Gusse. Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke were on the short list for Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game, but it would be Staley that picked up the honour after putting together another solid sixty minute effort.

On a side note, both Caleb Thompson and Jake LeBrun who have been out of the lineup for the most of the month of October, were both at the game. At this point it is unclear if either player will be able to travel with the team next weekend for their next set of games. The Spruce Kings will be in Surrey on November 1st and Langley November 2nd.

The Langley Rivermen maintained their two point cushion over the Spruce Kings in top spot in the Mainland Division with a 3-2 overtime win over the West Kelowna Warriors. The Spruce Kings are now four points up on the Coquitlam Express who were idle tonight. After losing 3-2 to the Chilliwack Chiefs, the Surrey Eagles sit seven points back of Prince George in fourth place and the Chiefs are stuck in the basement with nine points.

Game Day vs Cowichan Valley Capitals

The Prince George Spruce Kings will be looking to capitalize on their recent offensive gains as they entertain the Cowichan Valley Capitals tonight. This is the second of three meetings between these two teams this season. The Capitals took the first game 4-3 during the BCHL Showcase. After tonight’s game in Prince George, the two won’t see each other again until January 18, 2014 in Duncan.

During the Showcase, the Spruce Kings outshoot the Capitals 29-14 and built up a 3-1 lead only to have it slip away in the third. The Spruce Kings learned that no lead in hockey can be considered safe. The game winning goal came on a powerplay in the last minute of play and for one player, that was another hard lesson learned.

Since that first game of the season, both teams have compiled almost identical records and sit second in their respective divisions. The Capitals have played one extra game and have a record of 10 wins, 8 losses and 1 overtime loss for 21 points in 19 games. The Spruce Kings record sits at 20 points with 9 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie and 1 overtime loss.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals were in Chilliwack last night and came away with a narrow 2-1 regulation time win. The game was highlighted by the goaltenders who stole the show led by the Capitals goaltender, Robin Gusse who turned aside 38 of 39 shots while the team in front of him took 37 shots.

The Spruce Kings are also coming off a win, a 7-4 win over the Merritt Centennials on Thursday night that saw Chad Staley record his first BCHL career hat trick. Staley scored in each period starting with a powerplay goal in the first, an evenstrength goal in the last minute of the second and capped it all off with a shorthanded penalty shot goal in the third.

The manner in which Prince George won was significant given their early October offensive struggles after losing both Brent Lashuk and Jake LeBrun. While those two were out of the lineup, the team only mustered five goals in four games. Although LeBrun remains out of the lineup, the Spruce Kings have welcomed the return of Lashuk scoring 15 goals in their last four games.

Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke have been playing on a line with Brent Lashuk and that has turned into some magic for all three and the fans in the stands. In the last four games Staley has picked up 7 points (5G, 2A) and has taken over top spot on the team’s leader board. Luedtke has exploded offensively with 8 points in the last 4 games (2G, 6A) while Lashuk has added 4 more points for the line (2G, 2A).

The Spruce Kings leaderboard is starting to light up like a Christmas tree with three players sitting in top spot tied with 15 points. Staley (7G, 8A) leads with the most goals followed by Bryant Christian (5G, 10A) and Christian Weidauer (4G, 11A). Brent Lashuk (4G, 10A) is one point back followed by the CJHL 3rd star for the month of September, Jake LeBrun (8G, 5A). Jeremiah Luedtke (3G, 7A) and Karan Toor (3G, 7A) round out players with double digits while Skylar Pacheco (6G, 3A), Justin Rai (3G, 6A) and Mitch Eden (1G, 8A) are all poised to hit that mark.

Prince George will have three scratches and one affiliate player in the lineup tonight. Jake LeBrun is still expected to miss another two weeks as he recovers from a concussion, Caleb Thompson is now considered day-to-day and is hoping to make a return to the ice soon. The third scratch tonight is a healthy one as Jesse Jenks is now in Calgary at the Team Canada West Selection Camp battling to get his name on the final roster for the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, NS November 4th to 10th.

The lone addition to the roster tonight is a young goaltender that many fans in Prince George ranked high on their future stars list. Bailey DePalma is a 16 year old that fought hard through the team's main camp and intra-squad games coming up with some highlight reel saves. The play of DePalma left a buzz in the city when it was announced that he had been placed on the team's reserve roster and assigned to the Thompson Blazers of the BC Major Midget League.

The game tonight is scheduled to start at 7pm and will be broadcast live tonight as a pay-per-view feed on and as a free audio online broadcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Staley's First Trick

Jesse Jenks and the Spruce Kings were undersiege in the
2nd and 3rd periods but came away with a 7-4 win

Although it is going to take a BCHL review of a goal, Chad Staley's hat trick proves to be too much for the Merritt Centennials to overcome as the Spruce Kings post a 7-4 win Thursday night in Prince George.

There is no video review during a game but afterwards the League can review all goals and make any necessary scoring changes. Staley will have to wait for this process to happen before he will be able to see his first official BCHL hat trick on the score sheet. In the meantime the entire team will get to enjoy a night off before getting back to it on Saturday night when they take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

On Thursday night, the Spruce Kings opened the scoring early in the first period on their first powerplay chance. Although they had some issues getting the 5-on-4 to work, it would be the top line of Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Brent Lashuk that figured it out before the man advantage ended. Staley carried the puck into the zone before passing it off to Luedtke who took the initial shot. The rebound came out to Lashuk who also had an attempt at the shot with the puck coming out to the slot for Staley to put behind Russell Sanderson.

The Spruce Kings would make a 2-0 game shortly afterwards on a broken play that was started by Donovan Law, the affiliate player called up earlier in the day. After it was determined following the morning skate that Riley Hawes would not be able to go for the evening, the call was made for Law to join the Spruce Kings for that night. Law is currently playing for the 100 Mile House Wranglers of the KIJHL and made the four hour drive to Prince George.

Playing on a line with Sean Landrey and Matt Painchaud, Law picked up the puck on the left wing and fired a pass to Landrey through centre ice. As Landrey went in to the offensive zone, his original shot was blocked and bounced towards the slot with Landrey following behind. With a quick slap at the puck it became a knuckler that flew past the glove side of Sanderson at 10:39 of the first period.

For the 3-0 goal, the Spruce Kings can thank Jesse Jenks for turning aside three big Merritt chances. With the Centennials battling for the puck in the Prince George end, Christian Weidauer was able to dig the puck out to Bryant Christian who took off down the ice with Brent Lashuk and Justin Rai on the rush. Christian chipped the puck off the wall to Lashuk who carried it in to the right side faceoff circle before centering the puck for Rai to bury his third of the season.

At 17:12 of the first period, the Spruce Kings stretched their lead over the visitors to four on a powerplay goal scored on their second man advantage of the game. The powerplay started with a shorthanded chance for the Merritt Centennials that was broken up by Skylar Pacheco. The three year veteran on the blue line was able to get the powerplay headed in the right direction and setup in the offensive zone. Brogan O'Brien found the puck on the right wall and skated around the perimeter before coming down the slot. The sixteen year old rookie's shot was stopped with the rebound going out to the left side to Pacheco who come down the wing and fired home his sixth of the season.

The first period was highlighted by some long stretches of play with few whistles and when the whistles did come they were either the result of goals or penalties; the BCHL time out never came until the 19 minute mark. The final minute saw the Spruce Kings with one more scoring chance when Brent Lashuk was sprung on the right side. After twenty minutes, the Spruce Kings had a 4-0 lead and led on the shot clock 11-9.

To start the second period, Devin Kero replaced Russell Sanderson between the pipes and the rest of the team took everything they could to the Prince George end of the ice firing shot after shot on Jesse Jenks. The pressure applied led to a couple of penalties that the Centennials were able to capitalize on to make the game close. The Spruce Kings seemed to be on their heels for a majority of that second period and were holding onto a 4-2 lead until the line of Staley, Luedtke and Lashuk fired up their engines again.

Late in that second period Staley would find the goal post on a hard shot from the right side. On their very next shift, on a play that Mitch Eden setup to spring the trio, Luedtke was able to get a weak shot on goal that fooled Kero. The shot was stopped by not covered and as Staley came around from behind the net he found the loose puck and lifted it over the glove of Kero. The goal was originally credited to another player but the video clearly shows it was Staley's sixth of the season.

The Spruce Kings went to the dressing room leading by three despite being outshot in the second period by a margin of 14-8 and 23-19 through forty minutes of play. Into the third period, the Centennials would pick up where they left off and be rewarded five minutes later with their third goal of the game and first one scored at even strength. The game would remain a 5-3 game for another nine minutes.

With the Spruce Kings trying to kill off another penalty, Chad Staley was sprung on a breakaway down the middle. Staley was caught by the Centennials defenceman who tried to take the shot away only to be called for interference leading to Staley being awarded a penalty shot. Staley took his time getting ready for his first ever penalty shot but as he picked up the puck at centre ice, the anticipation in the building grew. Staley came straight down the lane as he closed in the Centennials netminder, faked to his backhand before pulling it back to his forehand and sliding it past Kero.

Before the end of the game, the visitors would get a lucky bounce as a dump in shot from the point would literally bounce past Jesse Jenks giving Merritt a renewed source of optimism. Shortly after the ensuing puck drop, the Centennials opted for an extra attacker and pulled the goaltender. After stopping the initial attack, Karan Toor carried the puck to the centre ice line and fired at the open net only to hit the base of the right side post.

In the final minute the Spruce Kings would again find themselves hemmed in their own zone. Again it was Toor that found a way to get the puck out of the zone and continued to chase it down the right side wall winning the battle for the puck. Toor got that shot away and watched as the puck slid over the goal line giving the defenceman his third goal of the season and the Spruce Kings a 7-4 win over the visiting Centennials.

It was the second time this season that the Spruce Kings scored seven goals against an opponent on home ice, it was also the first win this season against the Merritt Centennials. More importantly the win with seven goals provides the team in the dressing room a great deal of relief knowing that they can score goals despite the absence of Jake LeBrun who still remains sidelined with his concussion. Since Brent Lashuk has returned to the lineup, the Spruce Kings have scored 15 goals after being held to just four in the four games when both Lashuk and LeBrun were out of the lineup.

The Spruce Kings will be looking for that trend to continue as they take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night in the Coliseum.

Game Day vs Merritt Centennials

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Spruce Kings last played a home game; tonight’s game is the seventh game in the Castle with the Spruce Kings enjoying a 3-2-0-1 record.

The team has found some offense in the absence of Jake LeBrun, who is expected back early in the month of November. The return of Brent Lashuk has been a contributing factor as has the emergence of Jeremiah Luedtke.

Lashuk scored two goals sixteen seconds apart last Saturday in his second game back. Luedtke also found his stride this past weekend picking up a total of six points including a highlight reel goal setup by Mitch Eden.

The Spruce Kings defence has been solid when called upon and continue to lead the Mainland Division for fewest goals against in a game. Jesse Jenks has been a shining star in net for Prince George and sits among the League’s best with a 2.25 GAA.

The strong play of Jenks has earned him a chance at cracking the Team Canada West roster for the World Junior A Challenge taking place in Yarmouth, NS from November 4th - 10th. The Selection Camp begins on Saturday October 26th and runs for four days in Calgary, AB.

After a big win on Sunday afternoon against their divisional opponent in Langley, the Spruce Kings will be looking to gain momentum with the first of two games this weekend tonight. The opponents will be looking to do the same.

In their last meeting the Merritt Centennials extended their winning streak to four games but have only won twice in their past five outings. The visitors bring an almost fully healthy roster with them to the Castle, the lone exception being Dan Nachbaur who is out with an upper body injury.

Two other scratches on the Centennials lineup include Waylon Williams and Jake Clifford. Russell Sanderson is getting the nod in net tonight for the Centennials, it will be his first start in over a month after sitting on the injured reserve list since suffering an injury following a September 14th game versus the West Kelowna Warriors.

The game tonight is the second Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive with Ron St. Clair. The game will be broadcast live following the Vancouver Canucks. The game is also Prince George’s turn to compete in the Five Hole For Food BCHL Challenge.

As well as being broadcasted live on 99.3 the Drive, tonight's game will also be available as a pay-per-view game on and on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45pm.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Luedtke Lob for the Win

Jesse Jenks (1) was on his game turning aside 26 of 27 shots
photo courtesy Garrett James Photography

The Prince George Spruce Kings finished their three game road trip with a 3-1 win over the Langley Rivermen and moved up a notch in the Mainland Division Sunday afternoon. Jeremiah Luedtke scored first on the power play, then he setup Chad Staley for the eventual game winner in the first period and capped off a first star bid scoring on a break away late in the third.

The line of Luedtke, Staley and Brent Lashuk carried much of the play for the Spruce Kings creating chance after chance all game long. Justin Rai, Bryant Christian, Brogan O'Brien and Cole Todd all created offensive chances as well. When the Spruce Kings weren't in control of the puck, the defense did a great job of minimizing chances for the Rivermen. Jesse Jenks did the rest turning aside all but one shot on goal.

The Spruce Kings started early with pressure in the offensive zone. In the opening minutes, Luedtke fed a back door pass through the crease to Rai, who came down from the face off circle only to be stopped by the big pad of Steve Myland. The Spruce Kings kept pressing for th first goal and would draw the first power play of the game.

With Lashuk working the left faceoff circle and Staley and Luedtke causing grief for the penalty killers with the cycling. Lashuk fired a shot on net that settled in the blue paint just out of the reach of the netminder. When Myland made the decision to go for the puck, in an effort to cover it with his glove, Luedtke reached in and poked the puck under Myland. The goal was the second on the season for the returning forward and the first power play goal for the Spruce Kings on the weekend.

A few minutes later the Langley Rivermen would have their best chance of the period when Jakob Reichert would bust in through the middle and fire a bullet off the glove side goal post on Jesse Jenks. The Spruce Kings went the other way shortly after that on an odd man rush with Lashuk carrying the puck. Lashuk fired a shot on goal with Chad Staley going hard to the net, the defender on the play tried to hold up Staley and everybody crashed in on the goalie knocking Myland into the back of his net.

Staley was quick to get out of the crease and found the puck, his first attempt bounced back to him off the bodies on the ice. Staley grabbed the loose puck and stepped back giving himself room to lift it up and over the still down and out Rivermen defender and goaltender. There was some thought that the whistle should have blown the play dead, but the puck remained loose the entire time and it was only a Rivermen defender that made it impossible for the goalie to get back into position.

The Spruce Kings would hold onto their 2-0 lead out shooting the Langley Rivermen 11-7 through the first period of play. The Spruce Kings out shot the Rivermen again 10-8 in the second period with both teams trading chances and a pair of power play opportunities including a two man advantage for over a minute for Langley.

Mitch Eden took the first penalty,  a tripping mior at 7:33. While killing off that one, Skylar Pacheco lost his stick and tried using his glove to clear the zone. Instead the glove cupped the puck and Pacheco ended up clearing it up and over the glass with 1:07 still remaining in Eden's minor. The Rivermen were unable to muster much of anything getting only one shot on goal from the outside.

As Eden got back into the play he setup the first of two shorthanded chances and the Spruce Kings would continue to apply pressure as they got back to full strength.  The defensive game and the offensive chances led to some frustration on the part of the home team who took back-to-back penalties late in the period including a boarding call that saw Chad Staley hit from behind face first into the dasher and corner glass. Fortunately for Staley and the Spruce Kings, the dynamo vet was okay and stayed on the ice to take his turn on the power play.

Neither team was able to score in the second period and the game remained a 2-0 lead for Prince George after forty minutes of play. To start the third period, the Rivermen came out hungry for their first goal and a chance to get back in the game. Their aggressive start led to a couple more power play chances. The first was when Matt Painchaud slashed the stick out of the hands of Mitch McLain as the Rivermen's leading scorer was cruising through the slot and about to pick up the puck.

The Spruce Kings killed off that penalty but couldn't kill off the next one as Bryant Christian sat in the sin bin on a holding call at 5:55. Sixteen seconds on a broken play, the Rivermen were on the board. James Robinson lost the puck trying to set up in the right corner only to have it kicked back over to him. With players scrambling to get back in to position, Robinson spotted Jakob Reichert coming down the slot and passed him the puck. Reichert took one look and blasted a shot past Jenks to get the Rivermen to within one of the vistors.

For the next twelve minutes,  much of the play would be on the Spruce Kings half of the ice with puck going back and forth over the blue line. With time becoming a factor and the Langley bench looking to get the right players on the ice and the goalie to the bench, Christian Weidauer lobbed a high dump out pass that was intended to clear the zone while avoiding the icing call.

The Spruce Kings, who had at least one bounce go their way in the first,  would get another. The Langley Rivermen defencemen got caught changing as the puck landed at centre ice.  Luedtke skated up on it and broke in on a two-on-none with Lashuk joining in on the left side. Luedtke kept the puck the whole way and then lifted it over Myland's glove into the top corner giving Prince George a 3-1 lead with 1:25 remaining in the third.

The frustration that had been brewing all game finally came out on the next play when a dump-in got caught up in Eden's jersey.  No less than three Langley players started swinging their sticks trying to dislodge the puck. Weidauer quickly got in there to break it up, pulling Reichert out. The two would end up with roughing after the whistle penalties and ten minute misconducts. Austin Azurdia, who was talking with Eden after the whistle,  ended up with a game misconduct after he went after Alex Murray on the Spruce Kings bench.

On the following faceoff Charlie Pelnik slashed Staley and was given a minor and a misconduct for the infraction. That would be the extent of the extracurricular activities as the Spruce Kings registered their eighth win of the season and join the Coquitlam Express in second place in the Mainland Division,  both teams have 18 points. The win also sets up an interesting return to the Langley Events Centre on November 2nd.

The Spruce Kings return home for a pair of games beginning with the Merritt Centennials on Thursday and the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Saturday night. Thursday's game is the second Prince George Motors Feature Game of the Month on 99.3 the Drive. Ron St.Clair will hace the call of the game on the Drive. Prior to that the Spruce Kings will participate in the Inside Ride to raise funds for Camp Goodtimes in support of children suffering from cancer.

Game Day at Langley Rivermen

Called the quick turn-around game, there may be no advantage to either team in today's BCHL meeting between the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Langley Rivermen. For their first meeting against each other this season, a 2pm matinee in Langley, the Spruce Kings and the Rivermen will have to come ready to play after both teams played in seventy minute games the night before.

In two separate games last night both teams found themselves in a tie after regulation time after their opponents scored in the third to force overtime. The Spruce Kings had a first period lead of 2-1 flip flop into a come-from-behind situation that saw them claim a 4-3 lead on a pair of back-to-back goals sixteen seconds apart off the stick of Brent Lashuk. With a little over five minutes remaining, the Surrey Eagles scored the tying goal and after that neither team could find the back of the net in a game that ended in a 4-4 tie.

Meanwhile over in Langley, the Rivermen held on tight to a 1-0 lead off a shorthanded goal scored early in the second period only to find themselves in a tie situation when the Penticton Vees scored five minutes into the third period. Goals were at a premium in Langley last night with both teams having to settle for the single point in a 1-1 tie through two extra periods of overtime hockey. In the BCHL, those overtime periods are played as five minute sudden victory periods with the first featuring a 4-on-4 man situation and the second a 3-on-3.

Normally it can be expected that a 3-on-3 becomes a fast back and forth affair with both teams ending up with odd man rushes and breakaways. There really was none of that last night as both teams played each other close and could only muster up a few real chances in the game. In Langley, the home team gambled big and actually pulled their goaltender for the final thirteen seconds with a faceoff in the Penticton end. This is a huge gamble in the BCHL, because if the Vees had scored into the empty net, the Rivermen would have forfeited the extra point (Rule 209.5).

After last night's game results, the Langley Rivermen (9-4-1-1) moved one point up on the Coquitlam Express (8-5-0-2), who lost in regulation time to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Prince George Spruce Kings (7-7-1-1) retain third in the Mainland Division two points behind the Express and a single point up on the Surrey Eagles (7-8-1-0). The Chilliwack Chiefs (2-7-1-2) also picked up a single point last night in an overtime loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Heading into today's game, both teams can expect to be a little tired after their respective games finished closer to 10pm. The Spruce Kings had to make the short drive from Surrey back to Langley and set up their gear around 11pm in the Langley Events Centre, hoping to get a little more shuteye and rest before making their appearance at noon for the 2pm game.

The Rivermen struggled for offense last night whereas the Spruce Kings scored four goals in a game for the fourth time this season. The Spruce Kings got goals from Bryant Christian*, Chad Staley and a pair from Brent Lashuk - the asterisk beside Christian's name is because the goal currently shows as Cole Todd's, but after the game Todd confirmed that the goal was not his and that the Spruce Kings would have to submit a goal scoring change to the League so that it can be corrected.

The team defence that we have come to know from the Spruce Kings returned for last night's game and was highly effective keeping the free wheeling Surrey Eagles to just 27 shots through seventy minutes of play. As we also come to see, the defence themselves were active and got up on the play lots. Christian Weidauer helped set up the game's first goal; Mitch Eden, Karan Toor, Danny Kiraly and Skylar Pacheco all had offensive chances on the rush while the forwards came back strong on the back check and protecting the points when the defence did jump up.

While the Spruce Kings strength comes from below the blue line, the Langely Rivermen have been finding the net from all four lines. Ten of their twelve goal scorers are all forwards led by Mitch McLain (5G, 11A), Will Cook (4G, 8A) and James Robinson (3G, 8A). Also with double digits to start the season is Austin Azurdia (7G, 3A) with his team leading seven goals. Nathan Craft (5G, 2A) has five goals himself and will be a threat today playing against his home town team. Craft has suited up for the Prince George Spruce Kings in two prior games as an affiliate player in his days with the Cariboo Cougars.

The game could be an interesting one where fatigue could be an determining factor in the final outcome. The Langley Rivermen and the Prince George Spruce Kings matchup is one of six on a busy Sunday BCHL schedule. The Chilliwack Chiefs are also in action while the Coquitlam Express and Surrey Eagles will be scoreboard watching today. Game time is 2pm with the game being broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available on and a free online audio only broadcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 1:40pm.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nothing Gained, Nothing Lost

Chad Staley (22) about to take the shot that leads to his
third of the season against the Surrey Eagles
photo courtesy Garrett James Photography

The Prince George Spruce Kings picked up a single point as did the Surrey Eagles in a game that went the distance and then some only to end in a 4-4 double overtime tie. In the BCHL, there is no such thing as a clear cut winner if neither team can score the winning goal through ten extra minutes of four-on-four and three-on-three play.

The Spruce Kings played a very good game and were full marks with four goals on 45 shots through 70 minutes of play but had to settle for a single point giving them a record of 7-7-1-1 and 16 points in 16 games. The goals on the night came from Bryant Christian, Chad Staley and pair from Brent Lashuk. The two scored by Lashuk came sixteen seconds apart on the same shift just moments after the Eagles had a disallowed goal that would have put Prince George down 4-2 in the third period.

The Surrey Eagles started the scoring at 14:51 of the first period on an offensive zone faceoff. Brett Mulcahy won the draw back to Danton Heinen who fired a shot that was blocked. Jesse Jenks went for the save and couldn't get back in position before Heinen would get his own rebound and fire the shot through the Spruce Kings goaltender.

The Spruce Kings would get that one back 38 seconds later when Justin Rai started the play inside his own zone winning a puck battle to Christian Weidauer. The Spruce Kings leading offensive defenceman started a three-on-two rush up the right side wall. As he gained the Eagles zone he fed the puck over to Cole Todd who let go a shot that was tipped in front by Bryant Christian for his fifth of the season. In the arena, the goal was credited to Cole Todd as the rookie's first BCHL career goal but Todd showed that he is a team first player and that he wants his first to be legitimate after letting team officials know that it was indeed Christian's goal.

Less than two minutes later the Spruce Kings would take their first lead of the game off a strong play in the corner by Mitch Barker. Fighting for the puck in the corner, Barker was able to dislodge the puck for Riley Hawes who fed the puck to Chad Staley waiting in the faceoff circle. Staley walked the puck towards the slot and when he thought he had enough room, fired a shot to the topside corner on the far side over the glove of Devon Fordyce. That goal would stand up until the 8:37 mark of the second period.

After giving up an early shot on goal in the second period, the Spruce Kings reeled off a series of chances and tallied seven shots on Fordyce through the first eight minutes of the middle frame. Under pressure in their own zone, Matt Dawson elected to go with a designed breakout play off the glass to the waiting winger on the centre ice line. Danton Heinen was able to tip the puck sending it up into the air landing just inside the Spruce Kings blue line. Brett Mulcahy picked up there and went to the net hard with Mitch Eden all over him. As Mulcahy was falling he slapped at the puck and knuckler got through Jenks to tie the game 2-2.

The Surrey Eagles would get life from that goal and applied some pressure on the Spruce Kings getting five more shots before the Spruce Kings would finish the period strong. Shots on goal in the second period favoured Prince George 15-7 and 28-15 through forty minutes. To start the third the Eagles would score first in the period just over two minutes in. Nic Pierog added a fourth goal on the weekend after a hat trick on Friday night, his wrister found twine as it worked its way through a screen set up in front of the net.

Just past the midway mark of the third period, the Eagles fired the puck on net where it sat in the blue paint among skates. With the players pushing and fighting to get a stick on the puck, the puck would go off a skate blade just as the net came off its moorings. The goal light would go on but the referee immediately indicated no-goal. After an extended conversation with his linesman, Nick Swaine stuck to his call on the ice and waved off the goal with the explanation that the net had come off before the puck crossed the goal line.

The Spruce Kings and specifically the line of Chad Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Brent Lashuk used that as fuel and led the charge for the visiting team. On a rush up the ice, Danny Kiraly found Staley who then slid the puck over to Lashuk who buried his third of the season to tie the game 3-3. Before the goal could be announced in the South Surrey Arena, the trio were back at it again off the faceoff win by Staley, Luedtke carried the puck over the blue line and spotted Lashuk with it who then scored his fourth of the season giving the Spruce Kings a 4-3 lead just 16 seconds after his first of the night.

Lashuk would have a chance at the hat trick as he came down the middle trailing a play that saw Staley's hard shot kicked into the slot by Fordyce. Lashuk may have waited a split second too long as he looked up before taking the shot that the Eagles goaltender was able to find.

Two and a half minutes later it would be a pair of defenceman for the Surrey Eagles combining on the 4-4 tying goal. On a play that started from behind their own net Kale Bennett spotted Matt Dawson on the right side with a nice pass that left Dawson only one option. Racing down the wall, Dawson elected to shoot as he got to the top of the faceoff circle. The puck caught Jenks on his right side and rolled through his equipment to fall behind the netminder onto the blue paint. As Jenks reached behind him to find the loose puck, it kept rolling out of his reach as it crossed the goal line.

That is how the third period would end with both teams having chances before the end of regulation time to stake a claim on both points. As the game headed to overtime, both teams were given the automatic single point and through ten additional minutes of play, neither team could find a quality shot on goal.

After the game, the Spruce Kings learned that the Coquitlam Express had lost in regulation time meaning that Prince George retains third in the Mainland Division two points back of the Express. The Langley Rivermen and the Penticton Vees also went the full distance with nothing being settled after seventy minutes in a 1-1 final. The single point for the Rivermen gives them 20 on the season and a four point cushion against their next opponent - the Prince George Spruce Kings.

It will be a quick turn-around for both teams with a 2pm scheduled puck drop from the Langley Events Centre. Sunday's matchup with be the first of the season between these two Mainland Divisional opponents. The game will be available online beginning with the pregame show at 1:40pm on and the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel.

Game Day at Surrey Eagles

Christian Weidauer (7) and the Spruce Kings will be looking
for the season series split tonight vs the Surrey Eagles
photo courtesy Garrett James Photography

After suffering their worst loss of the season last night, the Spruce Kings have a chance at redemption and an early season series split against the Surrey Eagles tonight.

Last night's game started out rough and finished even rougher for the Spruce Kings who were looking to put some distance between them and their Mainland Divisional rival. In the first of eight regular season meetings between the Surrey Eagles and Prince George, it was the Eagles that took flight early scoring on their first shift ten seconds into the game and then four more times in the third period.

Down 1-0, Prince George was able to settle down and play the next 32 minutes looking for a way to tie the game. That tieing goal came at 12:15 off the stick of Brogan O'Brien. The sixteen year old rookie has been a solid player since joining the team seven games ago and provided the lone ray of light for the team with his first BCHL career goal.

The team came to within a goal post and a couple of goal mouth scrambles in the second period from claiming a lead over the defending BCHL champions. The third period told a different story with the Surrey Eagles turning a close game through 45 minutes into a blowout scoring four goals in the final 15 minutes to claim a 6-1 win over Prince George.

The Spruce Kings knew going in that playing on the Olympic sized arena. The game plan seemed simple enough - play between the dots - but that turned out to be more difficult than expected as the Surrey Eagles used the boards to their advantage to spring odd man rushes all night long.

Learning how to deal with that will be a priority for the Spruce Kings as they took a hit in their League leading team defensive stats. Prince George still has the best goals against average in the Mainland Division but slipped a notch among the League leaders to third behind the Powell River Kings and the Penticton Vees.

Still struggling to find the back of the net is becoming an ongoing struggle as the team has only averaged a goal a game in their last five outings. The best chances for more offense last night came off the sticks of Brent Lashuk who hit a goal post, Cole Todd with a partial break-away and Chad Staley who had a chance at the top of the crease until the referee lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead.

Not allowing that to become a source of frustration is also a key to success before the players start gripping their sticks too tight. The Surrey Eagles on the other hand seemed to be loose and free wheeling last night and able to get into the right positions at the right times. Making blocks and deflecting shots or keeping the Spruce Kings too the low percentage angles was their key to success.

Look for little adjustments tonight in the lines and for Jesse Jenks to start in goal for Prince George. The rookie netminder has just been invited to the Team Canada West selection camp and will be pumped to put in a good performance tonight. The Team Canada West selection camp runs from October 26-29 and will be a chance for the 18 year old to wear the Maple Leaf at the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia from November 4-10, 2013. For more information visit the World Junior A Challenge website.

Tonight's game has a 7pm scheduled puck drop and will be broadcast live online with a pay-per-view feed on and a free audio only feed on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. It should be noted that internet issues last night caused lots of problems with the audio only feed and those are trying to be sorted out in time for tonight's game.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eagles Soar in the Third

Alex Murray made a nice save on this break-away chance
photo courtesy Garrett James Photograpy

The Surrey Eagles took flight in the third period changing a close game through forty minutes into a 6-1 blowout on Friday night over the Prince George Spruce Kings. After two periods it was a 2-1 game with the Spruce Kings enjoying a BCHL career first goal for Brogan O'Brien and wondering what could have been if not for a goal post.

On the very first play of the game the Spruce Kings found themselves down 1-0 when Ryan Fraser-Lee broke up a play in the neutral zone and sent Nic Pierog in on a three-on-two chance. As Pierog stepped over the blue line he let a deceptive wrister go that handcuffed Alex Murray and opened the scoring just ten seconds into the game on the first shot on goal.

The Spruce Kings would settle down and keep the Eagles of the shot clock for some time including the full two minutes of a penalty kill. That penalty kill also turned out to be a momentum changer as the Spruce Kings carried much of the play especially on the very first shift registering four shots on goal. Unfortunately all of those shots would be turned away by the one time netminder for the Prince George Cougars.

Devon Fordyce went from the Cougars to the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and was recently acquired by the Surrey Eagles getting his first BCHL start on Wednesday night. That turned into a 5-4 and the end of a five game losing streak for the Surrey Eagles. Fordyce earned second star in his second game with the Eagles after posting the 6-1 win. For as little as Fordyce was tested in the first period, the Spruce Kings made the opposition netminder earn his star in the second period.

In the middle frame the Spruce Kings would end up with eight shots on goal and created no less than four glorious scoring chances. The only goal that Prince George would get would come off the stick of the sixteen year old rookie, Brogan O'Brien playing in his seventh BCHL game.

Off an offensive zone faceoff by Chad Staley that led to a shot on goal by Jeremiah Luedtke, O'Brien found the puck in the slot and was able to slip it from his forehand to his backhand and flip his first in behind a down and out Fordyce. The goal tied the game at one a-piece and provided the Spruce Kings with another chance to grab onto some momentum.

A few minutes later it would be the Surrey Eagles that would get the go-ahead goal that the Spruce Kings could never answer back. Under pressure in their own zone, the Spruce Kings would ice the puck forcing a defensive zone faceoff with no opportunity to change the players on the ice. With the puck pinned up against the wall, Johan Renouf would dig it out and find Danton Heinen at the top of the faceoff circle who would snap home his third of the season.

On the very next shift the Spruce Kings would have their best chance to tie up the game when Bryant Christian spotted Brent Lashuk with the puck through the middle. Lashuk went into the Eagles zone with speed and fired a hot shot of his own that beat Fordyce but not the goal post. The second period would end 2-1 in favour of the home team with the Spruce Kings leading 17-15 on the shot clock.

In the third period the Spruce Kings would get one more chance to tie up the game but again they would come up empty only to have the Eagles go the other way. Pierog got the puck and headed up the ice starting a give and go with Brent Mulchay, as he got the puck back he let another quick wrister go from the top of the slot that found the back of the net to make it a 3-1 game.

Not finished there, Pierog would come back for more scoring his hat trick goal at 12:16 of the third period. The Eagles would still add two more from Mulchay and Renouf on the powerplay to finish with four goals in the third on 13 shots total.

The 6-1 loss is the first time the Spruce Kings have allowed more than five goals against and the first time they have lost by more than a three goal spread. The Spruce Kings will have to put all of that behind them, learn from the experience and get ready to respond as they will be right back in the South Surrey Arena on Saturday night for a return matchup. The game has a 7pm scheduled opening puck drop and will be broadcast live on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel and

Game Day at Surrey Eagles

The Prince George Spruce Kings will meet the Surrey Eagles tonight at 7pm for the first time in 252 days. The last time these two teams have played each other was back on February 8, 2013 in a game played in the South Surrey Arena that saw the home team earn their first regulation time win over Prince George in eight tries.

Yes it's true, the Spruce Kings had the regular season edge over the team that came out on top in the province of BC. The Surrey Eagles won the BCHL Championship, the first ever Western Canadian Championship and earned a berth to the 2013 RBC Royal Bank Cup where they came up just short of winning a national championship. During the regular season the Spruce Kings played the Eagles tough earning four regulation time wins including two by shutout. The Eagles did pick up four wins, but three of those came in overtime leaving Prince George with an 11-8 point edge over Surrey.

Lots has changed for the both teams since February, as it does when one season rolls through an off-season to the start of a new campaign. For the Eagles though their changes eclipse those of the Spruce Kings with more player changes as well as changes on the bench. The Eagles have close to twenty new players up front after losing a significant number of players to graduation and trades.

It appears the Surrey Eagles aren't finished making moves either as they look for that one move that will completely change their team as we saw last year. In the month of October one year ago, the Surrey Eagles actually made two moves that completely changed the team on the ice. The first was bringing in an unknown goaltender that evolved into one of the best netminders in the BCHL. After a win one loss one start, Michael Santiquida reeled off ten wins in twelve starts and went on to finish with a season record of 29 wins, 10 losses and 3 ties.

The second change was perhaps even more significant when a trade was made with the Coquitlam Express to acquire Brady Shaw twelve games into his final year of junior hockey. Shaw came over with 6 goals and 3 assists after having a 69 point season the year before. In his first game with the Surrey Eagles, Shaw scored twice and then followed that up with another two goals and an assist one night later. Shaw maintained his pace for the rest of the season and was always a threat on the ice registering 8 points (5G, 3A) against the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Trying to recreate that magic this year, the Surrey Eagles unveiled a new goaltender on Wednesday night that picked up his first BCHL win. Devon Fordyce, who some will remember as being with the Prince George Cougars last year, was acquired from the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League on October 9th. In this first game, Fordyce helped his team to their first win in six games as they defeated the Coquitlam Express 5-4 in Coquitlam.

The second part of the equation may have just been executed as well with the acquisition of Garrett Forster from the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Forster is from Surrey and has tour of duties in the BCHL with the Coquitlam Express and most recently with the Chiliwack Chiefs. Although his BCHL numbers aren't substantial (11G, 27A in 108 games), the intangible of coming home and playing for your home town team can become a huge adrenaline boost for both the player and the team.

Attrition hasn't been limited to the bench either with the departure of some staff members and the head coach, Matt Erhart. Stepping up to the role of head coach and general manager is former NHL'er Peter Schaefer who was previously in an assistant role with the team. Schaefer knows the game and was a gifted offensive player himself, so he will likely be looking at building the same type of team on the ice which the ice in Surrey is the biggest in the BCHL with Olympic dimensions.

Preparing a team for their first game on a larger ice surface will be the priority for the Prince George Spruce Kings coaching staff who have had to work in some smaller confines for most of their games so far this season. Having to deal with a team that has been built to use the extra space to create free wheeling opportunities will be a huge test for one of the League's best defensive teams.

The Prince George Spruce Kings have allowed the fewest goals against for any team in the Mainland Division and has the second lowest goals against average per game among all teams in the BCHL. The strength of the defence hasn't been just along the blue line either, but also in their offensive output scoring 14 of the team's 34 goals. Leading the way in that category is Skylar Pacheco with five goals and Christian Weidauer with four. Along with his assists, Weidauer is second among all defenceman with twelve points.

The team's defence has done their job and so have the duo of Alex Murray and Jesse Jenks between the pipes for Prince George. Both are ranked high for both goals against average and save percentage with Jenks posting the third best save percentage in the League at .930, .004 away from top spot. Murray is tied for fouth in the league for goals against with an average of 2.20.

Heading into tonight's game, the Spruce Kings record is above .500 thanks in large part to a solid effort last Saturday in West Kelowna where Prince George held on for a 3-2 win over the Warriors. In that game Justin Rai playing alongside Bryant Christian was able to find some much needed offensive punch up front in the absence of Jake LeBrun and Brent Lashuk. LeBrun remains on the injury list recovering from a concussion while Lashuk is ready to make his return after missing five game tonight.

Another bright spot from Saturday's game was the line combination of Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke with Brogan O'Brien on the left wing. The trio were dangerous the entire night and came within a post and a skate blade from really blowing open the score. If those two lines can navigate the larger player area, the Spruce Kings stand a really good chance of starting this weekend off on a winning note with a return matchup in Surrey set for Saturday night before finishing the weekend off with a matinee game Sunday at 2pm against the Langley Rivermen.

As always, the game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed on and a free audio online broadcast from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

Alex Murray and the Spruce Kings were under siege in the
third period but held on for the 3-2 win Saturday

The Prince George Spruce Kings did the unthinkable tonight in defeating the West Kelowna Warriors 3-2 in their own rink. Basically limping in to Royal LePage Place,  the Spruce Kings came in four players short including two of the top scorers.

Jake LeBrun (8G, 5A) missed his fourth consecutive game and linemate Brent Lashuk (2G, 8A) missed his fifth. Defenceman Caleb Thompson missed all three games and Mitch Barker played Thursday in Merritt but was a scratch for the other two games this weekend.

After losing the first two games to the third place team (4-1 Merritt Centennials) and the second place team (2-0 Penticton Vees), the odds did not favour the Spruce Kings as they faced off against the West Kelowna Warriors,  the number one team in the Interior Division and the BCHL. The Warriors were riding a 9-0-0-1 record in their last ten games and were undefeated on home ice to start the season.

A similar scenario had played out a year ago when the Spruce Kings came in missing seven players, but were able to sneak out with a 4-3 win. In that game, Justin Rai was one of the scratches leaving Chad Staley and Jeremiah Luedtke with a stranger on the wing. Staley and Luedtke used that game as their breakout game annoucing their arrival in the BCHL with a highlight reel goal that stood up as the game winner.

With the team struggling to find offence, coach Dave Dupas used the memory of that game to change up his forward lines moving Rai up to play with Bryant Christian and Colin Chmelka. Brogan O'Brien was moved onto the wing with Staley and Luedtke to try and add a spark for those two,

As it played out, it was Justin Rai that provided the spark for the Prince George Spruce Kings, setting up the game's first goal and then scoring his second of the season less than twenty seconds later. As the game approached the midway mark of the first period, Mitch Eden started a play inside his own zone spotting Bryant Christian at centre ice. Christian took a hit to make a play getting the puck up to Rai who continued into the Warriors end. As the defender approached, Rai got the puck back to Skylar Pacheco who quickly fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat the West Kelowna netminder.

Off the ensuing faceoff,  the trio went right back to work in the offensive zone creating an odd man rush. Once again it was Christian finding Rai with a pass to the left side and the highly motivated second year forward took it from there. Rai moved in and wired the perfect shot short side above the blocker, giving the Spruce Kings their 2-0 lead and stunning the home crowd into an eerie silence.

The West Kelowna Warriors used the BCHL timeout to settle down their players and it seemed to work. They would get the next scoring chance when Jason Cotton came down the left wing, threw the brakes on and in one movement looked off the defender and goaltender while whipping a wrister that rang off the crossbar. A few shifts later, the Warriors were back on the attack led by Liam Blackburn and Seb Lloyd. In a broken play that saw two PG defenders get crossed up and fall to the ice, the puck deflected back against the flow of play to a wide open Lloyd who made no mistake, firing a shot into a wide open net to close the gap to one goal.

Instead of gaining momentum, the wheels came off the bus for the West Kelowna Warriors with a parade a players making a trip to the penalty box. Earlier in the period, Ambrose Frickus blocked a Pacheco point shot and spent a long time on the ice unable to move. He ended up being helped off the ice and was taken immediately to the dressing room for observation and repairs. Firkus did return, but appeared to be tenative and ended up taking a lazy penalty as he turned his back to a rushing Justin Rai and stuck his leg out tripping him up.

Thrty seconds later the Warriors were called for another violation, this time it was Matt Anholt for a slash putting the Spruce Kings on a two man advantage for 1:22. This whole series became the Studio Cuts Crowning Moment of the Game as the Spruce Kings would find the back of the net 40 seconds later. From the right side wall Luedtke fed the puck back to the right point where Pacheco set up a one-timer for Christian Weidauer.  The Spruce Kings leading offensive defenceman let go a blast from the left point that got through everyone restoring Prince George's two goal lead at 3-1.

Thats how the first period would end with the Spruce Kings out shooting the home team 14-5. The teams would trade chances in the second but again the Spruce Kings would limit the Warriors to just five shots on goal. The highlight of the second period would be the continued parade to the penalty box, five of the seven penalties going to the Warriors. While the Spruce Kings weren't completely innocent, it did appear that the officials were less inclined to make the calls against the visiting team.

In the third period it certainly looked like the blown chances in the middle frame were going to come back and bite the Spruce Kings. Not content with their limited shots in the first two periods, the Warriors pulled out everything they could looking to get back in the game. At one point both teams would trade breakaway chances on back-to-back plays. Brogan O'Brien would get the first one as he was fed a stretch pass and sprung from centre ice. On the very next play Carl Hesler slipped between a pair of Spruce Kings on the blue line to bust in on Alex Murray who came up with the save of the game.

Unfortunately for Prince George, the rebound would make its way back to Hesler who snapped home the puck pulling the Warriors to within one at 6:12. The Warriors kept up the pressure forcing turnovers in the offensive zone and keeping Prince George hemmed up in their own end. With eleven minutes still to play in regulation time, Dave Dupas called his timeout to calm his players down and remind them not to panic and stay aggressive instead of sitting back.

The Spruce Kings did just that and although they never really got anymore chances, they certainly minimized chances for the Warriors by clogging up the nuetral zone, keeping them to the outside, blocking shots and winning battles along the walls. That continued for almost the entire final ten minutes of the third period with the intensity rising as the clock ticked down. The Warriors pulled their goalie with 90 seconds remaining but still couldn't manage anything of consequence on net.

As the final seconds ticked down, Chad Staley made the last big defensive play diving in front of a point shot and then slapping the loose puck out over the blue line to kill off the clock. It truly did turn into deja vu all over again as the Spruce Kings came in against all odds to pull off an improbable victory. The win puts Prince George back above .500 with a record of 7-6-0-1, good for third place in the Mainland Division, one point back of the Coquitlam Express and four back of the front running Langley Rivermen.

Justin Rai was by far the best player, for either team in the first period and his play through the remaining forty minutes earned the second year player first star honours. Skylar Pacheco also factored in the three star selection as could a host of players including Chad Staley, Christian Weidauer, Mitch Eden, Karan Toor and Alex Murray. For the twenty year old goalie, who made a number of key saves especially in the third period, he was considered the FortisBC Energy Player of the Game and given the "hat" in the dressing room by his team mates.

The Spruce Kings return home for the remainder of the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend,  they will get two days of practice time before heading back out on the road for another three game weekend. Prince George will play twice in Surrey and will be looking to use those games to put even more distance between themselves and the Eagles. The other game in the three game set will be against the Langley Rivermen.

Game Day at West Kelowna Warriors

Coming off a heart breaking loss to the Penticton Vees, the Spruce Kings will look to end their three game Interior Division road trip on a positive with a win against the West Kelowna Warriors. The game last night had lots of positives with a few cross bars and goal posts getting in the way of the Prince George players that have been struggling to find some much needed goals.

It's easy to point to the obvious and recognize that the current woes coincide with the absence of Brent Lashuk and Jake LeBrun, but this is a team game and the players know that they are the ones that have to fill the vacancies up front. Earlier today the players met for a players only meeting looking to ignite the fire within for the game tonight.

The West Kelowna Warriors are out of the gates with a 9-2-0-1 record giving them sole possession of top spot in the BCHL; one point ahead of the Powell River Kings, two ahead of the Langley Rivermen and three on the Penticton Vees. The Warriors, like the team the Spruce Kings held to just two goals last night, have the ability to score goals and have outscored their opponents 47-33. In their last ten outings, the Warriors have 9 wins and one overtime loss.

The team is perfect in their own rink having won the four games they have played in Royal LePage Place so far. It should be noted that the Warriors have a home record of 4-1 where the one loss was at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. Their last three home ice wins have all been by a margin of two goals including last night's 3-1 victory over the Merritt Centennials.

Under the guidance of head coach, Dave Dupas, the Prince George Spruce Kings have shown an ability to play up and sometimes above their opponents. The team will have to that tonight if they want to come home with something from this road trip. As mentioned, it won't be easy with a total of four players expected to be out of the lineup.

Jake LeBrun and Brent Lashuk are the big scratches with both suffering from concussions. Lashuk is the closest to returning but is still considered to be day-to-day and not expected to dress tonight. LeBrun is still at least a week away from getting on the ice, but has been making significant strides in his recovery. Caleb Thompson was unable to travel with the team due to an illness and Mitch Barker missed last night after showing similar symptoms as Thompson; Barker is not expected to be in the lineup again tonight.

Interestingly enough, this becomes a deja vu thing all over again for the Spruce Kings. Last year on a similar road trip, Prince George limped into West Kelowna when a bug swept through the roster. As the bus was preparing for its departure to the rink, two players were unable to leave their rooms. To make things worse, as the team took to the ice for the pregame skate at least one more was shelved and in the first period two more players went down.

In that game some unlikely heroes stepped up and tallied some big goals. The game winning goal became the statement goal for Jeremiah Luedtke and Chad Staley as they announced their arrival to the British Columbia Hockey League. A year later, opposition coaches have the names of Luedtke, Staley and Justin Rai underlined on their white boards emphasizing the need for their team to pay extra attention to them.

Like last year, the Spruce Kings will have to find amongst themselves those players that want to emerge and state their presence in the BCHL.

Game time tonight is 7pm with the game being broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed from and an audio only free option from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Following the game, the team will return to Prince George for the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend and to prepare for three games again next weekend through the Mainland Division including a pair of stops in Surrey.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Crashing the Net

The scene after Bryant Christian goes hard to the net

The Prince George Spruce Kings came up empty Friday night suffering a 2-0 loss to the Penticton Vees. Two more cross bars tonight was as close as the boys would come despite outshooting the home team by a 23-22 margin.

On the very first shift of the game, the Spruce Kings showed some jump and surprised the Penticton Vees with an early chance off the stick of Chad Staley. One shift later Brad McClure put the Penticton Vees on the board when he busted up the right wall, cut to the slot and pulled a forehand backhand deke on Jesse Jenks to open the scoring.

In the loss there was plenty of positives to draw and keep the optimism had a half full level. The Spruce Kings did give up four powerplay opportunities to the League's best special teams unit. In the first two penalty kills, the Spruce Kings not only kept the Vees off the scoreboard but also kept them off the shot clock as well.

On the Vees third powerplay, McClure took matters into his own hands registering three shots on goal and setting up two other scoring chances for Penticton that Jenks denied. The young netminder for Prince George did everything he could in the loss and had to come up with his biggest save of the game while the team in front of him was on their third man advantage. Sprung on a clear cut breakaway from centre, Max Coatta went straight down the slot only to be denied by the glove of Jenks.

The Vees would turn two more shorthanded chances on the same penalty kill and on that third chance, Cody DePourcq would be sprung from the left side and fire a shot shortside that squeezed through to make it a 2-0 game. The Prince George Spruce Kings went 0 for 5 on the man advantage and would also come up empty late in the game when they pulled the goaltender for a 6-on-5.

Late in the final period, Bryant Christian would get a great opportunity as he sped down the right wing, made a cut for the net from the half wall and was able to get a shot on goal before running over the netminder. The puck would cross the goal line but after the whistle had sounded for the goaltender interference call for the captain.

The Spruce Kings continue to struggle to find goals and have only scored once without Brent Lashuk and Jake LeBrun in the lineup. Tomorrow night won't be an easy one either as the number one team in the Interior Division, the West Kelowna Warriors await the arrival of Prince George. The Warriors have 19 points and a share of top spot in the BCHL with the Powell River Kings.

Game time Saturday is 7pm from the Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.

Game Day at Penticton Vees

Spruce Kings three game Interior Division weekend continues tonight with a stop in the South Okanagan Events Centre for a meeting with the Penticton Vees. Over the years, the Prince George Spruce Kings have struggled to find points in Vees barn. This is true despite the fact that the Spruce Kings have found success in recent years on their own home ice.

It's been a couple of weeks since these two teams first met this season back on Friday September 20th in Prince George. In that game, the Spruce Kings started rookie netminder Jesse Jenks who stood on his head and frustrated the visitors to the tune of a 4-3 win. The victory was the first BCHL career win for Jenks who faced 39 shots, turning aside 36 of them.

The other notable was a the break out game for second year vet Jake LeBrun who led his team offensively with three goals including two in the first period and the eventual game winner late in the third. Of course we know this story line can't be repeated tonight with LeBrun still in Prince George recovering from a dangerous hit a week ago.

Also out of the line up again tonight is the other winger from that top line; Brent Lashuk is with the Spruce Kings hoping to get back in the game, but he still hasn't been able to go a full 24 hours symptom free from his concussion. Also missing this weekend and recovery in Prince George is the rookie defenceman from Oklahoma City. Caleb Thompson was unable to board the bus with an undisclosed upper body injury, but is expected to be skating with the team and back in the lineup in time for next weekend's games.

The Spruce Kings carry seven defenceman, so the blue line is still covered but the same can't be said about the forward lines. Without LeBrun and Lashuk, the team is still looking to find a player or players that can replace those missing pieces. Last night the lone goal came from Chad Staley, his second of the season. The line of Staley, Jeremiah Luedtke and Justin Rai looked dangerous again last night creating chance after chance. The trick will be to finish on those chances, something that all three feel is just a post-and-in shot away.

Another player that showed a ton of potential last night was the youngster, Brogan O'Brien. With no less than three glorious chances including a shot that rang off the cross bar, the hard work of the 16 year-old reinvigorated the Spruce Kings bench eventually leading to the lone goal. Danny Kiraly also rang a shot off the goal post after slipping in from the right point to the back door porch.

Certainly creating chances is something the Spruce Kings are going to want to see tonight in Penticton with a goal of finishing on many of them. The Penticton Vees will be fired up and there should be no surprise to see the team come at the Spruce Kings early and force the issue inside the Spruce Kings end of the ice. Defensively the Spruce Kings have been solid throughout most of the first part of the season, perhaps not so much last night. Correcting that and getting that part of the game back on track will be a priority for Prince George.

The Penticton Vees come into the game with a 7-3 record through 10 games and boosts the second highest goal differential outscoring their opponents 38-19. To add to the Goliath factor, the Vees are 4-0 on home ice and have the League's best special teams rankings in their own building. Those numbers extend to the League's best overall powerplay and third best penalty kill. Although the Spruce Kings have a respectful penalty kill, they would like to see both of their 10th place rankings while on the road make an improvement.

Although starting goaltenders haven't been confirmed yet, the game could showcase two of the League's top three goaltenders with Jesse Jenks and Hunter Miska. Miska has played one more game than Jenks but both have a similar save percentage of .936 and .933 respectfully. Miska does have a slightly better goals against average of 1.60 to Jenks' 2.27.

Only sixty minutes, and perhaps a little more, will settle this one as the Penticton Vees host the Spruce Kings tonight at 7pm. The game will be broadcast live as a pay-per-view on with a free online audio only option from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

No Luck Tonight in Merritt

The Spruce Kings were buzzing all around the net in the second
but came up short Thursday night

The Prince George Spruce Kings came up the wrong end of a few bounces, starting their three game Interior Division road swing off with a 4-1 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Thursday night. The Spruce Kings worked hard for any chances they got, but seemingly got bitten by a series of home-town bounces as their record dropped to 6-5-0-1.

The game started out with as expected with the Merritt Centennials using their smaller rink to take away time and space from the Spruce Kings defenders forcing turnovers. Stretch passes through the middle also caused their fair share of troubles for the boys from Prince George. Game plans aside, it was some unfortunate bounces that really hurt the Spruce Kings.

With the game still scoreless, the Centennials were first on the board on a play that started out innocently enough and should never have been more than a simple scoring chance. Adam Tracey of the Centennials skated through the top of the crease with a defender in close pursuit. As Tracey's stick was lifted, he was able to reach back and just touch the puck enough to direct it on net and watch it slide untouched through the legs of Alex Murray.

The Centennials would add to their lead four minutes later on another play that seemed to blossom out of nothing. A simple clearing attempt got knocked down inside the Spruce Kings zone leading to a scramble to get back into position. From the outside of the faceoff circle, Jeff Wight fired a puck wide threw the slot that ricocheted off Sebastian Pare's stick and then the far side goal post to get behind Murray.

The second period saw the Spruce Kings loss a player to a five minute major for kneeing. Colin Chmelka, who was called up from the Osoyoos Coyotes to help fill the vacancies up front with both Brent Lashuk and Jake LeBrun out, was originally given a two minute minor for the infraction. After Dylan Bowen spent a long while on the ice and then had to be helped to the bench before ultimately leaving the game, led the referee to change the call from a minor to a major resulting in a game misconduct for the AP on just his fifth BCHL shift.

The Centennials would score early on in the five minute major on another unfortunate bounce. Dane Birks, the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick from this past summer, took a point shot that was deflected by a Spruce Kings defender. Instead of having the puck land in the corner, it became a pop up that went up and over the shoulder of Murray and landed in the back of the net. Despite still having over 3 minutes remaining in the man advantage, the Centennials did not get anymore chances to pad their lead and instead the Spruce Kings were able to muster up some of their own.

Showing again why he was put on the Spruce Kings roster, Brogan O'Brien had three consecutive shifts that resulted in three of the team's best scoring chances, each better than the one before. On the first chance O'Brien sped down the right side and once inside the Centennials zone, made his way towards the net. Just as the 16 year old was about to take his shot, a Centennials stick got in the way deflecting the shot wide.

The chances kept coming for the youngster and on his next shift came in through the middle driving had for the slot. O'Brien was able to get a good shot away on goal but couldn't squeeze that one past Connor LaCouvee. On his third chance, O'Brien did beat the Merritt goaltender but not the cross bar as he walked in and let a hard shot go that was labelled for the top corner. Despite not being rewarded for his efforts with goals, the play of O'Brien brought life back to the Spruce Kings bench and put the Centennials on their heels leading to a Prince George powerplay.

The best chance on the man advantage would come off the stick of Danny Kiraly as he snuck in all the way from the right point to find himself right along the goal line. Bryant Christian spotted Kiraly and fed him the pass through the lane in front. Kiraly was just a little too low as he too found iron and the puck harmlessly went into the corner.

While at full strength the Spruce Kings would finally get on the board after Karan Toor started the play from inside the Spruce Kings end with a nice feed up the ice to Justin Rai. Rai gained the offensive zone with Chad Staley jumping up to create a two-on-one. Rai saucered the puck to Staley who let go with a shot that turned into his second of the season and gave the Spruce Kings something to work off.

To start the third period, the Spruce Kings went right to work and early on thought they had pulled to within one on a goal mouth scramble. Again it was Toor starting the play as he found Cole Todd cruising through the middle. The initial shot fooled LaCouvee who could not recover and left the puck in the blue paint. Todd was quick to jump on it, but with the defenders coming to aid of their goalie were able to keep the puck out. The bodies continued to flow towards the net with the puck remaining loose the whole time until finally Todd was able to slide it through the maze.

The initial call on the ice was for a goal sending the Spruce Kings back towards their bench in full goal celebration mode. After a few seconds the three officials met in the referee's circle and had a discussion that ended with the referee making the signal of no goal waving it off. The official announcement in the arena was that the net had come off its moorings prior to the puck crossing the line.

That seemed to deflate the Spruce Kings who continued to struggle the rest of the way. The Centennials stuck to their usual game plan and at times would send a forward early. On one particular play, Rhett Wilcox coasted in the neutral zone in behind everybody waiting for the pass that eventually came springing the forward on a clear cut breakaway. Alex Murray was able to stare down the streaking Centennials robbing from in tight with a spectacular save.

The Centennials would add the finishing touches to this game on a perfectly executed three-on-one play started and finished by Pare. The give and go with Payton Schaefer also included the game's agitator Deigo Cuglietta. The Centennials improved to a record of 7-5-0-0 and a share of second place in the Interior Division with the Penticton Vees.

The Spruce Kings will have to face those Vees on Friday night in the South Okanagan Events Centre. In September the Penticton Vees came north where they suffered their first loss of the regular season. In that game Jesse Jenks was a standout between the pipes and Jake LeBrun registered his first BCHL hat trick. Unfortunately for the Spruce Kings, LeBrun will not have the opportunity to be a standout this time around, Jenks very might get a chance to duplicate what he did on September 20th.

Game Preview at Merritt Centennials

The Prince George Spruce Kings start a three game road trip through the Interior Division with a stop tonight in Merritt versus the Centennials. Both teams have similar records through the first 11 games of the season (Centennials 6-5-0-0 and Spruce Kings (6-4-0-1) with Prince George picking up one extra point in a game decided in overtime.

Over the past couple of weeks the Spruce Kings have been on a roller coaster of emotions reaching peaks with a mini winning streak and hitting lows with some key injuries. The biggest blow to the Spruce Kings was highlighted yesterday when early season standout, Jake LeBrun was honoured as one of the top players in all of Canada after being recognized in the CJHL monthly three star selection (CLICK HERE for original article).

In the month of September, LeBrun tallied 8 goals including 3 game winners and was a better than a point a game player with four assists. The offensive spark for the Spruce Kings was extinguished by a dangerous hit on Friday October 4th. With the Spruce Kings leading 3-0, Jake LeBrun was looking to start a cycle down low and was circling around behind the net heading towards the wall when he was hit into the boards from behind. The hit left the star forward dazed and confused requiring an extended stay in the hospital.

LeBrun is on the road to a full recovery, but is anticipated return date is still an unknown with some best case scenarios putting him back in the game no sooner than the beginning of November. One night after shutting out the Vernon Vipers 3-0, the Prince George Spruce Kings could find no offense and ended up losing 1-0 to the Victoria Grizzlies. It didn't help matters with Brent Lashuk (LeBrun's linemate along with Bryant Christian) also out of the lineup with an upper body injury.

The team is still reeling with two more injuries sidelining players. Caleb Thompson was unable to make the trip with the team this weekend and, as of today, Mitch Barker is being evaluated and is not expected to be in the lineup. Team officials are working on filling the vacancies now and have one affiliate player confirmed for tonight's game versus the Merritt Centennials.

Colin Chmelka, leading goal scorer with the Osoyoos Coyotes of the KIJHL, will suit up for the Spruce Kings wearing jersey 25. Chmelka is in his second season with the Coyotes and in ten games has registered 7 goals and 10 assists. Last season Chmelka won the Coyotes scoring title with 27 goals and 30 assists in 46 games played helping Osoyoos pick up the Okanagan Division championship and playoff run to the semi finals. Chmelka is a twenty year old 6' 1" 175 left handed forward from Colorado Springs, Colorado who is looking forward to his chance to play his first game in the BCHL.

His offensive abilities will be a welcome addition to a team that is quickly becoming known for its strong defence. When you take the Spruce Kings top forward line out of the equation, four of the next five points leaders come from the blue line led by Christian Weidauer (3G, 8A). On Friday night last week, Mitch Eden picked up his first goal of the season to go along with his five assists. The most goals from a defenceman come from Skylar Pacheco who has four including two powerplay tallies. Two weekends ago Karan Toor (2G, 3A) shook the BCHL with three big games where he showed up on the scoresheet on all three game winning goals.

Between the pipes, the goaltending duo of Alex Murray (4W, 3L) and Jesse Jenks (2W, 2L) has been stellar with both finding a spot in the League's top five netminders for save percentage. Jenks is third with a .933 SV% and Murray sits fifth with a .920 SV%. Their goals against average is also respectable with Murray holding down third in the League with a 1.98 GAA, Jenks is seventh with his 2.27 GAA.

The Merritt Centennials have their own ace in the hole with the very consistent Devin Kero. The 19 year old import playing in his rooking season in the BCHL has 2 wins under his belt and sits fourth in the League for both goals against average (2.01) and save percentage (.929). Connor LaCouvee is another 19 year old goaltender that has come in and done nothing but win games for the Centennials. LaCouvee has a perfect 3-0 record despite not having the best GAA (2.65) or SV% (.902). LaCouvee was brought in after an injury to Russell Sanderson who remains on the IRL until later this month.

The Merritt Centennials are a quick team with lines that can light up the goal lamp, eight of the ten top goal scorers come from the attackers while only five of the team's 35 goals come from the blueliners. Leading the way offensively is Scott Patterson (5G, 6A), who is into his third season with the Cents. Jeff Wight (5G, 4A) is next on the list with nine points followed by Sebastian Pare (3G, 6A), Gavin Gould (3G, 5A), Diego Cuglietta (2G, 6A), Payton Schaefer (4G, 3A) and James Neil (1G, 6A).

For the Spruce Kings to find success tonight, they will have to be as good defensively as they have been and now will be a good time to get that second wave of secondary scoring from the forwards. Jeremiah Luedtke is one player that has shown the promise but only just scored his first goal of the season last Friday versus the Vernon Vipers. That line of Luedtke, Chad Staley and Justin Rai have looked dangerous and have created a ton of chances, now they just need to convert.

The other line that has been looking dangerous and creating confusion for defenders is the line of Matt Painchaud, Mitch Barker and Brandon Epp. Tonight is a big night Barker as he is playing as close as he ever will to his hometown of Kamloops and is expecting a good turnout of family and friends to cheer him on. Colin Chmelka is expected to start the night playing with Riley Hawes and Sean Landrey which could very well become the go to line for Dave Dupas and Colton Buffie as it will possess both a physical presence and the potential for big goals.

The game tonight has a scheduled 7pm puck drop and will be broadcast live online. The pay-per-view feed will be available on and the free online audio only broadcast is on the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel with the pregame show starting at 6:40pm.