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.

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