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 Fasthockey.com with a free online audio only option from the Spruce Kings Mixlr channel beginning with the pregame show at 6:40pm.